Part – I
“The ideal tenant,” Rao muses, watching Mukesh disappear up the stairs.
The landlord for 20 years, Dharam Rao has lived comfortably off the monthly rental income. With the ever-increasing house prices, there isn’t any sign of the business slowing down, either. A pretty good deal, I must say.
Mukesh has been living alone on the second floor for three years now. A dark, handsome youth, always keeping to himself, never causing any trouble.
One may wonder why he lives alone, away from his family?
Mukesh doesn’t seem to be much older than 25. A well spoken, educated chap like him, surely, in the land of family values, living alone isn’t normal?
Let me answer that: No, it isn’t.
However, Rao finds no cause for complaint. He can sit at the verandah all day, smoke a packet, take his kids to school, watch cricket on the tiny TV set mounted on the lobby, debate about leaving his current lifestyle for a healthier one. Maybe lose his belly.
20 years of being hassled for water leaks, electric problems, rent payment, finding new residents when the old ones leave has dulled Rao’s interest in the going on’s in the three floors. He’s happy as long as he’s paid.
Yet he finds his curiosity chasing Mukesh’s secret.
Mukesh has never complained about his rent. He’s never created a hassle. He never would’ve had tea with Rao, either, until Rao asked him for the umpteenth time.
One awkward meeting over two cups of masala chai in three years. Or rather, one and a half cup – Mukesh excused himself after just half a cup. Tied up in work, indeed.
Rao regularly goes up with a rolled copy of the Mumbai Mirror , knocks on Mukesh’s door, just to catch him doing what he does. Everytime the door has opened-Rao’s well-oiled mouth, practiced in the art of speaking without substance-an immaculate three-room apartment been visible.
The table with neatly stacked folders, the vase at the center as empty as it has been for the last 3 years. The walls bare, no pictures lined upon them.
Rao has always been disappointed. He’d rather see some money being hastily stuffed away. Some acquaintances coming to meet him. Maybe a few empty bottles of alcohol. He could share some Kingfisher, or atleast borrow some from Mukesh.
Maybe a woman visiting Mukesh from time to time. Maybe any sign that Mukesh inhabits the place. Add a human touch to room number 202.
Mukesh is an enigma. What makes him so self absorbed? What makes him happy?
Part – II
Mukesh always shuts the door politely, hiding irritation under his visage.
He glances across the paper, the headline exaggerating a small issue, curses the goverment and folds it. Makes chai. Curses the government again over the rise in gas prices. He leaves the tea on the boil, heads back to finish his work, there are still a few minutes for the chai-sutta* break.
They can’t even let an honest citizen make tea without worry.
Sometimes, he smokes from the balcony. The relaxing second storey is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. He sees the Bombaywallah’s, rushing about their daily chores, they never have time to sit and enjoy life. These fools don’t live.
He feels like a King sitting on his perch, the Arabian Sea lapping away at the shore of his kingdom.
The doorbell rings. Mukesh hears it. Mukesh ignores it. Must be Dharam Rao. He can never leave me alone, can he?
The doorbell rings again. Maybe a want of moving, anxiety over a task left incomplete, someone being made to wait itch him, make him leave his work. Leaving the laptop, he wears his chappals*, wondering not for the first time what makes Rao come up the stairs every now and then. He doesn’t do it for others, does he?
The wooden door, with the faded yellow fire escape plan stuck on its back opens to Dharam Rao. Mukesh has a too-wide smile plastered across his handsome face. Rao hands over the post, probably the bills, and some politeness, asks him to have some masala chai in the evening, gets a yes from Mukesh like he has been getting for years, reminds him that he’ll have to pay the advance, and leaves.
Mukesh shuts the door, doing his best not to slam it. A frown appears on his placid face.
A softly spoken curse fills the room. Shutting the laptop lid, Mukesh lights a Marlboro and heads to the balcony, watching the sun dip into the horizon.
Part – III
Thus, ends the short story.
Now, you may be wondering where the climax concerning the two characters is.
But, there aren’t two characters.
You, my reader, were the character.
Dharam Rao has money and time. He has economic stability, his family is well cared for. Yet, he isn’t satisfied. He doesn’t experience euphoria in his life. So he’s bent on discovering the hidden joy of others.
Living a sedentary, dull lifestyle, he makes it more interesting with his envious study of Mukesh, finding him to be a better, fitter version of him.
Mukesh shows himself to be an ideal 20 something- independent, smart, having a good job.
Yet he’s dissatisfied with himself. He lacks peace of mind, despite having worked hard to achieve education, a 9-5 job, a healthy body-everything his landlord lacks.
Mukesh and Rao are contrasts complimenting each other. Yin and Yang. But neither are happy.
I’d like to make several points now –
We sometimes leave hold of ourselves, idealising us to become who we don’t really want to be.
When we look at someone else- richer, smarter, better looking, we envy them.
But it’s what they show to us that we see. Everything has a pro and con. No matter how it appears from the outside, everyone has got problems pressing them down.
Nobody has the better end of the stick but the grass perpetually appears greener on the other side.
Man has a thousand temptations luring him. Too many times, they’re just simple things, stretched way beyond their utility in the fantasy of our minds.
No, the Girl you like will not fall for you. Perhaps she will. But even then, it won’t guarantee you your happiness.
Relationships aren’t meant to be about finding someone and holding onto them, or the opposite way around. A healthy, happy relationship will be one where you accept the other, and subconsciously stop waiting for someone better to pop into your life.
We chase the wrong people. The right one doesn’t walk in through the door, She’s already sitting there.
You blow away a few months worth of your salary on a shiny new car, and keep up with the Joneses.
Your shiny new car will remain a shiny new car until a scratch appears, until it scrapes the wall, until it’s internal components depreciate. None of your neighbours will envy it then.
You don’t need a bigger car, this one’s already good enough. Yet you keep forgetting that the new car’s not worth the hours you put each day. Multiplied by a few months.
As soon as we get something, we strive for an upgrade. But it’s not sufficient. As soon as we get that too, we’ll be dissatisfied again. It’s Human nature.
While it’s good to be working towards something, it’s also good to kick back and enjoy what we already have worked for. Stop chasing something even better than what you have, it’s a never ending cycle.
Our aim in life is to be happy. It requires a healthy balance between work, responsibilities and pleasure.
We can’t be happy without the balance being struck. Work to make our lives meaningful, Family to make our work meaningful. Nor can we allow ourselves to be stuck living the same lifestyle waiting for the torpidity to creep in and stay the next 30, 40 years.
Sometimes, we just have to learn to accept that our Idea of Happiness is different from how we actually manage to find it. And that’s the way of life. It’s not about a few awesome experiences punctuating your life, it’s about many small, warm and memorable experiences. Like small cubes of chocolate to savour, with each tiny bite.
Yes, keep the bucket list, it may highlight it, but it won’t define your life.
It’s important for YOU to make yourself happy. Don’t chase happiness believing it to be hidden in something you’ll grab once – love, wealth, fame, money, and be happy with forever, but seek it in what YOU have.
Happiness does not come from gaining something You don’t have, it comes from recognising something You do have.
And, Yes, You do, Reader.
Thank You for reading.
Who can say where the Road goes?
Where the day flows?
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose?
Well, if you’re reading this, it means you’ve read the entire post (except if you skipped some bits, that’s cheating).
To prove so, Write “Pizza” in the comments section below.
I’ll appreciate that, a lot!