the man next door

I went to my sister’s house last summer. This is the first time I have traveled to her place to visit her after her wedding six months back. Although my intent of visit is to only meet her, I have understood from various conversations that she is plotting to get me married to her brother-in-law. I did not mind. I have met Vikas twice and liked him and I  did want to know more about him. My sister lives in a joint family which meant I would get to live along with her if I get married to him.

My first day at my sister’s house, I woke up to screams coming across from the neighbor’s house. I moved the blinds to get a glimpse of what was happening, but could not see anything. All I could hear were the yells of a woman and the muffled voice of a man obviously trying to hush up the woman. The woman’s yells gradually subsided to muffled ramblings. I went back to sleep cursing the woman, who did not have any civic sense, for disturbing my sleep.

In the morning, I attempted to discuss the night happening with my sister, but she brushed it off as a daily affair. And I could see it proved once again. I could again hear the woman and man quarreling again. The man walked his two sons to his bike and left while the woman continued shouting behind even after the bike disappeared at the corner of the street. I understood that the neighborhood was accustomed to this routine. I started disliking the woman whom I met directly only twice in the next few days. She was very lean and skinny, her collarbone was protruding, her big black eyes were lifeless imparting that she had not slept peacefully for a long time.

 Meanwhile, on a fine Sunday, my sister came up with a movie plan, my brother-in-law, Vikas, my sister and I went for a late night show. I damned my sister for making me sit with Vikas, but his politeness assured me. Sometime after the show started, I could see the couple in the front row kissing each other passionately. Their intimacy surely crossed the limits of a movie hall, I glanced at Vikas and saw a very embarrassed look on his face too. After the movie, when the couple in the front row got up and I could see them face to face, I felt that the man quickly turned his head away as soon as he saw Vikas. I turned to Vikas, the look of contempt in his eyes did not escape me. But, I did not try to ask him.

Late night, soon after going to bed, I was once again fed with the same noises from the neighbor’s house. Wondering if the neighborhood was not fed up with this daily routine, I shut my eyes hard blocking my ear with a spare pillow and went to sleep.

‘The woman in the next house lacks  common sense, why don’t you folks complain?’ I said at the breakfast table.

‘You are not aware of the problem, so don’t talk about her like that.’ my brother-in-law replied.

I did not understand, but kept quiet. I stood outside in the portico savoring my morning coffee when I saw the man walk out of the house with his sons. The woman followed behind him murmuring. I got a glimpse of the man’s face this time and was shocked. It was the same man I saw in the movie hall snogging a woman I understood was not his wife. In split of a second, my aversion for the woman turned to sympathy. I cursed myself for being judgmental.

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