I picked my baton and headed out for my daily stroll. He button-holed me the moment I crossed the main gate of the colony. He was as if waiting for me since I could see he had turned back from a point which had no natural U-turn.
"Are you Mr Deswal?" he asked. "Yes, I am," I replied. "Are you some kind of a writer?" I smiled and submitted, "Yes, sometimes I do some kind of writing." He hummed a long hum and asked if I was an officer. I replied in the affirmative. His next question surprised me.
"And what is your name?" he asked. I reminded him that he had started the conversation by calling my name. He again hummed a hum. By then, I had begun to get restless but then he asked me if I could help him out.
This man, in casuals, seemed to have lived abroad for a long period as was evident from his accent. Sensing my restlessness, he stepped closer and almost whispered, "Well, to begin with, the early morning shrieking of the milkman, who comes on a bike without a silencer, disturbs me like hell.
As if in tow, comes the vegetable vendor, screaming the loudest, bragging about the stuff he is selling.
As if they are all ganged up together to torment me, the newspaper hawker comes and starts throwing the papers making an annoying grinding sound thanks to the dusty floor of the neighbour. The street urchins keep pressing the call bell every now, driving me to yell at them."
I hadn't handled such a complaint earlier in my professional career. In the heart of hearts, I appreciated his right to let him bask in his solitary solitude, uninterrupted. I was also impressed with his choice to return to his moorings and roots in India.
Being in his immediate neighbourhood, I too had heard those sounds daily but had never got so cranky about them though in our colony we do have a common-minimum-agreed-programme on 'no honking'.
But how do I help this man, was the question on my mind. He was about to begin his tirade all over again when I chose only to smile and stop him in his tracks. But it met with a grin and an expression of disgust. Reading his face I offered, "Okay, I will have someone sent to your house to collect a formal complaint from you and then let us see what best can be done about it."
"No, no, no. No way!" he blurted out, a tad agitated. "Please don't send anybody to my house." Though shocked, I was sure that he was still a foreigner in his own country. Dial 911 when in the US and 999 in the UK but what do in India?