My Balcony to The Other World
I live in a beautiful little house on the fifth floor of our building. My parents particularly chose to live here because it faces the southeast- glorious sunshine, warm in the winters, cool in the summers- and very auspicious in all respects.
What I enjoy the most, however, is the view I get from one of the balconies. There are three might I add, one facing our neighbours, the other towards the back of our compound, overlooking the city, the cacophonious (I think I made this up!) bus-stand, adjoining hotels, and the general hustle-bustle of the accompanying town life. My favourite one, however, faces the “other world”.
This beautiful strip is lined with my mother’s favourite dahlias, and since it receives the maximum sunshine and affords abundant privacy I love spending time there!
I generally have very specific reasons for visiting my favourite balcony-to dry my hair, to escape the chill in our rooms during the months of December and January, and more often, in a pretext to study in “solace”. I have learnt a number of lessons, rambling in “the balcony near the kitchen”, mind you, but I’ve always been fascinated much much more by the sights and sounds around the place, than the laws and molecules governing my textbooks!
It’s bizarre how inside our house we find it really straining to catch what my mother shouts at me from her room to mine, but standing in that balcony, I can actually find myself tuned into the sounds (I don’t call them noises) of utensils being scraped across the floor, bangles jingling, cricket balls being caught, and children laughing, least aware of anything around them, five floors below!
Families of the lower class workers live in these flats just outside the boundaries of our complex. Some houses are well structured, but those I can see only from a distance. The ones nearest to my balcony have a thatched asbestos roof, they share walls with a ground which we use for dumping garbage, and are adorned with a drain running across all four sides.
Although I can see only two doors, I’m sure the families are huge, because there is always a surprisingly large number of kids running around, and more than often, climbing the roof. Just the other day I was standing there, a towel in my hand, a frown against the blazing sun, and my eyes narrowed to get a better view of the construction in progress beyond one of the buildings.
Rather out of the blue, and with a spring in their step, three little boys climbed up onto the roof of the house directly facing the balcony. Technically speaking, it would be the third floor, two floors below my level.
Well, they sauntered up, and- I wish I didn’t have such a horrible vision-looked around to check if the coast was clear (this is basically my lucid imagination, it may have well-been nothing of the sort!) and the eldest (or maybe the tallest) of the three took something out of his pocket, and the three began to shift around a bit looking for a nice spot to do whatever they had to (I couldn’t see!)
Anyway, I had gotten a bit too cosy I guess, and was quite properly leaning against the balcony railing, and as bound as it was to happen, the smallest kid spotted me. I looked away with as much dignity as I could muster, standing with my hands folded, and so did he!
That was sort of the end of my afternoon outing in the balcony, and I glided back inside the kitchen. It may well have been my entangled mane that struck the kid as something worthwhile to look at, but nevertheless, my guilt at eavesdropping (sort of anyway..) drove me to come up with this entry.
The first author I truly ever enjoyed and who in a way compelled me to bask in the glory of the written word was Ruskin Bond. Even today (six years since I first read a Ruskin Bond story), every time I read a short story or a novel of his I let myself believe he is actually telling a tale of something that happened to him.
His protagonists are always strugglers, either unsuccessful professionally, or with love. They are always close to nature, and to the streets of India. They always deal with some of the most hopeless, yet the most profound day to day issues faced by about ninety per cent of our countrymen. But in all the melancholy and somberness, there’s the zeal to live, the enthusiasm to make the most of the smallest things in life, love, flowers, trees, hills, rivers.
My balcony is my window to that world. I look at those kids, playing cricket in their lanes, flying kites on their roofs, shabbily clad, with an unmistakable air of malnourishment, and I smile. A part of me even longs to be in their place. I told my father once, he smiled and said, It’s okay if you feel that way, but the thing to think about, is why? I really don’t know why, maybe I look at them playing, running around, and feel they don’t have the responsibility, to study, to work, to do many things that I have to.
But in a way I also feel I am foolish to think of it that way, they obviously have a responsibility, when they grow up, they will have to make ends meet, something I may not find as tough in my life. They are free as children, but will I be freer as an adult? I really can’t answer this, can you?
For now, I enjoy my window, I enjoy watching the ladies put up their clothes for drying, I enjoy them chatting up on their verandahs, I love the sound of bat hitting the ball, I love to see the little girls in the school uniforms, bouncy red ribbons, slates and tuition bags. Maybe my balcony to the “other world” will someday help me to fulfil my dream of writing about people, writing about life, writing like Ruskin Bond. Till then, it’s my novel, and I read it
Contributed By: Poorva Gupta [email protected]
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