Sharika Nair’s short story is a shocking glimpse into the mindset of a seemingly innocent man who is not all that he seems to be.
The stain on the wall looks like a fish with its mouth open. He tilts his head, and it starts looking like a crooked hut with a thatched roof. The 204 old man walks out of the lift. Tapan straightens up and tries to look as alert as possible. When he first started work, he would clamber to his feet and perform an awkward salute each time a resident walked by. Manjunath of block 3 had told him that was not required. We will end up doing sit-ups through the day, he said.
Mornings start with the maids and cooks coming in, followed by a temporary exodus of the residents. School kids leave first, with their heavy bags and water bottles, the parents herding the playful, younger ones so they would reach the gate in time for their school bus. The office goers follow, men in neatly ironed shirts and trousers, women in colourful salwar kameez, and to his initial surprise, women in shirts and trousers as well. He tries to imagine his mother or sister stepping out of their house in men’s clothes and fails. It would never happen, of course. His father would knock sense into their foolish heads or they would get booed at the market and return shamefacedly home.