The Spiral Staircase

October 21, 2012 at 9:15 AMOct (Friends, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

“Its an old age home,” he said while we were in the auto. I nodded my head.

We were on our way to meet an 83 year old singer who in the 1940s had sung with Amirbai Karnataki. He had called her before taking the auto and she had said her address as “Athashree” in “Hadapsara.” On reaching Hadapsara and seeing the Athahsree building both us had a doubt about it being an old age home. It looked like an apartment.

Signing at the security counter we took the lift to the sixth floor, as instructed by the security guard. On reaching the sixth floor, sliding my hand over the wall railings, I neared the door we were to enter. The door opposite to the door we were to enter was open and my eyes entered that house. I could see nobody inside the house opposite to while ringing the bell of the singer’s house. When nobody opened the door he asked “Should be knock the door?” and knocked it once. We waited again for a while and still nobody opened the door. Both of us wondered why nobody was opening the door. I rang the bell again and feeling quite weird to be staring at the closed door I turned around a bit and saw an old lady and an old man sitting near the door of the house opposite and staring at us. “Cheap curiosity,” I thought and looked at him. He too was wondering why nobody was opening the door. “She knows we are coming because she herself asked us to come. She couldnt have gone out,” he said and knocked at the door again. No. Nobody opened the door. I rang the bell. We waited. He knocked the door. We waited. I rang the bell. We waited. He knocked the door. We waited. No. Nobody opened the door. As we were repeating our actions the old lady and the old man kept staring at us. Feeling a bit weird to be stared at I thought I will talk to them and asked them, “Isn’t she at home?” The old lady got up and came out saying, “You call the security guard.” Wondering why to call the security guard, he said, “She knows that we are coming. I spoke to her half an hour ago.” But the lady was slightly panicking and stressing “You please inform the security guard.” We said that we had met the security guard and he said that she was at home. “You never know what could have happened. Go inform the security guard,” she repeated. Not understanding anything we took the lift back to the ground floor.

We inquired at the receptionist about the lady and he said, “I dont think she has gone out” and asked “Did you knock at the right door?” We said we knocked at the right door. He got up and took the lift to check by himself. When he left we kept wondering what the situation was like and suddenly we realized, recollecting the wall railings, that it was an apartment meant only for senior citizens! With only senior citizens in the apartment the lives there lived very close to death and the fear of death! Suddenly the fear in the old lady’s face gained meaning in my eyes. Her panicking gained meaning. I could locate that fear and panic. With this understanding a strange emotion settled in my mind which was unsettling. I felt numb. I sat on the couch that was kept. While sitting on the couch my eyes fell on two paintings that were hanging on the wall. Both were paintings of a spiral staircase with no human element within the frame. Just spiral staircase. I had read that spiral staircase has several meanings in myths and dreams, one of them being rebirth. May be it was deliberately kept there in that building to fight the fear of death by a hope of rebirth. But the panic that I saw on the old lady’s face and the fear of death that I sensed and the silence of the singer we were to meet scared me enough to not be able to think of what the staircase meant in myths and dreams. But the painting of staircase because of its curve which keeps the end hidden, scared me.

The man who went to check came back and called a security guard and sent him to check where the singer was. He went and within a couple of minutes came back to say she is at home and waiting for us. Unable to understand how we followed him being happy that she was fine.

Taking the lift we went to the sixth floor. This time I was staring at the wall railing which I had not noticed properly the last time though I had moved my hands over it. The door was partially open. He entered the door first. The singer’s voice welcomed him. As I entered the house I took a look at the opposite door which was now being closed by a relieved old face. We too were so relieved that we did not even ask where she was all the while. To see her in flesh and blood was enough!

He started interviewing the singer and I kept listening to nostalgic words flowing out from her mind. The singer’s daughter in law prepared tea for us and got some ‘Maharashtrian’ eatables. As we kept speaking to the singer and sipping tea the bell of the house rang. The daughter in law went running to the door. She opened the door and went out, shutting the door behind her. The old singer paused for a while and got back to sepia mode. The daughter in law opened the door and came in. The old singer paused and asked her daughter in law, “Everything fine?”

The question, “Everything fine?” bothered me further. The reassurance required about everything being fine is an extended part of the fear of anything going wrong any time. This fear occupies every house in that apartment. The house of the singer and that which is opposite to her house too. For sure in all the other houses too.

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