You live on the seventh floor!! On the seventh floor! For any self-respecting Bombay-ite this may not be exclamation worthy, not adequately high (literally and figuratively), but to Delhi, especially in the 90s, the seventh floor was halfway to the sky and that made us, The Singhs, rather 'air'-headed (figurative alone). Aditi Apartments, rose from the rest of the confusion and grime that so perfectly adorns West Delhi with a brooding greyness. Its seven stories emerged like some survivor, its pockmarked exterior, stoic and silent. As kids, we were forever scraping our elbows against its roughness, those little pieces of gravel embedded in the gray cement, which made stealthy slides against the pillars hazardous during those survive-or-ye-shall-perish chuppan chhupai games. The tripartite building with its three lawns was an oasis to our childhood, its infinite nooks and corners offering perfect gossip and plotting hideouts, the winter flowers being a treat to those snotty kids with their inherent expertise at trampling all things bright and beautiful and the old people doddering about; our perfect chaperons.
The lift leading up to the seventh floor was (and proudly is) a monster like no other. Its set of loud noisy teeth that shut faster than Saboo's brain (only meant for Chacha Chaudhary readers) and then begins the arduous journey up, offering little snapshots of each floor through its tiny single eye, a window which is as high as all things seem when you are in that place called Childhood. Third Floor with its plants in perfect little pots, Sixth Floor and its garbage lying about. We were not allowed to jump and create a ruckus in the Great Old Lift. Horror stories were retold with morbid fascination - The Man Who Plummeted , The Lady Who Missed a Step, The Pool at the End of the Shaft and similar bedtime jewels. However, you always realise the importance of something/one once you lose it/them. Thus, the lift extracted its pound of flesh for all the times we cursed it by conking off at least once a month. With no other options we would start on the Dizzying Trek, the seven flights of stairs leading us to seventh heaven (literally people). By whichever means, after what seemed like centuries (especially when you had drunk too much water while that chor police game and now the only place offering salvation seemed the loo), we would reach the top floor.
C-7/3. Explaining that number to delivery boys and relatives, friends and strangers must have taken years off my short life. When you live in D block of your locality and have a house starting with a C, clarity is something you are not particularly aiming at. Perhaps the confusing nomenclature, gives the house its jovial character - it has seen enough laughter to last several lifetimes. It has been wished for, missed by, rented away and claimed back, forgotten, loved and included in so completely by seven souls that I wonder how it handles them so wonderfully. As if it always knew it was meant to be our home.
I seem to share an umbilical connection with it, determined by being Birth Year Buddies and other such very scientific and significant parameters. The walls have had me draw and then spend hours rubbing off my superlative art off them, large tears rolling down as I undid my masterpieces. The carpet has witnessed my hatred for petha, a despicable insanely sugary 'thing' which I hid under it week after week and was caught when a feasting army of ants was discovered. The doors have witnessed my anger as I banged them in rage. Making a statement to no one but my silly self. The beds have heard my secrets, tentatively thought out against those crazy excuses we have for pillows. The balcony has appreciated my contentment on winter Sunday afternoons, sprawled in careless slumber. The bathrooms have witnessed my dislike for bathing - kicking and squealing as I would be ushered in for yet another bath. The dining table has chuckled under the weight of my culinary creations, marvelled at the insane laughter around dinner, near-choking hilarity and discussion of all things important or insignificant. The cupboard has seen my fears, as I sat hiding in it, sweating and wondering why no one missed me and came looking for me. Squished amongst the clothes, it touched my anxiety. The bookshelves have welcomed the books lovingly put on them. They have smiled at how I favour my favourite ones again and again and urged me to read the ones I ignore. They have groaned as I counted my savings to go and splurge on another book buying binge. The windows have fanned my dreams, as I have laid listlessly on long powerless summer nights.
Now, it has been painted an obscene peach and orange. Nothing can dismay you more than a peach house. Other than an electric blue lift of course. Add to that a fancy switchboard that never works. Mrs. I is as possessive about every blade of grass in the compound and watches over the flowers with an engaging obsessiveness. Some large gates sit pompously at the entrance. And against these superficial changes, C-7/3 watches us all quietly moving back and forth in our lives. Stumbling over our decisions, shaking her head over particularly foolish ones, indulgent at the smaller offences. I imagine her sighing now, waiting to welcome all her children back home.