Jugalbandi

Image result for image of shower in bathroom

It was his first day at the new job and he wanted to be on time. So a shower at 7.00 AM in winter did not seem too early. He looked around for his towel from among the heap of “yet to be unpacked” clothes from his suitcase. The flat was a mess…! The previous occupant, had left it with a lot of packing material still strewn around the place. And the landlord had done nothing to have it cleaned before handing over the key to his new tenant.

“ I need to spend the weekend getting it cleaned up” he thought as he shut the bathroom door.

The geyser was thankfully functional. He turned on the hot water  and stepped under the shower. It felt good…! He could feel the tension ebbing out of him. He closed his eyes and started to slowly whistle  a tune…!

And then suddenly he heard someone humming the same tune.. It was a soft female voice! He stopped whistling but the voice continued.

He turned off the water and listened carefully.

The singer had completed the “mukhda” and was now on the “antra” .

The steam in the bathroom began condensing over his body and he started shivering….!!

“ I wonder who was that who was singing?” he thought as he quickly toweled himself and got out of the bathroom.

“Nice voice though” he thought as he put on his clothes.

When he got back home in the evening, he was completely tiered. It had been a long day. He had ordered some dinner online. He needed to change out of his work clothes before it arrived.

As he went towards the bathroom he suddenly remembered the singing. He wondered if he would hear her again.

Well, there was only one way to find out. He started whistling a very popular tune. He  got through a couple of lines and waited. Nothing!!!

Okay so he was unlucky!! Maybe at 7.00 AM again tomorrow?

Just as he finished washing his face, she started singing… ! She finished a stanza and stopped.  He waited for minute before he resumed whistling!

The door bell was ringing…! He  rushed out to open the door and collect his dinner.

As  he was getting his plate and cutlery together, he thought again about this woman/ girl who was singing so sweetly. Obviously someone who lived a floor above or below him. The sound was getting amplified through the narrow drainage chute that ran between the walls .

Well he meant to find out more about her.

But finding out was not as easy as he thought it would be. In a ten storeyed building with seven flats on each floor, it was difficult to zero in on exactly which flat was the one that housed the singer.

He tried asking the security guard. But the fellow seemed to be an extra ordinary  kind of moron. He tried looking up the names of the occupants that was displayed in the  lobby on the ground floor . But he knew that this would be a cold lead because most of the occupants in that building were tenants.

There was ofcourse the option of asking the secretary of the flat owners association. However that was not an option that appealed to him. And anyway what would he ask? “Who is the girl who lives above/below my flat that sings so beautifully in her bathroom?” They would probably think he was some kind of a creep or a peeping tom interested in women inside bathrooms! As it is, it had been very difficult for a single young man like him  to get an apartment in the city.

And meanwhile the jugalbandi ( if we may call it so ) continued. He found she was partial to Asha Bhonsle numbers. And they both loved Asha’s 70s numbers! They had worked out a pattern. The “performances” lasted for half an hour in the morning starting 7.00 AM. In the evenings it began at 7.30 and went on until he went breathless with whistling!!

On weekends, however it was difficult to keep up this schedule and it became quite random. 12.30 in the afternoon sometimes, 3.00 PM sometimes and sometimes not at all.

At the risk of living inside his bathroom for the complete weekend, he had to finally come to terms with the fact that she had probably gone out somewhere.

He had almost decided one morning to say “Hi” and introduce himself after a bout of whistling. But it was exactly at that moment  he heard another neighbour make loud gargling noises inside his bathroom. So, this space, he realized  was not exactly private.. and the “performance” probably had a wider unintended audience than he had imagined.

It was most frustrating!!

Nearly three months of hearing her sing and he had no inkling as to who she was!!

He took to observing his female neighbours closely every time he got an opportunity.  But unfortunately for him opportunity only yielded elderly ladies. He was sure it wasn’t one of these “Auntys”.  To be doubly sure he took to wishing them “Namaste” “Good morning” “Good evening” so that he could hear their voices as they wished him back.

