Sunday, 29 June 2008

Paying Guest Woes

It is past 11 pm. I approach the door with trepidation and knock softly. After what seems like an eternity, a light clicks on inside, the door opens a crack and Sunitaben’s unsmiling face comes into view. It is obvious she does not approve. Without a word she opens the door fully and lets me in. I quickly tiptoe across the hall, eager to reach the privacy of my room and escape her accusing gaze.

The lease on our flat in Vile Parle has finally expired and we have moved out. The Beatles Fan Club stands temporarily disbanded. Ram has found a job with an oil prospecting company and has shifted to Indonesia. Bisque, after a stint in Bhusawal and a briefer one in Mumbai, has gone back to Kerala. So has Digamber, after suffering several nervous breakdowns. Moni has disappeared and is reported to be living somewhere in Four Bungalows.

I am staying at Sunitaben’s place in Andheri as a paying guest. My room-mate is Prasad, who has a doctorate in English literature. Prasad is a quiet, thoughtful man who normally starts talking only after couple of beers.

After living in a fully furnished apartment with your close friends, to live as a paying guest is hugely restrictive. Sunitaben doesn’t make it any easier. She is a stern-faced Gujarati widow who lives with her ten year old son, Suraj. She teaches Hindi in the nearby school and decides from the first day onwards to impose a certain discipline and control on us which teachers normally reserve for particularly unruly students.

House rules are strict: There is no separate entrance. There is no separate key either. You get a cup of tea in the morning if she is in a good mood. Most mornings, she is not in a good mood. At night, you have to be back in your room by 10.30 pm. Later than that, and you have to make arrangements to stay at a friend’s place.

Two months of this and Prasad and I are nervous wrecks. One night, Moni lands up from nowhere and we go out to celebrate a much-awaited reunion. Prasad has one beer too many and suddenly keels over and is out like a light. We splash water on his face and he recovers but is unsteady and can hardly walk. We are terrified of taking him in that state to Sunitaben’s house.

Moni, ever the Good Samaritan, bundles Prasad into a taxi and takes him to his place in Four Bungalows.

I walk back alone.


Lekhni said...

I thought all the strict rules were reserved for women! I once stayed at a hostel that had a 9:00 pm curfew!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

there must be an exam in khadoosness which all these paid hosts need to pass before they are eligible. all scary people

Rada said...

@ Lekhni: Now you know!
@ Cynic: Yes, these "paid hosts" should definitely be made to undergo some training on "customer care"!

Velayudhan said...

i clearly remember that face where i stayed as a guest of paying guest. The next night i had my first beer at tatakumar's place and four of us shared that paying guest single room with separate door.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.