My neighbour’s living room
Maybe it is the bean bag we can sink into and slouch on or maybe it is the mud pot that is always filled with breeze cool water, I just like it and grew fonder of it as every weekend I went there passed. After a hectic week of work for my dad and my neighbours, they gather here to play cards and to drink to an amazing life they lead. A game of cards is a remedy to the stress and relaxes their minds to go through another week. After I joined them I realized that they have a point and now this weekend game is what gets me through my week.
It was at the end of May before college starts on a Saturday night my father took me there after dinner. We sat there Soumya and Krishnaraj one couple; Prasanth and Anu another couple; Shibu uncle, married but Sumi aunty, his wife didn’t join and doesn’t come often; dad and me around the table playing a card game called ‘Donkey’. Before my dad took me he told me he wouldn’t take me there again after college begins. My thoughts were that I would find a group like the group in high school and enjoy the amazing college life that I have heard about so much from my mother, my cousins, and my dad. We played till late 1 the next morning. The rules of the game is that if you lose you get the first letter ‘D’ and then as you lose more and more you become a ‘DONKEY’ and you keep one more joker card on your ear as you go on losing. You lose if you are the last person who is left with cards. The lively jokes, teases that go around the table and the pranks pulled upon each other gives the atmosphere, which I got so attached to.
College started, one week passed and then another and then a month. I kept on hoping but nothing seemed to change, those people I found in my high school, I couldn’t find them here. College life that I have heard about so much came to a dead end in my life, I couldn’t find that happiness I was seeking. I turned into a machine that went to college and returned home. The only thing that was interesting was the course, everything else was good, but maybe because of too much attachment to my old high school friends, it was hard to accept the new people. After a month I pleaded my dad to take me back there on a Saturday and then it continued and I took a permanent membership that is I go there if my dad is there. If my dad leaves to the native place my mom won’t let me go and that is like a weekend spoiled. The only thing that kept me going and I looked forward to, become these weekends. It became a hole through which I could squeeze into the other path in my life that had reached a dead end. We would even play the next afternoon after lunch till dinner in the night.
But the weekends pass off too soon and at times one of the families would travel to Kerala on the weekends because of which I would sometimes have to wait for two weeks for another round the table gathering. But what annoyed me the most was that, my mom wouldn’t let me go if my dad is not there. The house is right opposite to us, but I being a girl should not go there because I will be returning so late and someone would kidnap me while I crossed an arm’s length road. Also the kidnapping that my mother foretells would happen while my neighbours are watching me when I cross the road, they only go inside after they have made sure that I have got inside and locked the door safely but apparently that’s not enough for my mother. Which actually makes me wish I am a guy, just for those few minutes, she might have let me go or she couldn’t keep me refrained to the house, because I am a guy. But I let those thoughts go and try to cheer up with the thought that I can go there again next week.
They way they make fun of me is actually what I love about the place. ‘What’s on your ear’ Prasanth would often ask me on Monday morning indicating the joker cards I would have collected the night before and most of the time I have a narrow escape from becoming a ‘DONKEY’, I would have reached up to ‘DONKE’ but somehow I don’t lose again. When he asks me that, right on track I fall for it every single time and bring my hand up to my ear.
Krishnaraj and Prasanth love to pull these pranks on me; they think of me as this small sister who they can play around with, now it has became a sort of ritual for them to make me a fool every week and as the weeks go the ideas become more extreme level nonsense and better developed. The last one they pulled on me, included a street play were the whole colony realized I was fooled and that annoyed me so much. It began as such, I had gone to visit them and I shouldn’t forget to mention they come up with it on the spot and have very good eye coordination or probably can read each other’s mind, but they are good at it and really good actors. So I had gone to see them, they started off with asking whether I fell from his cycle, my dad had informed him about my fall, on getting a positive nod and a sheepish smile, he continued that the brake has come off, and the tires are going the other way round, he asked “Krishna (Krishnaraj), do you mind coming with me, let’s go fix it today evening”. I was holding my breath till then and after hearing it left a breath of relief, since I needed the cycle for the next day. Then since my mother had sent me to call dad for lunch and that was the reason for my visit, I jumped to the question I had in my mind and asked them a simple question “Where’s dad”, since he is at one or the other one’s house during the morning half. To which Prasanth replied “He’s gone off with Shibu to buy fish, they had a quarrel” even though he could have just told me the truth.
