It happened with me for the second time . Today afternoon.
“Ding, dong, ding, dong! (3 times)”
Followed by the sound of someone trying to open our front door by turning the handle vehemently.
Right at that very moment, I was busy placing a pillow on one side of my kid, as he lay fast asleep.
Couldn’t be my husband, I thought as I turned to look at the clock.
“Ding, dong, ding, dong… (6 times)”
I quickly rushed to the door. As soon as I opened, an Arabic lady hurried to enter my apartment very spontaneously….
Then she sprang back as I firmly stood with no intention of budging. She became very apologetic and then went away.
Last week, it was an Arabic gentleman who mistook our apartment to be his.
Let me give you the reason behind all the confusion and chaos. Our building management had recently established it as one of the many rules and regulations for the tenants. We could not hang anything near or on our front doors anymore. So everyone had to do away with name plates, the blue eyes, torans( Indian style decorations) and any other door accessory which previously distinguished every home from another.
Just got reminded of the Ali Baba and 40 thieves story! In the story, the thieves were left confused because Morgiana had marked all the houses in the neighborhood in the same manner. In my real life, tenants like me, if in a hurry, went to a wrong floor or even otherwise, were getting confused by the identical looking doors.
“Ok Appa. No…. I am going to go home now. (Pause)……Ok. But I am not going to start unpacking all the cartons right away. Weekend starts tomorrow, so I guess just waiting for a day won’t make much of a difference. (Pause). No, Amma need not come. (Pause) It’s ok, Appa. Right then. Will call you over the weekend.”
Dhruv Iyer had just moved to Thane from Bengaluru. He was 27 years old and looked like Ranbir Kapoor with a moustache.
Once when he woke up from sleep and realized that he was late for an important office meeting, he was so sleepy eyed that he shaved off almost half of his moustache on the right side. And then he was compelled to shave off the remaining much to his dislike.
When he reached office, he entered tiptoe, with his fingers trying to cleverly conceal the new look. But he could not do it for long. And then came the volley of comments…” Aila! ditto Ranbir Kapoor, same face cut to cut” and jokes associated with having the same face as that of a Bollywood celebrity began.
Dhruv was considered a high potential high performer in his Company. As a part of the succession planning that Human Resource had included him in, he had to take up stints in the Company’s various office locations. That’s how he landed in Thane.
His Company had provided him accommodation in Hiranandani Estate, Thane. Dhruv was quite impressed with the community living which had sprawled up from one end of the Ghodbunder Road and reached up to almost near the Ulhas river.
His car had not yet arrived, so he took an auto rickshaw to reach home in Goldcrest building.
It was 8 pm and Dhruv felt a tad famished. Amma had packed some South Indian sweetmeats for him. He decided to have a couple of them while he steamed some idlis in the microwave. Dhruv used to plan every small thing in his life. It helped him to save time. It helped him to act faster.
Dhruv exited the elevator and walked up to the door at the end of the corridor. Took out the key and opened the door, when he realized that his apartment looked different. A big Raja Ravi Varma painting adorned the wall facing the door and there was furniture in the living room. He was confused. So err…did my Company arrange for all this…difficult to believe with all the cost cutting measures that it’s been up to, he thought. He stood for a moment with his palm cupping his lips, an indication of being thoroughly lost. He looked at his keys…. the keys did open the door.
“Kon (Who in Marathi)?” came a voice from inside.
Dhruv made an about turn to leave. Clearly this could not be his apartment.
“Excuse me.” The voice called him from behind.
Dhruv turned around and found himself standing in front of a very beautiful lady.
“Wow!” he exclaimed in his mind.
“Err…I am extremely sorry…I thought I had opened the door of my apartment.”
“Funnily enough, doors of some apartments in this building can be opened with the same key. Hi, I am Geetanjali “she replied.
Geetanjali seemed to be 5 feet 7 inches tall. She was dressed in a sleeveless white top and a handloom printed blue cotton pajamas. Her hair was long and a few tresses from the left concealed her left shoulder and left arm. She was fair and as she spoke, Dhruv could not help but notice the cute dimple on her left cheek.
“Would you like to have some coffee?” she offered.
“Err…no thanks. I need to rush home…to the right apartment. (A silly grin) …I am hungry, need to catch up on something to eat.”
“Don’t worry, I can offer you some biscuits with the coffee,” she said with an impish smile.
And then we know what possibly happened. Before long, Dhruv Iyer was having an impromptu coffee date with a beautiful lady in his building.
“Your apartment is very tastefully done. Are you an artist or painter yourself?”
“No.” she smiled.
“I am a curator.”
“Wow. Did not expect that.”
“Why?” she asked with a smile.
“Well, for a curator, one would expect to visualize an elderly man with thick lensed glasses walking slowly across an old museum….” He laughed as he made that comment.
“Stereotype.” She replied.
“Honestly!” He said in defense.
“But tell me, what is this funda (colloquial for fundamental) about same keys for different doors? I mean how do you know?”
