Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Love Story of a Perfectly Common Couple

Why are all the guys in the books so perfect and toned and the women such willowy goddesses? It's the same in the movies. What about all the love stories of the absolutely ordinary girl and a not to hot guy? They seem to be ruling the earth anyway.

Sitting at home reading feel good books and watching feel good movies work till you realize there is nothing to feel good about downtime when suffering a violent bout of cold, it freaks you out. Why don't these seemingly indestructible men and women ever look unwell or off color? Worse, when they do enact characters that are off color, how do they still manage to look so sexy?

The cold is bitter this year and everyone is battling the chill in any way they can. I keep indoors because the weight of multiple layers of clothing makes my shoulders ache. I know for sure from the noises coming in the afternoon that the kids make hay while the Sun shines while the women, their mothers, chat non-stop among themselves at the rooftop drying clothes in make-shift clotheslines.

As I sat wondering about the high drama in this perfectly mundane romance of the common man and the woman next door, looking out at a cold but sunny day, this is the story that came to me over a warm cup of strong Earl Grey:

A sharp rap on the door woke her up from a dreamless sleep. Groaning into the pillow she searched with her left hand for the mobile phone that she had dumped somewhere near her head last night. Finally she found it and opened one irritated eye to look at it. Damn! It said, 7 a.m. The rap sounded once more and this time it was more forceful, more pronounced. "Grrrrrr..." escaped her throat before she threw off the covers in sheer anger and then, froze.

"Brrrr..." it was icy cold. Whoever was at the door rapped once more and this time buzzed the calling bell as an afterthought.

"Uggghhhh... coming!" The yell was strong enough to penetrate the frozen morning air in her small apartment and reach the person on the other side of the front door.

Pulling on a discarded sweater and dragging her feet into a pair of slippers she pushed her sleepy self to the door and opened it with a vengeance. "What is it?" the words were nothing if not harsh.

"Sorry, I did not mean to wake you up but, it couldn't wait."

Slowly adjusting her myopic eyes on the person at her door, she realized it was a guy. "Wait a minute." She shut the door on his face.

Running back to the bedroom chanting, "shit, shit, shit..." she picked up her glassed (no time for contact lenses) and ran to the bathroom pulling her hair in a messy topknot. In the bathroom she went through the closest, picked out the bottle of mouthwash and opening the cap swagged a mouthful. Rinsing her mouth and washing her face hurriedly she rushed back to the door she had so hastily closed.

Taking a deep breath she opened the door to renew her acquaintance with whoever had come knocking at an unearthly hour.

A look confirmed her suspicion that it was neither the newspaper boy or the milkman. This guy was unkempt and looked scruffy but, he was not the local plumber either. So, who was he and what did he want?

She looked at him with a question in her eye. The door was only half-open and only a foot and a hand were visible to the guy at the door along with her face, while most of her body (clad in a shapeless sweater) was hidden by the door.

"Oh hi! I'm sorry for the early hour once more," He faltered here when her expression did not change and took a deep breath.

"I live downstairs."

Still no response or even a shift in the facial muscle to let him know that he was with her.

"I came early to make a request."


Finally assured that she was listening to him he gave her what he thought was his best boyish grin and continued, "please tell your maid to not throw the water down the drainpipe after washing up your porch. It messes my porch."


"I said, please ask your maid to NOT throw dirty water down the pipe after cleaning your house. The water falls into my porch and makes it dirty."


He waited for any other response but, realized that none would be forthcoming so, he shrugged his jacket-clad shoulders and nodded his head at her.

"That was it and sorry once again for waking you up. I was trying to catch you before the maid arrived and also I start my day pretty early."

She was still looking at him with with wide unseeing eyes as if he was a freak.

"I'm sorry to get you out of your bed. I'll go now. Thanks."

All he intercepted was a very slight inclination of head before he turned to the stairs. Still unsure if she got it,  he turned back after he had climbed down a couple of steps and turned round. She was still at the door but, looking at the ground. Hot color suffused her cheeks making them look like ripe apples. Her ears were bright too. Quickly turning round, he beat his chest with a fist, he'd embarrassed the poor girl. First, he got her out of her bed, then accused her of dirtying his porch and also insinuated that she was a late riser while he was not - bother! He did not know how to talk to women - period!

Klutz! He had no social graces. Why could he not have spoken to her in the evening. One more day of dirty porch would have been OK. He was such an idiot. Now he'd have to find some excuse to say sorry to her.

A staircase somewhere in Italy. Taken off the Internet.
Once at his own apartment he made some tea for himself after letting the maid come in for the cleaning. He then took the newspaper to the porch along with his morning cuppa.

While he drank his tea mixed with toxic information on corrupt politicians, spine-chilling murders and rapes of minors topped up by pictures of debauchery and mindless partying his mind raced upstairs to his neighbor. Did she always wake up late? Most importantly, was she always so fuzzy in the morning? Lost, unsettled, vulnerable and though he tried to command his mind not to get there, "sexy"?

