He can never, even in his dreams, think of undressing in front of the fairer sex, or anyone for that matter. He has problems going to the loo because the pigeons have built their nests on the ventilator above and they get disturbed when he enters the washroom. His ears become red-hot when the she-pigeon stares at him with those red, round, wide-opened eyes of her.
He wants his world to have two identities – ‘outside’ and ‘inside.’
But he always ends up opening the door himself except on some unfortunate Saturdays when his roommate is ‘sick’ enough to not go to office. The house, those Saturdays, reeks of filth. Sundays he is around to check his errant, messy and callous roommate.
He has to switch on the lights himself. Slowly he has to carry his tired body and sick mind to the bathroom and open the tap to fill up the buckets. Water is a scarce commodity in this part of the world and who knows; tomorrow there may not be any supply. It is not uncommon here to spend two straight days without any water flowing through the pipes.
He hesitates to lie down on the mattress … hoping that his woman will come and take his tired head on her lap. He hopes she will run her cold, soft palm on his forehead, caress his greasy hair with her long, thin fingers. Every time, he settles for the hair-oil -soaked damp pillow.
“The person I exchanged my sweat with also thinks he is clean and I have germs … Would you not shake hands with that person’s wife if you become friends at the mall? Would you not invite her in this house and make her sit on this mattress?”
Of course, he didn’t get a chance to see what happens after he says that.
He looks up at the ceiling of the room. When they were kids, he would put an electric torch inside a makeshift tent of the bed sheet and switch the torch on in the dark room. He doesn’t know now what made them say that that time, but they were always convinced that they were lost in the Amazon jungle. The adventure to find the Inca gold would start then.
They didn’t know about Cortes that time but if they would have, that title would have gone to their father. His father would switch on the light and snatch the torch from them, complaining that now he knew why the batteries were down all the time. Everyday his father would repeat the same dialogue and switch on the radio. The two brothers would sleep huddling each other on those cold winter nights listening to the thin, faint, wavy songs of old Bollywood.
He misses his mother the most in this world.
(Watch out for 'her story' in the next installment)