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Pen Your Pride

The visit to the room

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The next morning Diljot and her younger sister went to school, my uncle went to his job and the eldest son had to visit some office in the city, so I was left alone with my aunt who was busy in the sunny verandah sewing clothes. She made some extra money sewing clothes for women in the village. I sat on a cot near her. I had read the comics I had brought from Delhi. I had also gone through the old film magazines they had. Some old Punjabi songs were playing on the radio. I was bored.

"I'm going to go out in the alley for a short walk," I told my aunt while swinging my upper body like an inverted pendulum.

"OK, but don't go too far," my aunt said. "Be careful of the dogs."

"I will," I said.

I used the force generated by my swing to get up from the cot with a jerk. My aunt thought I was going to fall forward but then she soon realized this was how I stood up from a lower sitting place.

The village street dogs barked at me and sometimes even menacingly lunged at me because I wasn't just a stranger, I was a stranger who walked differently, and to make matters worse, even held two "sticks" in the arms. Or maybe they thought of me as a human-like four-legged animal who should be barked at, or bitten in case there was a chance. As long as I faced them there was no problem because they wouldn't come near me due to my crutches, but if they came from behind they could easily attack me because I couldn't turn around quickly to ward them off with my crutches. They mostly came in packs. But a good thing was someone or the other always came to help. The passers-by would either shoo them away with a slipper or a stick or kids would throw rocks at them.

When I came into the alley there was no dog in sight. Being early afternoon the place bore a deserted look. Men were either in the fields or at their jobs. Women were working inside their houses or sitting in their sunny verandahs. Kids had gone to school or playing somewhere. It was a narrow alley so even if some dogs came running, I could easily rest my back against a wall and tackle the dogs with my crutches until help came from the nearby houses.

Once outside I couldn't recall why I had come out. I could just randomly walk till the end of the alley and get a view of the corn fields or I could go to the other end of the alley where a row of smaller houses started and people had tethered their cows and buffaloes. I loved watching cows and buffaloes being taken care of. It was difficult for me to walk on the rough, cobbled surface. So instead of going towards the fields that involved at least a 20-minute walk at my pace, I decided to go towards the village.

I had just walked a few steps when I found myself standing in front of the neighbouring house with that particular room at the first floor. Both the doors of the house were wide open. A dog came out from inside and ran away without giving me even a single glance. As was the norm with almost all the houses in the village, the main door led to a verandah that shone brightly under the clear sun. Across the verandah I could see a couple of more opened doors, perhaps leading to rooms. Partly visible from my standing position was a staircase with railings on both sides.

I stood there in front of the house contemplating my next move. I wanted to go inside because, as Diljot had told me, the village kids often played inside the house. So there was nothing wrong in going inside and checking out that abandoned place. But those kids didn't know about the room on the first floor – I knew about that room. I knew that what Diljot and I had seen in the past couple of days was not an imagination. It could have been an imagination if just one of us had seen the light inside the room. Both of us had seen the same thing so it was as real as it could have been.

I had never entered an abandoned house before. I had always wanted to visit old, abandoned places but due to my disability I was mostly confined to easily accessible places. Now the opportunity was right in front of me. There were just a couple of steps at the door and I could easily climb them. I looked on both sides of the alley and didn't see anyone. "Before someone sees me I should go inside," I thought to myself.

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