Who the hell is busy with a hammer on Sunday morning? I toss from one to another end of the bed but fail to hold back my sweet morning sleep.
There it goes again.
The sound is coming from the other side of the wall. Kabir informed that a family has shifted in the adjacent flat last night. I think they are trying to settle down, without giving a damn that their act of settling down is actually unsettling the neighbours. I sit on the bed and give an irritating look at the wall. And not finding any way to stop this noise, decide to seek refuge under the pillow.
What the hell? Going by this rate, they will knock down the entire wall soon. For a second, I got scared thinking if that is their intention in the first place.
Oh good Lord !
‘Kabir…wake up,’ I kick the body, weighing eighty kilos, sleeping peacefully on the other bed. How can he sleep amidst this noise? Not everyone is lucky enough to booze like him on Saturday night and have a hangover the next morning. Some people like me need to work even on weekends to meet deadlines. And they badly need some sleep on the Sunday morning.
‘Moron,’ I kick Kabir’s bum. His bed gives a creaky sound in response.
I open the door in full Hindi film hero style and ring the bell of the next flat, the source of all trouble.
A middle-aged grey-haired man, with the celebrated hammer in his left hand, opens the door. So he is the one who has screwed up my Sunday morning sleep. I take a look at the rest of his hand and then his physique. Must have been a gold medalist in weight lifting in his younger days. No wonder the sound of the hammer is so loud. I compare his well built frame in an Adidas training suit with my lean one in a Rupa vest and striped boxers. My brain debates whether it would be wise to complain about the noise.
‘Yes?’ he asks in a hoarse tone.
‘Hi….I am Vishal Patel. I stay next door,’ I answer.
‘So?’ he asks in the same hoarse and equally anti-social tone.
‘Nothing. Just if you can slow down the hammering…..only if it’s not much of a problem to you.’
‘Will try. Anything else?’
By that time, a woman comes in the room and asks, ‘Who is it, Mahesh?’ Must be his wife.
When you are a nobody to someone, then it’s always better to leave that place. I walk towards my rented flat and the body builder closes the door with a thud.
I was locking the door before going to work when a female voice attracted my attention.
I turn around and see a beautiful girl smiling at me.
‘I am Mahi. We are your new neighbours.’
‘Hi,’ I tell her. She is a complete beauty.
‘I am sorry you had to face inconvenience because of all the noise yesterday. You see, we had just shifted.’
‘It’s completely okay,’ I reply. A beautiful girl doesn’t look good apologising and explaining things unnecessarily. By the way, who is she? Mahesh’s daughter, I guess. However, she is definitely more polite and civil than her father.
‘Come and have some tea with us.’
‘Oh! thank you so much…’ I tell her. ‘But some other day. Need to rush to work.’ A part of me wants to chat with Mahi for some more time though.
‘Okay. No problem,’ Mahi says. ‘Have a nice day.’
God knows why, I press the lift’s button while blushing to my core.
‘Wake up, buddy and get ready,’ Kabir pushes me in my sleep.
‘Why? What happened?’ I squint as he removes the blanket from me. Why is everyone on earth trying to ruin my weekend sleep?
‘We have a lunch invitation.’
‘Invitation? From whom?’
‘The Kumars .’
‘Our new neighbours,’ he says as he sprays deodorant all over his body. Kabir is an eco-friendly person. He believes in saving water in Mumbai by skipping a bath as much as he can. And he is also sensible enough to take care of the air pollution part. A nice portion of his salary goes behind buying deodorants.
‘Mahi came to our flat last evening and invited us for a lunch today.’
‘Who? Mahi? She came here?Why didn’t you tell me?’ Violin starts playing around me when I hear or think the name Mahi. I have often replayed our first and last conversation throughout the week. Andher killer smile.
‘You came home late last night. So, couldn’t inform you. Now hurry up. I don’t want to be late to have some delicious home-made food.’ Kabir and I are ever ready to gulp some free food. And if that offer is coming from Mahi’s end, then I can’t miss it even for my life. Wasting no more time, I jump out of the bed.
‘Welcome. Have a seat. Mahesh is taking bath. He will join you guys soon,’ Mahesh’s wife greets me and Kabir into their living room. My eyes are eagerly searching for that beautiful face.
‘Hello,’ Mahi comes out of the kitchen. ‘So kind of you for accepting our invitation. Lunch is almost ready. Please sit and do feel at home.’
‘Don’t rush. Take your time,’ I tell her as we sit on the sofa.
‘You must have met my mother,’ Mahi says.
‘Namaste aunty,’ Kabir and me fold our hands like obedient children.
‘Namaste beta. I am Anuradha. This place is really good. They have these first-class amenities here…’ Anuradha aunty starts telling how much she likes the apartment. Meanwhile, I glance at the opposite wall. Lot of pictures are hanging there displaying the Kumar family and the reason of using the hammer last Sunday vigorously.
In one, Mahi and Anuradha aunty are enjoying the waves in a beach. In another, Mahi is all dressed up as a Kashmiri girl and standing in front of the Dal lake. There is a picture where Mahi, Anuradha aunty, Mahesh and a teenage boy are smiling in a restaurant. Who is this boy? Mahi’s younger brother? This boy is sitting in between Mahi and Mahesh in a different picture.
‘Say hi to uncles, Sonu,’ Anuradha aunty brings out the same boy in the picture from the bedroom.
‘Hello,’ Sonu says.
‘Hi. What do you do, Sonu?’ Kabir asks.
‘Sonu, ask them if they know any good cricket academy nearby,’ Anuradha aunty says. ‘Sonu wants to play cricket. Isn’t it Sonu?’
‘At present, I just want to have food. Can you please serve food soon, Mummy?’ Sonu turns towards Mahi in the kitchen. And I watch him in horror. Am I mistaken somewhere or is he actually addressing Mahi as Mummy?
‘Sure beta. Check if Papa is ready or not,’ Mahi replies from kitchen.
‘I am ready,’ the ever grumpy Mahesh Kumar, fresh from his bath, enters the scene.
‘Oh Mahesh, meet our guests, Kabir and Vishal,’ Mahi says. ‘And he is Mahesh, my husband. You have already met our son, Sonu and…..’
Have you ever seen that beauty soap advertisement? All the boys are awestruck by the beauty of that new girl in the college. And suddenly there runs a kid towards her saying ‘Mummy’. The new girl embraces the kid giving everyone around an electric shock of thousand volts.
I got the same shock of my life in the Kumar’s living room. Mahi has no regular signs of a married woman. And even if she is married, still she definitely doesn’t look like a mother of a teenager at all. Does she bathe with the same beauty soap? Anyway, how does it matter now to me? It’s my fault that I started dreaming about her from the very first meeting. After all, not everything you see is what it appears to be.
‘Lunch is ready,’ Mrs. Mahi Kumar gives her charming smile and invites us to the dining table.
And I follow Kabir’s enthusiastic steps like a loser.