Humour by Rehana Munir: A window-gazer’s journal

Staring out the window is a rewarding sport, especially during lockdown. What are the observations you’ve made?
From Mumbai’s ocean views to Goan wilderness, and on to the Himalayas, windows sure can change your point of view (Parth Garg)
From Mumbai’s ocean views to Goan wilderness, and on to the Himalayas, windows sure can change your point of view (Parth Garg)
Updated on Jan 23, 2022 12:58 AM IST
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ByRehana Munir

Here we are, in the midst of another wave, numbed by staggering statistics, and worried about symptomatic sufferers in our own homes. Mostly, we’re trying to keep up with the frequently issued lockdown guidelines. (Air-conditioned beauty hair salons, ok. Seaside monuments, no. I bet the ancient Greeks, forever christening new Covid strains, would’ve played it differently.) By now, we know what provides real sustenance to us individually, after all the bread-baking and Zoom-partying has been tried. A stiff drink, of course.

What’s your CT value?

Failing that, I’ve discovered there’s nothing as riveting and distracting as a comfy seat by a scenic window. In cities, that’s about as rare as a negative RT-PCR result (always worth smiling over, however short-lived its shelf-life). But it’s turned out to be a sort of lifeline for me. The past two years, I’ve found myself looking out of windows almost as a way of stepping out of myself. Or something less intense. More than once, I’ve thought of myself as James Stewart in Rear Window, stuck in a wheelchair due to a broken leg and spying on his neighbours to pass the time. Sadly, no Grace Kelly has yet appeared to infuse glamour into proceedings.

I’ve made my peace with never having an out-of-body experience. Best to look out the window for budget transcendence. And what did I see these last two years? From a flat that overlooked one of Mumbai’s busiest streets during the quietest lockdown, to a Himalayan perch where I could stalk flycatchers and woodpeckers, and from a Goan picture window that overlooked a soothing wilderness to an oceanic view in Mumbai, I’ve been flitting from window to window, eager to change my point of view.

A brief encounter

The busy street I lived on for half a decade, forever spawning traffic, was suddenly silenced by that complete lockdown in March 2020; a terrible time for countless dispossessed migrants forced to head home on foot in dire conditions. As the constant clamour of cars subsided, a wide variety of birds began to visit in true urban fairy-tale fashion. The nights, however, were a different story. I was often woken up by screeching tires and piercing cries at around 3am; that was the chosen hour for a gang of phone snatchers in the vicinity.

One such night, woken up by a particularly noisy scene, I quickly looked out the window to see if, like James Stewart, I too would witness a crime in progress. I wasn’t prepared for the vision I saw instead; a thirty-something Caucasian man I’d often seen on walks with his Labrador was in a scuffle with someone on a motorbike, dressed in his underwear! The next morning, I was informed by our mutual coconut seller that the poor fellow’s phone had been grabbed while he was leaving his garbage out in the street, dog in tow and dressed less than formally. Not, perhaps, Hitchcock-worthy. But an amusing enough diversion for those empty days of the early pandemic.

Int. Bungalow–night

Up in the lower Himalayas, my frequent refuge during the pandemic, one sees rather different predators and prey in action. A few months ago, before dawn, I was woken up by the metronomic cries of a barking deer. The David Attenborough in me bolted to the window, looking down the tree-covered slope, hoping for a Blue Planet moment. And I was not disappointed. The harried locals, worried about their dogs being taken away by the big cat, began to flash torches and play bhajans to ward off the danger. Crisscrossing lines of torchlight revealed the glowing eyes of a leopard, calmly walking up the slope to reach the motorable road.

Back home in Mumbai, in my new apartment with a beautiful view, I’m hoping the spell doesn’t break. By which I mean the landlord doesn’t turn Shylockian. The mysterious old bungalow across from me—all marble pillars, tiled roofs and dark interiors—is fully deserving of my curiosity. It’s time now for shadowy figures to cross the covered passageway even as the caretaker climbs the water tank for his evening phone call. A superbly Hitchcockian setting that I hope leaves me very disappointed.

Follow @rehana_munir on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, January 23, 2022

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Friday, May 20, 2022