Lack of internet connectivity on my phone and laptop made me me grumpy the whole day. There aren’t any important mails to send or any pending assignments to complete. I had deactivated all my social network accounts as they were tiring, unproductive and intrusive; and i no longer missed them. But somehow I felt very isolated and couldn’t figure out why. That caused the grumpiness. I tried to focus on the random things that we pass by unnoticed but have the potential to induce a smile. The subtle and often hidden humour needs to be extracted from the surface of seemingly monotonous and sometimes unfortunate occurrences. Today I cite three such random incidents here.
I am scared of birds, especially the rock pigeons and their obscenely loud flutter of wings, the guttural cooing, the creepy rotation of their necks and their surprising knack of flirting with danger when they sit on electric wires. But these damn birds had haunted me all my life. When I was three I was attacked by a pair of swans taller than me, and i had fainted. This was followed by few fat ducks and a smart-alecky parrot which my grandmother had determined to keep as pets throughout my childhood. During my first job, I was posted in a godforsaken village and allotted dilapidated living quarters that seemed to be standing upright on sheer willpower. On the first night I was rudely awakened by sounds of something short and heavy jumping on the hollow ceiling. Ghost of some brutally murdered previous child occupant was the first thought that came to my mind. The next morning the hospital pharmacist laughed off my fears. I had just about heaved a sigh of relief when he casually mentioned, “It’s just a family of large, white owls.” He had the audacity to call them cute too. I would have preferred an army of ghosts. These (parliament of) owls were huge and despite my pleading cries, my mother refused to drive them off. They are a favorite of Maa Saraswati! Wtf! Then there are the pigeons that follow me around everywhere I go, and perch in groups on my window ledge. I have given up sitting on the front verandah because of the rock pigeons that fly in to soak in the sunshine! Ironically I had been born into a family who named the kids after some weird peacock fetish! My sister delights in scaring me that I would get unknowingly get married to a ‘ichchadhari’ (shape-shifter) pigeon (as in the infamous ichchadhari nagin) and will wake up one night hugging a giant grey pigeon, my husband! Anyways, not long ago the building I stay in was undergoing renovation and one day I was startled by the sight of my parents chatting with a man who was crouching outside our window, about forty feet above the ground. Once the initial shock wore off, I realized that he was crouching on the makeshift bamboo ladder and was getting ready to paint the window ledge, and my parents were helping him remove the flower pots from there. Suddenly, he asked, “What do I do about this?” My parents quickly exchanged alarmed looks with each other before turning towards me. I knew they were hiding something that involved their annoying love for anything avian. I shouted, “Is there a pigeon’s nest on our window ledge?” They shook their heads in unison, but the crouched painter craned his neck through the open window to look at me, flashed his betel-stained teeth and said, “Yes majoni, there’s a big nest over here, and two baby pigeons too. Come here. Come and see.” My parents had a sudden murderous glint in their eyes as if they wanted to shove the painter from his precarious post for revealing the secret. But the painter’s placid and almost cow-like countenance, oblivious of how his words had scared me; and my parents’ sheepish grins were just too funny and I burst out laughing.
Every morning around ten, my father receives a missed call from the local fisherman whose name he had saved on his phone as ‘Raju Fish’. He halts his jog and saunters into the second floor balcony to stare down skeptically at ‘Raju Fish’ and his piscatory catch of the day, which would be splashing around in blissful ignorance in a dull grey vessel tied to the carrier seat of an old cycle. This would be followed by a scene (and ordeal for me) that had varied little over the years. My father would harangue for the next twenty minutes and end it with a grumpy proclamation that one day divine justice would intervene and really, really bad things would happen to those who cheats and sells stale fishes to elderly men, almost the age of their own father (a deliberate pause here for the desired effect), and charges triple the actual price. ‘Raju Fish’ would deny vehemently and swear on his parents and grandparents, justifying his untainted business ethics. My father smirks, but ends up buying the fish. My father’s accusations are true, but I feel sad for the poor ‘Raju Fish’ who has to go through twenty minutes of obligatory questioning to sell one stale Rohu! I can’t shake off the feeling that someday somewhere ‘Raju Fish’ would commit suicide and leave an accusatory note blaming my father’s questions.
Then there is the incident of the flashy red car which is always stands in front of our house because of the scarcity of proper parking spaces. The owner is paranoid about it being stolen, and since his home is a short distance away from where the beloved car is parked, he had equipped it with a loud and irritating alarm. All that precaution was sensible and good, till the day the toddlers in our locality found out that the car wails if they punched it hard! The harried and unfortunately fat owner had to run at odd hours of the day to deactivate the alarm when some kid deliberately kicks the car, or he had to face the ire of the neighbours over creating noise pollution. He still refuses to permanently deactivate the car alarm and bow down to a bunch of pesky toddlers, who are innocence personified once they had made the car shriek. The man has aged a decade in a week and looks perpetually sleep-deprived. When I see him or his haggard-looking wife standing guard near their flashy red car, i am sure they had not foreseen this calamity.