The Glass House

I understand why she can’t stand the house, some people don’t mind being seen so much as having to see.

Down a wide, green, cobbled road, after the sleepy houses that have been around since the end of the British Raj, is where the family’s new house in Mangalore is hidden away. These large house that could have only existed in a time that has passed, are now green with moss, have plants booming in untamed corners, roofs collapsing, red tiles cracking and adventurous dogs (who take advantage of the very uneven terrain, frequent slopes and drooping trees to climb onto the sunny remains of roofs). The newer concrete  houses with aged cement, mossed paint, and small yards are also lonely as their owners also decide to leave town and live in countries where their children work. New, luxurious apartments have sprung up in the area. Smaller but very charming little apartments that have housed at least one generation also line the road, bolder than the behemoths drawn to the back of their plots.

Our house, the glass house, is down this road, down a small cobbled slip that runs down a gentle slope. A white house and a white car, clearly built by a man quite a lot of money and very little taste or reservation, guards the entrance to the lane. Travelers often stop to look twice at the awkward, white stone and wood, built in what is unmistakably supposed to be inspired by old Indian mansions. On the other side is a grey moss covered wall, and large trees that hide a large house behind it. On the other side of this entrance is a path to a large apartment.

Behind the awkward white house is an empty plot with old house that is surrounded by wild grass, and has a roof which has crashed to the ground.  It has a curious amounts of books inside, which are now a sickened shade brown. Behind this empty plot is our landlords house, and after that is our house. After the grey compound wall on the left, which houses a large grey house with a well forested garden, and a lonely old man, is a large courtyard and a two story house rented to three people. This house, with resilient wild flowers and plants exploding all over it, would have been rented to four people if there wasn’t a property dispute going on. Behind it, at the end of the street next to us, is a pink four story apartment that looks like a house. It does a poor job of hiding the street behind it.

Anyone who walks onto the tiny street is immediately spotted and heard by everyone on the street (maybe even by the people on the street behind it). Many species of bored housewives,canines and felines have eyes ready to pounce on anything that stroll by. The residents of the apartment can also steal glances unnoticed and unobstructed through our street and the next from their elevated windows. The awkward inward folding gates to our house is guarded by the Muslim women who are always drying clothes at the bottom of the apartment, the three families in the house before it, and the matron of our house.

She is always in her living room that looks straight at the gate. She asks adroit questions that’ll help her determined the age and occupation of at least three generations as she smiles and permits you to open the gate. Walk down along her house with an endless supply of young relatives sticking out of the many windows, and up the stairs try to avoid the inquiring stares from the living room of the people who live below us. The stairs end at our house which faces a window to our landlords house. You can often see their feet or upper torso as they leave the bedroom and head to the kitchen.

On the left you can see the entire street, and the entire street can see both you and into the first bedroom of the house. Above these house you can see another apartment from where you can once again be observed unnoticed. On the right you can see a basement. We used to live in the large apartment above the basement.It’s surprisingly populated for a basement. You can also see part of a large, old house behind it.The house is a perfect rectangle. Enter the living room and you can see straight down to the end of the house and into the street behind us. You can peek into all the room on the right and through their windows. You can also look left and once again see the basement and the house behind it.

There’s a strange man who’s always at the basement. They tell me there must be something wrong with him. The something is likely to be a physical condition but I’m not sure. He stand there, mostly during the afternoon, motionless between the always locked office and the three stairs to the elevators. He is clad in unassuming formals, well-worn old shoes and has rapidly graying hair. He talks to a few people occasionally, but never leaves his post. You’ll never seen him moving and you can’t afford to look at him because his post lets him look right at you.

Every room but the washroom(which has just one window) lets you see and be seen from at least two sides. Every side seems to have a conversation float by, every direction seems to have someone who look away when they catch your glance. no other house on the street must be able to see as much as we can, no other house can be seen as much as we can. She tells me it’s like the walls and roof have collapsed just like in all those old houses. I wonder what the view must be like from inside those shattered mansions.

