In Ahmedabad, people stare a lot, unabashed. In the begining, it used to make me squirm, shift uncomfortabley on my feet and I would look away in embarrassment. Unfortunatley not only have I got used to it, but I seem to have caught the staring bug.
Realization began to dawn on me, as The Other often nudges, pinches and pokes me, hissing “don’t stare”, quite often when we are in a public place. In the begining he found it funny, now I think he is getting increasingly embarrassed. In my defense, I don’t actually stare at a person, if something /someone, or something in someone catches my eye, I look at it and then get lost in trains and streams of thought. I am looking (staring) without seeing, you see.
Now, I have had an epiphany, I have turned into a namelsess staring neighbour. Since the flat opposite mine have permanantly drawn their bright orange blinds shut, it is the flat below that often catches my eye. I am intrigued by the woman who lives there, she has infact become an enigma.
She has decorated her window with hanging plants, and the ledge below the window has a neat row of potted plants on little three legged metal stands. My window overlooks her living room, a stark empty space, with a single foldable chair. The chair has a plastic checkered weave in red and black, and stands like a throne in the empty white hall. Sometimes she sits on it reading late into the night. There is something so mysterious about a woman, braving the world, with a single metal foldable chair.
Due to the angle of our windows coupled with a mosquito net, I can never ever see her face, only neck down. As I move about my house,I see a headless torso move about her house, adding an element of mystery.
She lives alone, which is such a rarity in this city. The three of us had to go through extensive scrutiny when we moved into this flat, as many of our neighbours could not stomach the fact that three girls, one of whom was infact happily married (shiva shiva) to a man far away, living in their vicinity. This fact has made her a bit of a hero to me. For no rational reason, I respect this woman and find her very brave.
Every Sunday, she hosts music lessons in her house. I don’t know if she teaches music or someone uses her house to teach a class, but the air is filled with melody, classical notes cover you like a blanket on a rainy day. I am not a ardent fan of classical music, but it is a beautiful feeling to lie in bed on a Sunday afternoon listening to a strong voice sing ” sa ree ga ma…”, and hear many voices repeating the notes in unision. Now the enigma is slowly becoming a legend. Last Sunday I held the phone out of the window, hoping The Other would enjoy the music, but I don’t think the beauty passed on through the phone, for he grunted rather unappreciatively. (If my grandmother read this she would say ” kazhudhaiku theriyumma karpura vasanai” , which loosly translated means the donkey will never know the smell of camphor)
I share a sense of solidarity with her, as we both are nocturnal, living alone in this hostile city. I wonder how old she is, what her story is, and I wonder if we would be ffriends if we met…..
But for us to meet, I first need to be able to recognize people by their feet !