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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Redevelopment 5 ... My Balcony

“This house looks exactly the same, it has your personality.” Said my friend who visited me the first time, after I moved into my new rented place.

I was lucky that I was able to find a completely empty house. That meant that I could bring my furniture, my personal possessions and jigsaw them to fit them all in proper position. The only difference was that this house was smaller than the previous one; hence I got rid of all the extra furniture.

In my new abode, the living room has the same set up, with same artwork decorating the walls. The kitchen has the same cabinets, arranged in the similar pattern, same beds, same mattresses, same wardrobes and the same dressing table. There is not much difference between my old house and the new one. The colors and the tones are also similar. Yes, I agree, it suits my personality.

But still, I am yet to find a new comfort corner.

I miss the balcony of my old home.

Nine feet by four feet balcony was the area where I would spend most of my evenings. As the sun slumped across the horizon, its golden rays filtered though the tall trees spreading its warmth over me. I sat in my balcony with a cup of tea on the ledge and a mobile in my hand. Many evenings were spent sipping tea and surfing through my ‘WatsApp’ messages. Sometimes I would listen to the music and sometimes watch videos on its tiny screen. Then there would be chats on social media, forward messages to read or the missed phone call to be answered.

Balcony appeared to float above a large open space between wing A and wing B defying gravity. It was a structural masterpiece as well as architectural one. Fancy cars sparkled under daylight and occupied most of the building compound, but the area between the parked cars was large enough for children to play outdoor games. On weekends and on holidays, children and their friends from neighboring buildings played various outdoor games that included cricket and football. Younger children played running and hopping games. Babies sat in their pram chewing on fingers. Old men walked carelessly, lost in their own world, distant.

A group of senior women sat on wide, rectangular platform, built over the water tank. They met every evening for endless conversations dissecting the TV serials, or discussing the news that they had collected during the day from their maids who were the carrier of tales.  The distance from the tank to my balcony was not much, two floors upstairs their murmur was audible. The news that I collected while surfing the net seemed pale against their juicy gossip. At regular intervals, they would glance up to acknowledge my presence.

My relationship with balcony is deep seated. During my growing up days, I was a loner. I tagged along with my mom wherever she went, but I was a child of minute importance, everybody ignored me. I was different, somebody to be left alone. I found solace in balcony. Most of my childhood has been spend in balcony, counting car on a busy road, differentiating vibrant colors on the street, reading ads on the moving buses, it’s the little game I played on my own. I didn’t need friends to sit with me in the balcony. I was happy when left alone.

One question I always pondered. If one is in balcony, is one inside or outside the house? The fresh wind stays outside, but the warm glow is inside the house.

 Many evenings I sat in my balcony, on a stone bench, cross-legged, with my back against the cool wall. Through the grill cage, I watched the sky change its hues from pink to red to blue to dark blue. I sat there immersed in my own thoughts, the sounds in the building fading away slowly, leaving the silence behind. On other days, I would cuddle up with few soft cushions flung careless against me, and be engrossed in an interesting book.

My balcony was also my rendezvous, a place to entertain my friends. We sat in the balcony, munching on snack and sipping coffee. The fresh air lifted our spirit. Laughter and happiness filled the crevices of the walls. Even on sleepless night, balcony was my refuge. Suspended mid-air between heaven and earth, I could solve the undeniable inner conflicts, I would sit under stars, watching the moon till the eyes drooped.

I miss my balcony. There is none in my new house. There are just windows that have been covered with long curtains. I feel claustrophobic sitting inside four walls.

After I moved from my old house, I revisited the lane to have a look at my balcony that I had loved so dearly. The grills and doors of my balcony had vanished. It was bare, with its mouth wide open; it looked like an old man without its dentures. I heard it complain that I had abandoned it. I could not bear to look at it.

Last week I went back again. The balcony had met its death. A big crane occupied most of the ground. Huge trucks transported the debris. There was no compound, no rectangular platform over the water tank. The golden rays still filtered through the trees but they reflected on the pile of stones and mud.

The beautiful memories of the time spend in my balcony are buried now deep under the sand.

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