"Aargh..." The maid rushed in to see if he was all right. He looked at the elder woman's scared eyes and shook his head saying, "work..." Something both of them understood.

Long after the cleaning lady had left and he had gotten ready for work his mind still refused to let go off the upstairs neighbor. And it had nothing to do with the fact that her maid had not poured dirty water down the pipe at him today. So, she did get what he told her. She wasn't that buzzed up then, was she. At least not as much as he had thought. Perhaps she was just shy. These simple thoughts mingled with many other hormone stirring ones that had gone straight to his head and given it an ache for some time now. But, he also realized that he was smiling despite the pain as he locked the door and walked towards his car. The tryst with his neighbor had made him smile all morning like a senseless monkey.

"Shit! It's him again!" She thought when she saw him coming towards the car park. She started walking fast to avoid another confrontation with him. It was bad enough that he'd seen her in her oldest PJs but, she was now equally worried about him seeing her dressed for work. She hardly ever wore ethnic clothes to office. But, today since her office was celebrating Republic Day ahead of the long weekend, the dress code was ethnic. She was uncomfortable in a saree and her walk awkward.

In her rush to get away, her steps got entangled in her voluminous pleats and to her great embarrassment the treacherous pleats came undone. Tearing up with shock and horror, she could do little more than hold on to the fabric and not allow it to slip down completely. While tears cascaded down her cheeks like torrential rains, she felt warm silk against her shoulders and neck. A blazer, several times larger than her size and warm from human contact went around her body like a robe, covering her well up to her knees.

She didn't have to look up to see who it belonged to. She just did not want to look up. She wanted the Earth to open up and swallow her whole. There were so many people at the car park at this time - everyone on their way to work and here she was half-undressed, wearing a man's blazer while he was standing in front of her hiding her disheveled status from everyone around. How much could he himself see?

She knew this was fodder for the worst kind of gossip - something she did NOT need at all. The landlady would surely throw a fit. And if her father came to know, he'd probably disown her, angry as it is of her decision to stay away from the family and work in a strange city.

And the guy? He had seen her at her worst twice in a day. He probably thought she was some tart out to ensnare men. Yet, something beyond fear, something called shame that is so deeply etched in every girl's psyche from age five kept her from moving and made her tears fall like a watershed in a breached dam. She didn't know what to do next.

"Please don't cry. It happens to everyone. Even to guys you know..." His attempt at a joke was so lame that it only set the girl crying even more. At this rate she'd choke in her own tears. He felt a sudden tug at his heart at a hidden place that he never knew existed. He had to do something more than stand in front of her holding his blazer against her to cover up her modesty.

"Look, just walk with me to the car next to you. It's mine. I'll open the door with the auto lock and you can quickly get inside the back door. While I stand out here against the window, you can put the, erm... pleats back in. It would be OK... Give it a go... Please."

Perhaps it was the sincerity in his voice that drew her eyes up to him for the first time that morning. Her deep black tear stained eyes looked into his searching for something - safety, honesty, trust? He prayed she saw whatever it was she was looking for there. His intentions were so pure and honest at that moment  that he felt like the twenty-first century reincarnation of Sir Galahad. He knew that at that point in time, he could without any hitch procure the Holy Grail or slay any number of dragons that came in the way of his protecting this fair damsel in distress.

It was just a few seconds in reality but, for him, it seemed like a lifetime. He dared not to breath for what seemed like forever and he felt his lungs burn but, then, she saw it and without saying a word or looking away, she gave a very small nod, like she had earlier this morning, before tearing up once more and looking away.

His auto lock made a loud pop which broke the spell.

She turned around with him following close. She opened the back door of his car and slid in. He shut the door and stood in front of the window with his back to give her some privacy from prying eyes and to clear his head.

Shivering in that icy cold morning without the protection of his blazer and guarding the virtue of his vulnerable and high strung upstairs neighbor, he suddenly realized, this is where the story had to stop for reality to take over. She was in her rightful place inside his car, wearing his blazer and he was in his rightful place, there guarding her, protecting her. This is where the morning's bizarre story turned into the story of their lives.

Inside the car, as she fussed with the pleats of the errant saree, she too realized that she had met her knight in shining armor and this was the beginning of their happily ever after. She need not worry about any scandals. He'd just never let them touch her.

As they both smiled their faces turned away from each other, the Sun broke through the gloomy clouds and everyone hurried around the car park starting yet another stressful day. Though they had never realized this, but, no one else had noticed the little drama between the two neighbors since everything had happened too fast and everyone was in a tearing hurry to avoid the rush hour and get to work on time. No one had noticed but, the One who loved a bit of drama to spice things up occasionally and He laughed a lovely rich laugh as He blessed them, 'another two hitched!'


  1. Loved it.. very well written Shoma.. How have u been?

    1. Thanks Manjulika. :)
      I've been around here and been reading your blogs all this while. How are things with you?


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