“One day, when I had just returned from my parents’ place at Aurangabad, I realized I had left my keys back at Baba and Aai’s place. It was quite late in the night. The neighbor aunty was kind enough to offer me to stay over the night at their place till I found a locksmith in the morning. Then she remembered how she had the same tryst with destiny a couple of years ago, though in another building. So we tried her keys for my door. And it clicked.”
“But…mmm, isn’t that unsafe…it could lead to theft, burglary.”
“Guess no one shares this secret with them, I mean the robbers and thieves…. but only to help neighbors on the floor or in the same building.” She said with a smile.
Dhruv realized he had finished drinking the coffee.
His eyes went to the potpourri on the center table. It was all black. All along he knew that they were a dried collection of fragrant plant parts…but black?
He looked at his watch. 9.30 pm.
“Err…Geetanjali, it was a pleasure meeting you.” He offered his right hand for a handshake.
“Same here, Dhruv. Do drop by whenever you feel like.”
Instead of going to the 7th floor, Dhruv had pressed the no.8 floor button. That’s how he met Geetanjali. Surprisingly the apartment number plates were obscurely small and placed above the door hinge. Visitors had to hunt for the apartment numbers because of this peculiarity.
Before he went back to his apartment, he decided to see the watchman and tell him that the flush in his washroom was not working.
“Bro, where is Bhatkhande?” Dhruv asked the man sitting on the watchman’s chair.
“He is day shift, Sir and I am night…my name is Prakash…you can call me Pakya.”
Dhruv asked the watchman to send the plumber over the weekend, when he was at home.
But it seemed the plumber did not work over the weekend.
“Sir, you leave the keys with me…. I will get it done.”
Dhruv was a bit hesitant. But then he decided that the problem had to be addressed urgently.
“But, bro…make sure you don’t open some other apartment.”
“What are you saying Sir? Every apartment has a unique key…so what you are saying is not possible!”
“Doesn’t 701 and 801 open with the same key?”
“Sir, I have been working in this locality for 10 years now…. not to my knowledge, at least.”
Dhruv got curious.
“Ok tell me something…who stays in 801?”
“That apartment is vacant Sir. Vacant since the last one month.”
“801! Are you sure?”
“Yes Sir, last month, a lady committed suicide from that apartment. No tenant has yet occupied it.”
“What was her name?”
“Geeta Madam…she was a very nice lady. Could not fathom why she took such a drastic step.”
A chill ran through his spine. Dhruv could not believe what had happened.
He quietly went back to his apartment. That night, he slept with the lights on. Fear still loomed of the same key opening multiple doors of multiple apartments.
Next day morning, Dhruv decided to meet the watchman again and see if some alternate plumber could be arranged to get his flush repaired immediately.
“Good morning, Sir” Bhatkhande greeted him with a smile.
“Bro, I need a plumber urgently. Pakya told me that the plumber does not come on weekends, but….”
“Pakya, who?” Bhatkhande gave a surprised look.
“My friend, your counterpart…. the night watchman, Prakash.”
“He is Hiroo. “
“But he said his name was Pakya. I met him sitting on your chair at night and he introduced himself as the night watchman. Small statured guy with a moustache?”
“Sir, Hiroo is 6 feet tall…he is known as Lambu in this complex. He sits in that little shed near the entrance and takes rounds once in every hour to see if everything is fine.”
“You are not joking, right?”
“Sir, maybe you saw some dream and you imagined that you came down and…”
“Wait a minute, I gave him a post it on which he had jotted the plumber’s name. I did not give him my keys, instead took the plumber’s number to speak and convince him to come home over the weekend.” Dhruv pulled out a tattered piece of paper form his shorts’ pocket.
He handed over the post it slip to Bhatkhande.
“Where Sir?? It is blank…” said Bhatkhande with a blank look on his face.
“Tell me about 801….is it vacant?”
“Why Sir? You want to take that too? Many people take apartments above or below them and convert them into duplex, so if you…”
Dhruv cut him short.
“A suicide case?”
A few hours later. Dhruv decided to run for relief…. he decided to go to office.
All kinds of thoughts were running through his mind. Did it really happen? Who was not real? Geetanjali or Pakya? Or both? Obviously Bhatkhande was real…nothing could deceive his eyes and senses in the daylight.
“Good morning Dhruv, what are you doing here on a weekend?”
Dhruv moved his gaze from his laptop. It was Seema, the Human Resources Manager.
“You should be enjoying this well-earned break from work. Employees like you earn us an ill reputation …no balance between work and personal life.” She said with a smile.
“Hmm…. I wish I could. Err a quick question….my apartment keys are unique, right? No other apartment keys can be used to open them, right?”
“Most certainly they are unique, Dhruv. By the way, you had asked me to help you with a name plate for your apartment. Geetanjali has done a good job. Your nameplate is very artistic and unique. It is in my office. Would you like to pick it now?”
“Yeah, my sister-in law, Geetanjali… she designs name-plates.”
“Thank God!” he said out loud.
Seema looked puzzled.
Dhruv shared his experience with her.
Seema looked up in her system and said, “Wait a minute, will you like to shift to another accommodation. There was one in Waldorf, which I guess got vacated by another employee. Let me check with my assistant.”
She reached for her smartphone, “Hello Geetanjali? 801, Waldorf available?”