The mind was numb, the voice muffled reluctant to leave the throat, the silence broken by the occasional blaring of the deadly sirens of the ambulance, forcing the tentative feet back inside the room every time they move closer towards the door.
The trees swaying in the morning breeze appeared hysterical while the fresh sunlight brought about another day which now needed to be endured with little to no inkling on how it will end or if at all will allow the tired soul, the opportunity to live these hours.
The unexpected ringing of the bell now forced her unwilling and hesitant mind to gather her tired feet to move towards the door again.
‘Who could be it,’ the question reverberated in the suspicious mind as she took tentative steps, the distance to the door never felt as far as it felt today.
Gazing through the peephole, the mind still wanted to make sure there is someone familiar on the other side.
‘But I am living in this city alone and no one visits me, who would want to come amidst this deadly silence of a dying city,’ the mind cautioned even as the hands revoltingly approached for the tower bolt to slide it downwards and throw open the door having been bolted close since the last week when the entire upper floor had to be emptied onto 3 ambulances; not even one of them returned till now.
The furrowed eyebrows and tilted head stared at the man standing in front of her, another trellis door separating the two now.
‘I am the watchman,’ he announced with a nervous smile.
She continued staring at her without opening the door, still unsure about whether she should let him in or continue the conversation like this.
Nodding her head, she acknowledged his presence as another ambulance raced past on the road, the loud squealing could have easily prompted a heart attack in the weak heart as she muffled her ears with her fingers, unable to bear the noxious sound any longer.
Till now, standing with his hands folded at the back, he finally untangled them to show what he had been hiding.
‘This is for you,’ he announced softly.
2 Packets of milk along with bread now hung on his fingers as he offered them to one of the oldest ladies in the building.
She looked at her palms before transferring her gaze to the milk and bread dangling about 4 feet above the ground.
Not aware of when she had a tea or a proper meal, she couldn’t stop herself from opening the door and taking hold of what she was offered.
‘You can call me on the intercom, I will get whatever you need,’ the man offered in a mix of Kannada, English and Hindi as she continued staring at him.
Turning around, he took some quick steps towards the stairs when she suddenly woke up from her self-induced trance and her choked throat mumbled out a soft ‘hey’.
Coughing hard, she cleared her throat to shout for the man again;
The watchman heard her cries this time and ran back towards her.
‘Yes,’ he asked in a concerned tone.
‘Do you need anything else,’ his large bright eyes waited to hear her reply.
‘Thank you so much,’ she said.
‘I didn’t even realize, it’s my Roza (fast) and I am not supposed to be eating anything at least during the day,’ she tried conversing with Prasanna, who sported a large tilak on his forehead.
‘I am so sorry, I can get some fruits,’ Prasanna offered.
Pulling out a Rs 200 note, she stretched her hands to offer it to him.
Nodding his head, Prasanna declined to accept it.
‘I can’t take it for free,’ the lady objected, her weary eyes pleading for Prasanna to accept the money.
‘You are like my mother,’ he whispered, gazing at her bare feet.
Her eyes, unable to bear the loneliness any longer, finally cracked open, flooding her cheeks with the warmth of her emotions.
‘Call me up on the intercom,’ Prasanna requested and also gestured with his hands and eyes, before turning back to disappear in the stairs and leaving ‘Amma’ standing between the two doors, with one hand of hers holding the milk and bread while the other keeping the door open.
A few cars made a loud noise as they entered the building precincts and Amma heard some loud sighs, coupled with cries of happiness. People have started returning to the building now, she realized as she heard Prasanna welcoming the occupants of ‘208’ back into their home.