Secret Friend

City life – privacy -neighbor : A short story 🙂

Kabir closed the door behind him, put down his suitcase and heavy backpack, and slumped into the old couch. He was tired.He was excited.He was relieved.He was a mixed bag of emotions.

A plastic table and chair, and the couch were the only furniture in his tiny, rented one room apartment. Kabir did not expect much either. He thanked his stars-  his getting a job in the current recession scenario was nothing but good luck,so he thought.Relocating to his dream city – Bangalore was a bonus. He was sure his future would be bright.

Kabir decided to take a quick shower and explore the locality. Before going out, he placed his prized possession – his SONY portable radio cum music system- on the table. His father had noticed Kabir’s craze for music and gifted it to him when he was in High School.

In India,everyday millions of people migrate to the cities in hope of work. The cities are under constant pressure to provide shelter to their swelling population. The architects, while designing  buildings, give utmost importance to maximum utilization of space. Aesthetic is secondary and privacy is rarely considered.

Kabir’s tiny one-bedroom apartment, in a middle class locality, was no different. Every morning as he brushed his teeth and went about his morning routine, he could hear the sound of running water, his neighbor’s noisy gargling and spitting and other bodily sounds.

Kabir loved to sing, specially in the bathroom. Though he lacked the talent, there was no stopping him. He would hit all the notes- the highest and the lowest. He transformed into a rockstar, Bollywood’s Kishore Kumar in his tiny bathroom.

During one such performance, when he was singing an old 60’s Bollywood number, a female voice joined his musical show. He presumed it came from his neighbor’s bathroom.

Surprised by this unexpected company,he changed the song to a more recent number,the voice played along. He challenged it to a duet, it responded. Excited, he tried starting a conversation but was met with silence.

The musical Jugalbandis and duets continued every morning. Kabir did not know who was on the other side but he definitely enjoyed the company. Their timing was perfect,whenever Kabir sang, the voice responded. They explored variety of music from different genre, timelines, Bollywood, gazals and sometimes popular English country songs. The songs they chose reflected their moods. It was evident that they both loved music and music bonded them together in an uncommon friendship.

But that’s it. There was never any other form of communication between them. Kabir was curious, but he knew that he could not go and ring the neighbor’s bell, and ask about it. It’s not how things happens in India.Moreover,he was a bachelor;bachelors are always under suspicion and should avoid being over friendly.

Meanwhile, Bangalore’s fast lifestyle had rubbed onto Kabir; he had metamorphosed from a shy, timid small town boy to a fashion conscious,ponytail and tattoo sporting uber-cool city guy. The cloak of modernity couldnot hide the values and morals that his parents had instilled in him.The little things that Kabir involuntarily did, now and then, revealed his traditional up bringing. While coming back from office one day, he saw a funeral procession near his house. Through the glass case of the funeral carriage, he saw the calm face of an old lady. He folded his hand and bowed his head in respect.

The next morning, as usual, at 8 o’ clock sharp, he opened his shower, let the water run for a while and sang loudly, no response. He went to the bathroom after 15 minutes and sang, no response, after half and hour , no response. He left for office, disturbed and confused.