Krishnaraj continued “Today morning while we were helping the plumbers, we were pulling out the pipe and Shibu teased your father saying “Chetta (brother), if you put down the cards from your ears, that you collected yesterday, you might be able to help us a bit more nicely”.
I innocently asked “So what’s wrong with that”
Prasanth followed “Even though Shibu just meant it as a joke, your dad took it bit seriously and replied seriously “you just take care of your cards, mind your own business, I know how to take care of my work”.
Knowing my dad quite well, it was something that could have happened, he does have a habit of heating up for unnecessary reasons, later regretting it and being apologetic. Also the tone with which they made the presentation had taken half my belief; and the part that even they know my dad pretty well skipped my mind. But having experiences before, I wasn’t ready to believe them yet “So then what happened”
“Well Shibu didn’t say anything, but his face was dull the rest of the time, you could ask Jose uncle even he was there, or else why should your dad go with him to buy fish, he is trying to fix it and make up for it” said the truthful Mr Krishnaraj. Since we don’t eat fish during those months, he did have a point and ‘Ask Jose uncle’ which I now realize is a strong physiological move one must never fall for, first off they can rest assured I am not going to ask that person and second of all when a third person is mentioned the chances it is true are more according to our mindset but the fact it that it is not true at all.
“Don’t tell mom, we will try to fix it you go home for now” Prasanth requested, so we parted in two ways. I was pretty disappointed learning about the way the events turned out but I thought I will ask dad later in the evening. Also I immediately informed my mom and sister and they did believe it. Dad returned after a while and didn’t say anything to any of us about it. I later learned they had told him about it and asked him to play along. After lunch we were sitting and watching a movie when Prasanth called from outside, he’s the main plot-setter, me and dad went outside to know what has happened. My dad stood at the door while I ran to the gate where I can see the road.
Prasanth said “Suresh (my dad) chetta, please just come and talk to him, after all we are neighbours, and we should not fight over such petty issues”
“I tired, if he can’t accept it, I am not going to go and beg at his feet”, dad gusted out, went inside and sat on the sofa. I was look at the street where Krishnaraj is trying to convince Shibu uncle to calm down and the former just pushed the latter aside and walked off in the other direction. Their acting was amazing, and this is not just my point of view but the entire colony thought that something was wrong.
Prasanth asked me to come forward and speak to him, I walked towards him and very meekly called “Shibu uncle” he turned look at me like I am an annoying mosquito that had arrived at night to disturb his peace of sleep and then turned his head away. I who have an emotional level of a teaspoon couldn’t bear that response and with the last bit of strength was holding back my tears even though my face I am sure looked like that of a drowning man. Prasanth told me to go home. I somehow made it inside the gate and in front of the door before opening it I blinked letting the black thread of my eyelashes to let go of my tear they were holding back. I quickly wiped it off and went inside to the curious glances my mom and sister were giving. I had closed the door behind me and before I could explain to them I heard a commotion outside and shout of “Sunday fool” coming through the door. I, in front and dad behind me rushed to the door and opened it to find Shibu uncle and the rest of the party standing there with gleaming eyes and a heinous laughter passing around. At that moment I cannot explain how annoying relieved I was, relieved that it was a prank but annoyed that they took it along with them so long. They explained that they wouldn’t have revealed it if my face didn’t look like someone died. I defended myself from their accusations by repeating “I wasn’t going to cry”. I couldn’t find any better statements to rebut it other than continuously repeating it. Their shout of ‘Sunday fool’ was heard by the entire colony who laughed along with them, while I stood there sulking.
Later in the evening when I questioned them whether they went to repair the cycle or not they laughed again at my innocence or stupidity, and revealed how they held a wire with the help of which they were able to show that the wheels turned in the opposite direction and the brake came loose. That was two pranks in one day. I went home called my cousin and started plotting against them. Hence the day came to a conclusion with me just sulking in my bedroom, making plots and not meeting them therefore I did not give them a chance to make me a fool for the third time. I haven’t presented my plot yet, but that does not mean I am not going to, I will strike back when they least expect it, till then I am waiting with a very good trap set for them or so I wish.