From a very young age, I was quite used to moving from one town to another, thanks to my father working in a bank. By the time I was ten, I had lived in six different places. And gotten quite tired of this moving around jhanjat. It is quite a pain leaving old friends and making new ones every couple of years.
So when pa decided to quit the bank and settle down in Hyderabad, I was relieved to say the least. Anyhow, one fine summer morning, we landed in Mount Santoshi Apartments (MSA). My very first time in an apartment complex.
Being the shy kid that I was in those days, it took quite a lot of persuading from my mother to actually go and talk to the other kids. Exasperated, she did the intro while I was hiding my face in her sari pallu.
But it didn’t take me long to become friendly and before I knew, I was one of them, running around the building and screaming away to glory.
Now, MSA was a huge building with 41 flats in it and almost 150 residents. People from all part of the country, living, laughing, screaming, celebrating, crying and loving together. If ever you wanted to view India in a nutshell, this was the place to be.
Anyways, within a month of living in MSA, I had landed myself a part in the annual building play. I was to play Cinderella’s evil step-mom. What a miscast! How did they expect an innocent faced me to pull that off? Well, all I had was one teensy-weensy line. I was to make my grand entry with a cup of tea in my hand, saying- “Oh! My tea is so cold.” and then I was to slip and fall down. Quite a horrid experience. No wonder that was my first and only foray into dramatics.
Well, now most of my evenings were spent playing downstairs for 4-5 hours straight. We used to play all sorts of games ranging from cricket, throw ball, badminton, football, French cricket, 7 stones, hide n seek, sly fox, hopscotch, and a whole lot of other silly stuff the names of which I can’t remember.
Coming to the interesting characters in MSA. Let’s start from the ground floor, shall we. Well, there was Venkat Uncle, my fave uncle in MSA. He used to play with all of us and even help us organize the Aug-15 celebrations. His kids Manu and Mansa were good friends of mine. Then coming to first floor, there was this uncle who was the building chimney, smoking 24*7. Almost everyone in the building had a disagreement, and once in a while we would get to see an open name-calling session, all the uncles in the building against him. Boy! Was it fun or what.
And then there were Shilpa, Swetha. Now Shilpa, being my namesake, was called Big Shilpa while I was called Small Shilpa. And even though she left MSA a couple of years later, the name struck on and I was always referred to as Small Shilpa.
Second floor would definitely be the most interesting. Cos in that floor resided the mad lady. And when I say mad, I really mean it. This lady, by the name Hajra, was really insane. She would do all sorts of crazy things. For starters, she developed an animosity towards Venkat Uncle and his family. Poor things, she would make baseless allegations against them and even once made a police complaint. And oh! You should hear her rabble when she is in one of those insane fits of hers. She would just stand in the middle of the road and shout out all obscenities. Do ask me for a personal narration next time u meet me cos it’s more effective when said in person.
Once, when we were all playing downstairs, she threw boiling hot water on us. To which someone quipped, “paani tho phek diya, shampoo bhi thoda sa phek do na”. Apparently, she once threw knifes and vessels at Chintu, the building bully. His brother Ballu and he were as different as chalk and cheese.
Then coming to the third floor, not many interesting people. There was Nandini, the national tennis player. And then there were raki and sunny. I remember this incident. Once all of us gals were in the terrace and Sunny was standing in his balcony. The positioning was such that we could see him but he couldn’t see us. So anyhow, one of us was waving out this white dupatta and it was late evening at that time. Must have been quite eerie to see just a white duapatta floating in the air cos Sunny darted into his house and wasn’t seen in the balcony for quite a few days.
Now, the fourth floor. This was the floor in which I lived. Had a Muslim neighbor on one side and a Christian cum Parsi neighbor on the other. Now this Muslim aunty would keep advising all the girls to stop playing and start cooking. Her son was like the building Casanova. And mind you, quite an old and married one at that. Nancy aunty, the Christian neighbor was quite fun. Both of us would spend hours to an end discussing books. And I still remember those days we played teacher-teacher, House- house et al with Serena, Merena and Sweety. Ahh!! Nostalgia.
Oh! And how could I forget the watchmen, there was Vittal, an old guy whom we used to love to hate. We would have a competition of sorts to see which one could tyrannize the other more. Then there was Narasimha, a fat, lazy watchman who wouldn’t bother even if we broke all the windows. Then came Bahadur with his Nepali troop. With his relatives visiting him every other day, it appeared as if the whole of Nepal had migrated to MSA.
Phew! This sure has been a long post. Nothing else much about MSA. Shall update when something new strikes. Oh ya, a passing mention on the fun-filled kite flying days of Sankranti, the cracker bursting during diwalis, the coulour-play during the holis, the evening bhajans during Janmashtami and best of all, vinayaka chathurthi. My greedy brother, along with his bratty friends, would tour the locality on their bikes collecting the prasadam from each ganapati idol stand.
Ahh! If only I could revisit those lovely days again!!!!