Shadows of Moths

Having spent all day indoors, I decided to venture outside to make sure the rest of the world was still around. It was, and the fresh air felt like a pillow being  pushed up against my face.

I breathed it in and noticed my neighbor peering at me from his balcony. He and his 70’s mustache are always out there; I’ve always wondered how he has resisted the urge to play with his phone or go inside to stare at a screen. When the robots take over and pay us in internet usage privileges, He and his mustache will be peering stoically at us from some mountain, cloaked in brown robes. I drew my head back in and grabbed a collection of short stories by Nabokov. The orange streets light right outside my house poured over the stairs to the house upstairs. Reading under it seemed extremely tempting for some reason.

Another neighbor, the meek one with the meek name I can never remember, slithered  through the path to his house and stared from the corner of his eyes. I lower my head but returned the glance. He slipped away into the shadows, the curious fellow. I noticed the black railing of the stairs I was sitting on were wet and the blue house directly opposite had be colored a darker shade of blue by the rain. I scanned the road and listed to the vehicles surge past on the main road, just out of view.

I realized I hadn’t read a single line and that the shadow of a moth buzzed across the pages bathed orange light. I put the book aside and looked for the moth under the street light.

Hansel and Gretel

While  Mom-Dad where at hill station, Hardipur and Geetu, had gone wandering around the neighbourhood.

Annu antie would have watched then like a hawk [or an obese parrot], nothing like gossiping about chootu children. Can understand parents full genealogy.But poor Mom-Dad didn’t account for latest serial played on full blast on brand new Ultra, Ultra HD Plasma curve, super sonic TV bought by NRI son.

Hardipur and Geetu, who preferred Hansel and Gretel, had never gone around their neighborhood, slum area is too close by. They were picked up by AC school bus and went to international school named after a random phirangi [probably Richard or Jacob or someone, as long as he has white skin and blue hair why does it matter?], and went to kids section of overpriced club #24 after they reached home and finished googling homework.

Hardipur and Geetu went up and down, left and right, here and there, like they smelt 3 tons of chocolate. They can to a strange lane where everything smelt strange, dogs weren’t on chains and people wore lungis-sarees, full traditional get-up even though it wasn’t ethnic day.

Hansel-Gretel or whatever you call them, ran up-down making their white, white uniforms brown and bought some pani-puri. It was better than canteen version. They went to small park smaller than their front yard, where other kids played. Other kids looked at them, they looked at other kids. Hardipur wanted to discuss Pokemon gen 40 and new super-duper, ultra evolution, but they didn’t understand him. Hansel-Gretel/Hardipur-Geetu played on their phones. Everything was very nice they noticed, it was nice to be out they said and sat awkwardly on the benches.

It was soon night and they were scared.Google maps doesn’t work when your phone has expired. Hansel-Gretel were very sad, scared even when a nice dark old lady came along and offered to take them home. She took them to her home first, asked them a few questions, but they just smiled awkwardly in response. She looked like a witch working on magic brew when she made them dinner. She ate little, and kept smiling as they ate.They decided she must be a cook .

She wasn’t smiling when sirens screamed and neighbors came out to watch as police took her away. Parents said hi to Hansel-Gretel/Hardipur-Geetu, police looked everywhere and some random case was booked. Hansel-Gretel/Hardipur-Geetu noticed the house was dust covered and looked a little like chocolate as they taken back home in their tinted window, AC car. They looked at each other and felt a little guilty, but Mom-Dad said she is not a nice lady. She had forced them to cancel vacation.

Probably kidnapping she was trying. Don’t go to the slums again they said. They could hardly stop huffing and puffing when they realized that Hansel-Gretel/ Hardipur-Geetu must have eaten meat. Later they discussed what caste the old lady must have been and what purification ceremony they would have to perform. Hansel-Gretel shrugged were happy to have Wi-Fi access again and everyone called it a happy ending.