There has been no electricity for the past 18 hours. No electricity through the star spangled night, no background hum of appliances to dim the Janam-Ashtami celebrations in a distant temple, and nothing to worry about with guard Gopal at the main door.
I live in this large apartment complex on the edge of the main road to Almora. There are 26 apartments in this building. 26 homes-away-from-home, furnished with love and care, filled with comfortable beds and sofas, modular kitchens and everything else in-between.
We have a morning song- and- sweep routine by Saawali , who warbles and trills down the 6 flights of stairs and passages which have to shine and shimmer under her energetic broom.
There is the efficient and silent Kundan, our gardener and cattle-chaser and the man for household emergencies (gas cylinder changes to blocked drains). The evening and night guards trek up the 3 odd kms to the building. Besides checking on the entrances and handling the perimeter lights, they have to tackle the rare drunkard who rolls in or passing tourists looking for a hotel. There is Rajinder too. A young, good-at-heart-but-brash-in-action, ever smiling electrician who zips in with the newspaper and my milk bottles, greets and plays with Pepper, and then goes out into the world to pay bills, send courier packages, buy stuff, repair things and keep all the apartments in good shape. He arranges cooks, drivers, taxis and anything else which visitors may need to ensure that their good times roll.
This fleet of staff has busy days in May and June, when people come up to the hills. Apartments are opened, aired and cleaned and prepared for their owners. Cars jostle for parking slots, children play in the forest, music and laughter floats in the air. The festive feel continues late into the night….TV shows and cricket matches, moonlit terrace parties or small group chats on balconies. There are a zillion options available for collecting heartwarming memories.
And then, there are ten quiet and tranquil months in the year, when this one permanent resident finds occasional lights and life in the remaining 25 apartments. The building soaks in the steady rain for the 3 monsoon months, and slumbers gently under warm winter sun, till spring arrives with the long Holi weekend. Life perks up with the advent of summer and the annual visit cycle takes over.
Those ten quiet months are my slice of heaven. The dogs and me enjoy the entire terrace, the long passages and stairways, the parking lot, the forest floor, the mountain views and the caring, affectionate staff . I drink my morning tea at the sunrise corner, share my eleven- am-cuppa with Kundan and Saawali on the front steps, and ascend to the terrace for the evening sunset and tea ceremony.
Pepper demands and gets her fun times with Kundan and the manager, while Biskit just has to look with her soulful eyes to get cuddled and petted. They spend their mornings in the garden under the watchful eyes of Kundan and I don’t need to worry about them at all.
I live a comfortable, protected and companionable life here, thanks to our community of apartment owners. I cannot and would not be able to maintain such a large set of loyal and helpful staff just for myself, if I had acquired a separate cottage or villa in the hills. Its great to have helping hands and cheery smiles and support at the end of a shout. Its good to have a mobile number to just tell Rajinder that there is no electricity/the bills need payment/there is no water /there are too many ants/etc and he will take care of it.
At 6 am today, the doorbell rings and Rajinder has arrived, with the miIk and newspaper (yesterdays). He clambers up to the transformer, fiddles and fixes the wires while the electricity department hollers instructions into his mobile, and the electricity is back!! Smiles and cups of tea all around, and life is back to normal.
There are some dear friends who get this dreamy, far-away look in their eyes, when they talk of their dream cottage in the hills, with wild-rose, ivy and honey-suckle creepers covering the walls, the wind blowing through the pine trees and some quiet music in the background. I listen with love and understanding, but I am glad that life in this apartment building is my dream come true.
It’s a safe, comfortable and companionable reality which suits me to the T.