Winter gave way to summer and hot showers became cold ones… But he was still clueless about who she was. But by now he had kind of narrowed down the source of the singing to two flats. He began thinking about excuses he could use to knock on the door and find out who lived there

He could pretend to be a salesman or maybe a visitor looking for an address. But all of that seemed rather lame to him.  He needed to come up with something really good.

These thoughts continued to obsess him the moment he left his office. He wished he could share it with someone. But being the introvert that he was, he couldn’t imagine how he would go about doing it. People would probably think it was extremely ridiculous.

“I have to come up with a good plan” he thought as he stepped into the elevator that evening. But before he could press the button for his floor the elevator started going up. Someone upstairs had beat him to it!!

He was lost in his thoughts when the elevator stopped on the seventh floor. As the door opened, he saw a huge suitcase obstructing his vision. There was a short , petite girl who was trying to manoeuvre her way into the elevator with the suitcase. He reached out absent mindedly and helped her with it. She smiled at him and pressed the button for the ground floor.

The doors closed as they stood silently in the cramped space with the suitcase between them. They had six floors to go down.

He started drumming his fingers on the wall of the elevator and began  to whistle involuntarily. Was it his imagination or did her eyes widen?

The elevator was on the second floor when she began humming the tune.

It now his turn to stare.!

The elevator hit the ground floor. There seemed to be an army of people waiting to get in. Someone helped the girl with her suitcase as she stepped out. He tried to push his way out but there were too many people inside the elevator. The doors closed and he found himself  going up .

It was about five minutes later that he finally made his way back to the ground floor. He looked around the lobby. It was empty!

He ran out towards the gate. A moving van was making its way out . He pointed at it and asked the security guard if he knew whether anyone was moving in or out. The chap seemed to take an awfully  long time before he said “the madam on the seventh floor has vacated her flat”.

He felt very low as he made his way back to the lobby and took the elevator to his floor. He let himself in and sat quietly in the darkness for how long he did not know…!

He must have fallen asleep because it was nearly ten in the night when he woke up with a start to hear his  door bell ringing.

He opened the door to find the security guard standing there.

“Yes?” he asked him impatiently.

“Sir, this is for you. When you were walking towards the gate this evening,  the seventh floor lady who was moving out, asked me to give this to you. But you see, she didn’t tell me your flat number or your name. So I  had to ring almost everyone’s door bell in the building  before I found you” said the guard

He looked for his wallet and gave the chap a ten rupee note before he took it from him-  a small scrap of paper on which was written in a sloping hand  “Nita-7782101921” .

 

( The word Jugalbandi means, literally, “entwined twins.” Jugalbandi is a performance in Indian classical music,  that features a duet of two solo musicians. The duet can be either vocal or instrumental.)

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    Mar 19, 2018 @ 01:05:40

    As I was reading the story , i suspected it was a ghost story and wondered how scared I would be in such circumstances, your story took a sudden turn and the ending left me feeling it was incomplete with many exciting ways it can be continued.
    Beautifully written as always, it kept me rivetted till the end.

    Reply

  2. Meera
    Mar 19, 2018 @ 13:59:02

    Thank you KP. I guess I have now developed a bad reputation as a ghost story writer 🙂 I get what you are saying about it being incomplete, but then that is how it is in life sometimes!

    Reply

  3. KP
    Mar 20, 2018 @ 08:33:18

    Do you think writing ghost stories brings a not-so-good repute?I enjoy writing ghost stories.I agree with you that in life many real incidents are incomplete.Your stories have their inimitable charm and are written in good style.
    .

    Reply

  4. Meera
    Mar 20, 2018 @ 15:36:02

    I think ghost story writing is an art. But it is a genre that not many like.

    Reply

  5. sslmay11
    Mar 22, 2018 @ 21:45:28

    Music and Meera…Nice read:)

    Reply

  6. Jyothi Varma
    Mar 28, 2018 @ 11:35:04

    Nice one

    Reply

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