Jaya Biswas
I vividly remember the day when my dad finally offloaded me at this place near King’s Circle, Mumbai. I had no clue what a PG would be like before I entered a small 2BHK flat and the landlady took me on a guided tour. My dad’s friend had made the arrangements beforehand and soon after breakfast the three of us were out PG hunting before we decided to zero in on this place. Why? The landlady was a widow with a young child and my dad thought it would be an ideal set-up for me. Little did my dad know what his darling daughter would have to flee from the hellish abode with bag and baggage within four weeks.
Breakfast on the second day was Two chapattis and boiled karela, sauted with some weird spices… As I gulped the so-called sabzi which turned even blander with considerable amount of my ‘teardrop’ seasoning, I tried to imagine myself as one of those conniving vamps in Ekta kapoor’s ‘K’ series, scheming and plotting to seek revenge.
Fortunately, a friendly work atmosphere kept me going for the next three weeks, till one day I returned home ill. I was running a temperature. Instead of sympathy the landlady screamed at me for wasting food, though I couldn’t understand why as I had already made the payment in advance. I was dying to hit the bed and woke up the following morning groggy and wobbly. I found my roommates had left for their offices, for the first time I got an opportunity to spread myself comfortably on the bed that I shared with the other two. I have no idea how long I lay there staring at the dirty wall and feeling the coarse and stinky bed-sheet. And the events that followed in the next few hours were as thrilling as watching a heist flick, only this time I managed to save my goods but had to wash my hands of the hefty advance she had already kept under lock and key.
It was Sunday and my landlady finding me asleep didn’t even bother to wake me up for breakfast. And to add to my misery, locked me in and left the house. So there I was without food or medicines. A friend of mine had called up to check on my health and hearing my sob story came to the rescue. It took me a few minutes to pack my bags as I sat waiting for him. I realised what ‘living dangerously’ was all about. My friend arrived and opened the latch to let himself in and me out.
Three years later I again found myself in another PG. However, this time things turned out to be better. Nanaji (real name, Narmada), as she was fondly called was my new landlady. I had already heard stories about her. A frail 65-something lady was all smiles when I shifted in. She welcomed me with a besan laddoo. Nanaji loved watching saas-bahu serials and my three roommates and I were forced to watch them with her while having dinner. We decided we were the oppressed bahus and Nanaji was the evil saas. My roommates designated me the youngest bahu. But no, for some reason, the old lady grew fond of me as I had learnt how to pacify her. All I had to do was say ‘sorry’ whenever Nanaji yelled, who cared what the reason were!
Nanaji was vegetarian, and therefore we all had to be too! And in her regime we got to sample the weirdest curries ever. Though she used the best quality ingredients, which she described as A-1, she could turn them into the worst possible meals. Nanaji also had a human side and I was touched when I got to see it. It was my birthday and she a made chocolate pudding, embellished with her favourite chashewnuts. She lit a small candle and I was asked to blow it out. It was the best pudding I had ever tasted, because of the affection that went into it.
Watching movies was out of the question because of the electricity bills, so my roomies and I would hide in the balcony and see them on our laptops. We would sing antakshari all night in the dark as the lights couldn’t be switched on, and at the crack of dawn when Nanaji would wake up for the day, we would go to sleep.
Though there were difficulties it was also fun… and I was lucky to get a family from home.