Sunday, 10 March 2013

That Dark (k)night

"There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne!.... because when it hits you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave very little for the rest of us!"

Selina Kyle kept building up the plot for the dark knight to rise again. Ultra and I were in the multiplex and enjoying every minute of the most awesome finale to a trilogy ever made. Little did we know of the mini crisis which we would face ourselves later that night…

We had gone to watch the evening show at Arch mall’s multiplex on a Sunday evening which is only 6 kms from our home. Our parents had gone to our native place Karkala to attend a wedding. The movie would get over by 9:30 PM in the worst case, we just needed to have dinner after that and go home. Plus, we had our own car to drive back. We had been outside home during later hours in the night and driven our car in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing in the current situation seemed that bad. What could possibly go wrong? What was different?

Well, the difference was that we were now staying in a rented house. 'Akshaya', our dear home for the 25+ years of our lives was now undergoing a renovation and we had to stay in a rented place nearby till Akshaya2.0 was ready. We had chosen a place near to our old home. It was on the main road to Nagarbhavi and in front of a temple. The traffic and the temple noises would never end for most part of the day. It seemed a little small as compared to the big house which we had earlier. There were problems in the electrical connections. However, it was still a manageable place for a one year stay and it was only 2 minute walk from our old home. We just overlooked all the inconveniences and decided to stay there.

But the real problem was not in the physical details of the house, but the softer aspects involved. The owner lived on the second floor of the house and ran a shop on the ground floor. And we were sandwiched on the first floor. He was a rough person, seemed to be ill-mannered, and had a reputation for getting irritated soon. He kept two dogs to guard the place. One was a white pomerian (the white knight) which made all the noise and barked each time we walked past the gate. The other was some sort of a greyhound (the dark knight) which seemed very dangerous. Thankfully, they kept both the dogs on leash and the darker one below the stairs so that we did not have to walk past it. We still fail to understand the need for dogs when he himself was enough for the task (no pun intended). They also had a cat which they kept on leash near the terrace door. It kept crying whole day asking for release from that messy place. The parking spot was always occupied by the inventory of the shop and was barely enough for our two wheelers. And the car had to be kept on the street on the way to Akshaya as there was no other spot for it.

And then came the human aspect of it. In our own house, we were like free birds – no one could question us for anything we did. We had a huge terrace where Ultra and I played football/cricket, sometimes very late in the night – most of the times the sport used to end with us fighting on who won the game :) We had parking for our vehicles and could park it the way we wanted. We had a neem tree near the gate, a coconut tree in the front yard, and could keep small pots wherever we liked. We had lots of open space and storage space – we even kept stuff like our childhood toys, kindergarten school books and what not! We could go out and come in at any time of the day/night. We could talk, scream or laugh to our heart’s content for any silly reason. We had scribbled all over the walls while growing up – no one dared to question our authority anytime. We could cook/eat anything we wanted – be it plants / pulses, eggs or those delicacies from the sea which we love so much ;)

Everything changed once we decided to move out from there. We had to discard lots of old stuff because the rented place didn’t have space to keep all of it. There was only one entry door to the house and only two main windows for ventilation – which made us feel that we were in some padded cell or something. There was no place to even keep the holy tulsi plant, let alone other pots. The first floor house was sheltered in between the owner’s house on the second floor and his shop on the ground floor and we felt we were under constant surveillance. Since he sat at the shop all day and had nothing much to do, our in-time, out-time, materials movement, lifestyle were all monitored by him as well as his family. On top of it, the owner’s mindset was of the traditional ‘Vatara’ of the 90’s, something which translates to ‘landlord is king’. Whenever we walked past the shop, he had some orders for us – ranging from how to park our two wheelers to where we should place the plants to how we should be talking inside the house. And since he was a strict vegetarian, cooking even vegetarian items with garam masala flavor was not allowed; let alone the occasional egg/seafood which we wanted to. Even ordering pizzas and taking it past the two dogs into the house made it seem a complicated task. The saddest part of all was that the gates were locked by 10 PM. In cases where all of us went out for dinner and came back after 10, we had to call up the owner and ask him to let us in. It felt too suffocating!

Back to our current situation, it was totally gripping to the watch the creativity of Nolan unfold on the screen blended with the musical genius of Hans Zimmer. However, the clock kept ticking even as that happened. Just last evening, we had been to the bus stand to drop mom and dad and returned home at 1045 PM. We had to call the owner and ask him to let us in. We did not want to be doing that again tonight as well. We didn't know what it was that made us bite our nails – the thrilling finish to the batman saga or the hunger pangs which set in us :) There would be no food at home and we had to eat out whatever we decided to eat. And in no way, we would leave the theatre in middle of the movie, though we both had watched it once before already. I had to put up with one cancelled movie show and the very first row seats at the digitally enhanced 4k sound of the Urvashi cinemas to catch it on the first weekend of its release. And Ultra being a hardcore Nolan fan had been to Hyderabad just to watch the movie on an imax screen. He went by the Garib Rath express during monsoons. It may be recalled here that the YPR-SC Garib Rath express is the same famous train which Ultra and Maama once barely managed to board on an adventurous monsoon evening. You can read the full story here and here!

