The Nagging Neighbour
Anu had just completed her bath and was draping herself in a floral printed cotton sari of red and pink combination. Her damp hair and soft skin carried a sweet smell of the bathing bar that she had used during her bath. The dark kajal in her eyes and the small red bindi, just in between her eyebrows, made her look like a fresh-face of the Tilottama Magazine that comes on the first week of every month. She was not looking any less than a Bengali heroine. The one who had sometime said, married women are more attractive than the spinsters, seems was not a wrong statement too! Anu however proved it a universal truth.
The door-bell rang. Oh...who it may be right now? Anu glanced at the wall-clock and it was 12.30pm. Anu rushed to the door, peeped through the eye-hole and found a middle-aged stout lady with a lot of excess make-up on her face, curiously waiting and repetitively checking the time by her watch. Anu opened the door, and almost half came inside the lady with a broad smile on her face,
Hey hello, Mrs. Mukherjee? O sorry, I am Paromita Sikdar. My husband is a bank manager. We stay on the seventh floor...ummm, G2., the lady tried her best to make herself identified. She was wearing a gold-printed blue unfit salwar-kameez, a lot of unnecessary gold jwelleries and a pair of red sandal.
Anu, little confused of what to do, anyways, allowed the lady inside the living room.
Oh! Please come in...
The lady almost spunged her into the soft sofa and felt so happy to sit so comfortably as per her size.
- Wow. You guys have worked so hard, it seems, to decorate the house. It's truly beautiful.
- Thanks. But we have not done anything actually. The flat has been provided by his office.
- Oh...office! (with a very shocking tone. Looked like, the word office failed to satisfy the lady's curiosity somehow)
The lady continued, So you guys are saving up a lot, hmm? (sarcastically)
Anu felt so incontextual. And so she asked, Would you like some tea or coffee or juice?
- Hey, no! (Reaction came from the lady, as if Anu offered her a glass of poison.)
One glass of water will do.
- Umm...water? and some sweets?
- Okay just one please. I am cutting off on sweets and snacks you see. Growing so big everyday... (laughed out loud)
Suddenly a room of silence trailed. To comfort herself, Paromita started, Ey sorry, I forgot to ask your name.
- Wow. A very nice name.
Anu never knew what's so nice about it. Just to cooperate, she put a slice of smile on her lips. Paromita continued, ... and what's your husband? I guess he's an engineer and MBA. (Obviously she got the idea as soon as she had knocked the door. She must have come across those 'mesmerising alphabets' on the name-plate)
- Yes. He is.
- And you?
- An arts graduate.
- O! So lucky you are. You got a gem as your groom. A loved one?
- No. An arranged marriage.
- Is it? How come?
- No I mean, generally when it's a social tie, they don't prefer somebody so simple. No! I meant to say...
Anu cut her in the middle of it, Mrs. Sikdar, you can have this one...this is a sugar-free. It won't add up to your calories.
The silent room very soon was filled up with the munching sound of Mrs. Sikdar. Anybody would find her looking so hungry for decades. She finished of four of them, irrespective of her tensions on adding to her extra-pounds. It would made anybody feel she was really dieting for a long time indeed!
Breaking the silence, Paromita triggered, So how about your family? Your parents?
- Yes they stay at Khardah along with my grandmother.
- Oh! She's still alive?
- Haan? She is just 75.
- O! Thats pretty sweet. And you don't have any sibling?
- Yes I have a sister. She is at her plus two.
- So...did they demand any dowry during the marriage?
- Your husband's family...
- Ummmm...not really.
- No! (the reaction came out in such a way as if Anu negated the fact that she was HIV negative)
- I mean did you expect them to take dowry? Why? You had had such bad experiences?
- Mmmmm...no no! My husband is very sensitive about this topic. I would have committed suicide if they would demand dowry. Just for this reason, you know my father gifted him with a Honda bike and the normal furniture, that anybody would give, during my marriage.
- You must be from a very affluent family.
- Yes. Ofcourse. My father is a businessman. We have five hardware stores in West Bengal. He has even gifted one store to my husband on our tenth anniversary.
Anu found the topic so boring and unintersting that every now and then she was having a feeling to yawn on Paromita's face. Possibly Paromita could conceive the guess and so she finally announced to leave.
Paromita left with a proposed invitation to Anu to their flat on the seventh floor along with Anirban. Anu too with enough gentleness in her voice and attitude, asked her to revisit her again. Anu was also given an invitation to join the Ladies' Club on Wednesdays which had initiated to let all the ladies of the apartment join together and share their thoughts, setting up Kitty Parties, Weekly once mental and physical fitness programmes, celebrating each others' birthdays and anniversaries etc. The concept of such overwhelming get-togethers was so new to Anu in true sense. In anycase, such social intimacy was a total taboo at her end. So she gave up the idea of wasting her time to even think upon it.
She moved to the balcony and found the banyan tree calling her, flagging it's leaves through the breeze. Everytime she gazed at the scenario so far away, she felt a beautiful world to be there, so very different from the one she'd been residing at, so very different from the one she had read about in the geography text-books, so very different from the one usually shown in the National Geography Channel.
There's a world full of rainbows, with an abode of happiness, behold, amidst the green bushes and white clouds with the rule of togetherness surrounded, imagines Anu. Her eyes went here and there searching for so many unknown answers, already clouded her heart.
The unwanted guest though came in, out of the blue with a lot of unexpected curiosities, still Anu felt that at least she found a human face in her flat apart from the prevailing spirits and thoughts roaming inside.