The morning hadn’t yet fully dropped the veil of the night. Light seeped in rather lazily these days. It was too early for anyone to wake up, especially on a Monday morning, but one family offended nine other families living on the fifth floor. Yet, nobody seemed to be really bothered. May be because for them, the ruckus would last only until they started off from their houses to work or somewhere else. Probably, that is how a typical metropolitan housing colony looks like, where all are strangers to each other. The venomous, verbal exchanges between the husband and wife from behind their doors, were very common, their arguments were repetitive. Their invisible, yet noisy drama was like the title song of a daily soap opera. Everyone from an 8-year-old kid to a 65-year-old grandmother knew them by heart. Vishal, who lived next to them, always wondered if they would ever be tired of fighting over the same issue again and again.
“How can things remain unresolved forever inside a marriage?” he thought while unwillingly dragging himself out of his bed. It had been only a month in his new home. In fact, his fifth new home. He had shifted from place to place earlier because the owners did not like bachelors. “What else can anyone expect from a typical twenty-something youth?” he retaliated in his head. Renting a house in a decent area was a herculean task in the big city and the possibilities get bleaker when one is single and preferred a happening lifestyle. His monotonous job gave him a fat salary but not happiness. Living here gave him enough freedom and privacy to find respite from his uninteresting job, yet there was always something that ruined his peace.
‘Sunshine apartments’ had flats that were owned by people living abroad. They hired middlemen who rented out flats for a commission. He was lucky this time, but it cost him a lot. He had to shell out money for all the repairs and replacements in the kitchen and bathroom. There was always a new problem. Today, the tap of the basin started leaking. He managed to turn it off by fastening its knob with a thin, short rope. There was no maintenance guy as such in the apartment building. Das, the watchman was also the electrician and the plumber. He wouldn’t allow the apartment association to hire anyone for maintenance. He did not like losing out on the extra source of income. He dialed to Das multiple times, but there was no answer. Vishal’s early morning frustrations were now getting on to his nerves.
He grudged against everything and everyone- the noisy couple who had no regards, the reckless watchman, the invisible house owners who left their home in such an unattended pathetic state, the broker who lied to him about its condition, the conservative thinking house owners in the city, his arrogant team leader who had been taunting him since a year. His general dissatisfaction with life made him feel very unfortunate and resentful. His anger consumed him in the backdrop of the ongoing war of words between the couple. He was about to direct all his rage towards anything that was handy.
Suddenly, he resorted to a firm resolve to pick on the couple. “Enough is enough, they need to be pulled up for their unruly behaviour.” he said to himself. He flung open his door with a force. Aggressively, he marched out if his flat. He banged on his neighbour’s door with his tightly clenched fist. He shouted his lungs out, “Excuse me, please open the door.” The others peeped out of their doors and windows on hearing him. They stealthily watched him curiously with a sense of vengeance. Finally, someone had taken the step to question a thing that was treated as a personal matter between man and wife so far. The couple seemed to be so engrossed in screaming at each other. Their fight wasn’t taking any sign of pausing even for a moment.
Vishal was now totally out of patience. His temper had reached its threshold. By reflex, his body signaled him to break into their flat. He clutched the doorknob and twisted it with great force and the door opened with a swing. The voices of the couple were louder than ever before. He stood there inside, perplexed. At first, he couldn’t fathom what he saw, but as he started taking cognizance, he felt a tremor down his spine. He felt goose bumps all of a sudden.
The flat was empty, there was no human presence. An old tape recorder played the recorded voices of a man and woman on full volume. The whole thing about a couple next door, who fought every day was a big lie. It was a constructed truth. Their existence was a created reality.
Vishal could feel his heart pounding and racing. With a feeling of heaviness in his chest, he slowly walked out of the flat with his head hung, closing the door behind. His eyes fell on the newspaper that was delivered at another neighbour’s door. It carried the headline-“Elder couple murdered, watchman on the run”.