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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

In the chawl

No matter how carefully you observe, it is near impossible to predict which way a pigeon will fly, writes Neha Dara.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 03:55 IST
Neha Dara
Neha Dara

No matter how carefully you observe, it is near impossible to predict which way a pigeon will fly. When I think it’s sleeping, it suddenly flies to the chest of drawers across the tiny kitchen. When I edge towards the loo, seeing that it has its head happily stuck under a wing, it decides to take to noisy flight and settle atop the water tank. Well, why hope you can predict what it will do, when you can’t figure out what it is doing in the house in the first place?

Except, this is not really a house. If it was in a posher complex, brokers would call it a ‘studio apartment’ — one room, with a kitchen and bathroom, “perfect for bachelors, madam. Bachelor womens also”. But this is just a room, identical to the 12 others on this floor, and the 36 others on the two floors below and the one above. It’s like a typical chawl, but it’s posher than most — the loo isn’t communal, so what if it doesn’t have a flush?

Watching tv, I have to strain to listen, but I hesitate to increase the volume; through the thin walls I can hear people falling asleep. In the morning, the sounds of waking wakes me before my alarm rings. There are doodhwalas, sabjiwalas, doors slamming, kids running.

By the time I open the door to pick up the papers, they’re already gone. The taker has thoughtfully left me the Mumbai Mirror, but the TOI it came in, and the DNA and HT that came with it, are missing.

In the loo without a flush, the roof is like an ever-changing canvas. Flakes of paint detach themselves from the roof slowly, wafer-thin slivers hanging on by one end, then floating down like autumn leaves. And the shapes in the painting keep changing. People come and go, a bald man acquires a wig and a dog loses a leg.

In the bathroom, as I wait for the bucket to fill up, I wonder if the pigeon will hop down to the open space at the side of the water tank and watch me.

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First Published: Feb 01, 2007 01:43 IST