She walked in home drenched in the revelry of the night that had been. Reeking of whiskey and the warm yet comforting stench of tobacco. The doorbell rang about ten times, interspersed with her loud giggles and the sound of keys struggling to get into the keyhole. I could hear her heels click against the tiled floor outside the door occasionally slipping in gay abandon, after which her palms thump the door repeatedly. “Open the door, Banana!”
I rush across the house, look through the peephole, open our bright blue door. There she stands. All dressed in a thin black shrug, her blue heels, her eyes just the right tinge of pink filled with a flurry of excitement and coquettishness, telling tales of what went on at ‘Bonobo’ that night. She darts inside, only to flop on the couch and remove another bottle of wine which I look at disapprovingly but eventually share. She then hugs me and tells me it is all going to pan out the way I imagined it would, no matter what or who stands in my way. I’m touched and I extend my arms for her to fall right into them. We’re not into long pensive hugs with the same sex. So she is upright again. We talk into the remaining part of the night, until we feel the sun shining through our French windows, imploring us to call it a day.
The next day is heavy on both our heads. The world swirls in our apartment along with the sugar in our freshly beaten coffee. Back on the couch we were. She looks at me with those dreary, tired eyes and says “Banana, just so you know, all those things I said last night? Well they’re all true. I’m here ok?” Umm, awkward silence time.
“I know you are. Let’s go get some lunch?”
“Sure. Just dress properly ok. I know we live next to a trash can, you don’t have to look like one.”
“Bugger off, I’ll be ready in 10.”
Roommates. I can’t even begin to describe what they’ve meant to me over the years. After an initial hiccup with two who used to use my bed for nefarious doings behind my back, I’ve had all the luck with the rest. They become a part of you that can’t really be detached. Atleast mine haven’t been able to. Back in Delhi, I was healing a broken heart. Here in Bombay I was resurrecting a flailing career. The few moments of happiness and contentment in both places, would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the lovely women I shared my home with. Cheems saw me through the depths of listlessness and disillusion. She did what any true friend would do for another friend getting over her biggest break up- introduce the victim to new steaming hot men with an IQ of -2, the one thing Delhi can triumphantly boast of. A few months later, the favour was duly returned when she was boyfriendless and had her head stuck in a tub of ice-cream. I call it the Ostrich effect and as women we truly believe it is the solution to all out break ups, till the time the nasty vindictive temptress starts making her way round your waistline.
Bombay was a whole different ball game. My bond with Pee emanated from my utmost disgust with a philistine city that seemed to lack a soul. She was the first person I had an intelligent conversation with and that was enough reason for me to share a home with her. Simple as that. Her drunken nights followed by my nocuous workdays kept up the entertainment quotient, most of which was expended on a bottle of wine. And the cycle continued. In a city where most people experience their dreams come alive, I watched mine slip through my consciousness. I stopped writing and as I sat in a corner of my room watching my books and my diary collecting dust, I imagined them gently weeping.
I would watch Pee come back home every night discussing feverishly her advertising ideas, pitches, who said what, what art meant to her, whose work she could kill for and whose the industry could well do without. As I listened to her, I realized I had lost that passion, my passion. I had nothing to say, nothing to compare myself to, no benchmarks to set myself against. For the first time in a long time, I felt uninspired. Death for a writer.
Pee finally sat me down and spoke to me about how I needed to get my mojo back. “Honey you stopped loving yourself ages ago. From what I hear, you were quite the ballsy b**** and had boys by their you -know –whats. Where did all that go? And why the hell do I have to know you know when you’re this depressing?” Only someone really close can talk to you like that and get away with it. It was at that instant that I decided to stop moping, pick myself up and follow my heart. Vikram had moved in by then and the ‘let’s get banana moving’ campaign was on full swing. With long debates and discussions into the wee hours of the morning to reading every single one of my articles to even getting my culinary-artistic high with Masterchef every night, I seemed to have atleast a few happy memories to look back at.
In a world where single people living in alien cities, away from the warmth of home, is as common as a roadside tea stall, is it really that important who we live with? My roommates were my substitutes for family. They’ve hugged me when I’ve cried, they’ve pulled my hair back when I’ve puked (ok this was at 21. Totally allowed), they’ve stealthily put blankets over me, when in my sleep I’ve kicked mine off in Delhi’s biting winter, they’ve nursed me back to health when I’ve felt like a Somalian refugee. But most importantly, they’ve laughed with me and spread the kind of joy in my life which is quite irreplaceable. And yes, they will still need me and they will still feed me, when I’m 64.
What’s been the payback? Well, just the same. And I’d do it again. A million times over.