It was finally 9:40 PM when we got out of the movie hall. The dog owner would lock the gates anytime after 10 and we had exactly 20 minutes to either have/pack dinner and go home. And we could not get any non-vegetarian food even if we decided to pack it. As we walked hurriedly towards the parking lot deciding what to do, the only outlet we could see in front of our eyes was the ground floor KFC! Life was so unfair and the call from the outlet was irresistible! ‘The only thing fair in an unfair world was chance’ we told ourselves and we decided to act – we two! We decided to take the chance. Ultra ran towards the parking lot to get the car out, while I ran into the KFC counter to order two zinger burgers and large chicken popcorn. We still had not figured out how to take it inside the house hiding it from the watchful eyes of the knights. For now, the priority seemed to be getting the food ready and getting back home. Within 5 minutes, I was out of the outlet with the food – thanks to the superfast service by KFC. As soon as I got into the car, Ultra suggested his master plan for the night – that we both would take turns to drive and finish off the food at the same time. That way we would get down at home without any non-veg, even if we were late. I wasted no time! We were passing through the dark and quiet Bangalore University roads and Ultra could not control laughing hearing me munching the zinger with the usual ‘chabad chabad’ noise. It was all done in 5 minutes and we stopped the car at the university gates to exchange places. I drove slowly now, as Ultra had to finish the burger and we both had to finish the popcorn in the next 3 kms. Ultra was already on it. But by the time he was done, we were just 200 metres away from the house and the dogs waited for us...

Plans changed instantly – Ultra decided that he will go into the house and stay there till I parked the car two streets away. That way, he would be there inside to open the lock and allow me in, even if the owner locked the gates. We still hadn’t figured out what to do with the chicken popcorn, but we knew for sure that we would not waste it or throw it away just because of the dogs. He got down from the main road itself and ran into the house, while I took a longer route to drive to the parking spot in order to buy more time, thinking of what to do – I decided to buy some bread and soft drinks from the nearby bakery to use as a disguise, just in case. Ultra would give me the signal if things looked out of control.

The dogs know… be careful and come home safe’ was what Ultra’s text read when I was parking the car. What did they know? How could they know? He did not even have any packet with him. All he had done was to have the zinger few minutes ago. Were the dogs that sensitive to know that? Or was Ultra playing a prank with me? I did not know. All I knew was that I had to be even more careful as I actually had the packet with me now. I would definitely take Ultra to task once I got home for sending such ambiguous message, and I would definitely get a bigger share of food anyway :) But first, I had to tackle the dogs! I walked as fast as my legs could carry me, mind thinking of situations, and heart beat increasing all the while. It was already 10:15 PM when I reached the gate. And surprisingly, the lights were still on at the portico. I opened the gate, and the white dog started barking immediately and I froze for a second. I already had the packet in the left hand which was far away from the dog. So, I gathered all courage that I can and went towards the stairs. That was when I saw it – the dark knight!... the more dangerous of the two dogs. It had come out of its sleeping place and was very close to the steps which I had to take. I had never seen this dog so closely before and today, it looked even more dangerous, ready to pounce on me. But the only saving grace was that it was still kept on leash. I gathered all the courage that I could muster and ran towards the steps, while the dog kept watching me all the time. After some tense, frightening moments, I was finally running up the stairs and managed to reach the first floor door, banging on it so that Ultra would let me in.

We finally savored the "prized" chicken popcorn along with fanta sitting in the house later that night. While munching the delicious fried chicken pieces, I kept thinking – managing to eat chicken popcorn had never been such an adventure before. It was just one adventurous night in that dungeon, but it symbolized something more – of all the dark times we had to undergo staying in that house. We had to struggle even for the smallest of things. It was a bad experience, but we managed to learn a lot about people and their behavior during that time. And since we were in it together, the bond between the family members grew tighter. And thankfully, we have now moved past those dark days. We managed to get into an awesome place in an apartment just in time for Dasara and Diwali season, and the happy days were back again. Especially, the festive season back home after two years, was really good in the new apartment, which almost feels like our own house these days. It is so close to everything – Oie’s place, Gunda’s place, my old school, and it feels so comfortable with all facilities – open spaces, basement parking, freedom to walk in/out anytime, big terrace to chit chat and hang out with friends and what not. Adding to it is the joy and anticipation involved in waiting and watching the new ‘Akshaya’ unfolding every day. We can now look back at those adventures in the dark house and laugh about it. But at the same time, prepare for whatever life has in store for us. And as is always the case, when it is with Ultra, life will continue to be a roller coaster ride of adventures!:)