The tiny room near the stairs had been rented by a teacher. She lived in it with her eight year old son. The kid was bed ridden. Had been born that way, it seemed. The teacher's husband had abandoned them and taken a new wife. The teacher's school was nearby. She left her son lying on a mattress in the corridor near the stairs for the day, she came home during lunch break and whenever she could make time between her classes; to check on him. To make sure he was fed and watered and cleaned.
It felt apathetic to cross the boy lying that way on the floor every time any one took the stairs. The landlord had talked to the teacher about this. But she couldn't leave the boy in the room where there was nothing to see. From the corridor the boy could at least look at the betel nut trees sway in the backyard. Or listen to the landlord's TV in the other room.
The landlord and his wife occupied the rest of the house downstairs. They had two rooms, each slept in one. There was another small room where they kept the idols of their deities, in which the wife worshipped incessantly for hours every morning and evening. Then there was a corridor like living room which had a shelf. That shelf, in its several racks housed prizes, medals and cups the landlord's children had won over the years. Debate competitions and annual sporting events and dance competitions. The landlord had a son, but before that his wife had birthed three daughters. Not one, not two.
The son, studious from the crib, worked as a professor in some far off university. The daughters who had started off as librarians and stenographers had eventually had children and stayed home. They visited their parents very rarely. The house began to feel too big and too empty to the ageing couple and they started renting out chunks of it, after setting aside for themselves only what they absolutely needed.
The house now had two such chunks which were locked and waiting for tenants. The teacher rented the room downstairs in the summer. Then I took the room upstairs with the balcony, in the last month of monsoon. I didn't have a kitchen and cooked on a hot plate, which I shoved under the single bed once done with. I had very few utensils, not many clothes. The room was enough for me. Whenever I felt like I sat in the balcony. If I leaned well, I could see the temple at the end of the street. Sometimes people walking down the street stared up at me, particularly the boys playing or girls returning from school. But mostly they leave me be.
I had an arrangement with the landlord's servant who came in once a day. She got me a few groceries whenever I ran out. I also walked up to the book shelf in the living room of the landlord and borrowed a book now and then. But that was that. I never stepped out.