Shutting the windows tight and surreptitiously drawing the curtains so as to not let in even a chink of light, I begin my day. Taking extra care to whisper and to not let my voice cross a certain decibel level, I converse with him. Even the meat on the counter is carefully cut so as to prevent anyone from knowing what it could be.
No, I’m not a serial killer hiding in your apartment; I’m just a regular neighbour trying to cook fish curry for the husband on a Sunday. Why so shady, you ask? Because the lady upstairs hates fish and most of the other harmless activities I enjoy (including playing some music without earphones, maybe once a week). I never realised how hard it could be to sustain a simple lifestyle in an apartment complex, till I realised the horror of the lady upstairs.
Expecting a peaceful life, devoid of suffocating social commitments, I moved into Sunshine Apartments last month. I work from home and enjoy experimenting with food and fashion. I go out on shopping trips or don my sunglasses and brave the cityscape, exploring whatever’s new in town. I also call some friends home and enjoy a relaxing day at home with them occasionally. But who knew, there was someone who had an issue with everything I did!
I only realised when I started getting judgmental glares from the people staying in the apartment complex. Slowly, it turned to people having the courage to ring my doorbell and asking me to avoid frying fish – “It stinks, you see?” they said, and also requests to “Keep the noise down, my children are studying”. The annoying little kids on the block stopped flocking around me with their screeches of “Aunty, aunty!” and lowered down their screeches when I passed by. Though peaceful, it was like the calm before a storm. An ominous silence.
Soon, I could hear snatches of conversations whenever I went to the parlour or the gym about “You know that lady? –Insert apparently criminal activity-”. I never took this seriously, till the fish vendor who took kindly to me (why? No prizes for right guesses) revealed the culprit behind these accusations. It was the lady upstairs.
Fiercely independent and prone to outbursts of anger, I kept myself away from the eyes of the society to prevent any ‘scenes’ from occurring upon a possible confrontation. Avoiding my shopping trips, I only experimented with fish curry when my husband wanted it. I even stopped interacting with anyone else from the neighbourhood. Cooped up at home, I stalked the society phonebook and found out how long everyone had been occupying their flats. Mrs. Busybody upstairs, apparently, handled the society meetings and ladies’ club, and was also the oldest resident on the block. Ah, the bitter realisation hit me – there was no way to conquer her. She had the weapons of age, espionage, respectability and popular consent on her side. Perhaps the best way was to lie low and bear the brunt of her power.
Here I am, still lying low, working silently from my dark house. I do go out for basic necessities, but the fear of the tyrant hovering upstairs has made me retire into a shell.
Sunshine Apartments, I say- lovely place for a young couple to enjoy life, only if you’re strong enough to break away from the web of the nightmare-ish Busybody upstairs.
Sketch By: Kashmira Sequeira