I didn’t know anybody who could tell me the connection between Mr. D’Souza and Divyesh. Whenever I tried to talk to Divyesh regarding this he would avoid the issue.
Those were the days I considered myself a budding actor and often took part in Nukkad Natak (Street Plays). I’d watch real life characters closely and try to imitate them when alone.
D’Souza had bequeathed his property to Divyesh a year and a half before his death, by way of writing a will. I was also able to guess that Divyesh was not at all surprised to come into that inheritance from D’Souza which was in fact a big mansion on the outskirts of West Delhi.
I’m not sure about the location but it would be perhaps, somewhere near Bahadurgarh. It has been so many years now and I only remember that I had reached the spot taking directions from at least ten to twelve passers-by.
The night I stayed with Divy he told me that D’Souza used to be a close friend of his dad but that he didn’t know why his dad had kind of moved away from their friendship.
But Divy added that perhaps his dad didn’t like the way D’Souza had parted with his daughter, Linda some years ago.
In the midst of our conversation I also came to know that there was a bitter quarrel in the house of D’Souzas on the issue of Linda making up her mind to settle abroad with her American fiancee.
Mr. D’Souza, as narrated by Divyesh, had slapped his grown up daughter and yelled,” Don’t you need my permission for that?” To this Linda had replied in a screaming voice, ” Why should I ask anybody’s permission?It’s my life.”
Coming back to the present, I asked Divy why he had invited me to stay that night with him. I and Divy both live in Delhi but we were meeting after 7 years, though I knew the story of Divy getting the huge mansion from D’Souza.
Divy disclosed something strange. Looking all around and making sure nobody was there he said in a low tone, “Some people live in my house without my permission. They’ve never bothered to tell me they’re staying. ”
He said, ” I need your help dear. Isn’t it scary these people are staying in my house without my knowledge?
“Without your knowledge? What do you mean?”
“You’re staying at this floor and you can see from the top all the people who are moving in the vicinity.” In fact Divy’s balcony was a cosy, comfortable place to sit on an armchair and have a bird’s eye view.
“I’ve never seen their faces closely. I’ve spied at nights from my window. They come around one in the night and open the ground-floor door. It seems they stay there.”
“What do you mean ‘it seems’? Why don’t you go and check for yourself? At least during the day time?”
” I’m scared. I don’t want to go and check alone. That’s why I need your help.” Divy’s expression was full of fear.
Assuring him we’d go down and check I went to sleep in the adjacent room.
It was a splendidly decorated room with a neatly made bed and an armchair in this balcony too. Divy had told me that it was once D’Souza’s personal room and I could immediately make out that the room was so lavishly decorated because it belonged to the ex-owner of the big mansion.
What caught my attention most was a big sized glass door almirah. Inside the almirah was visible a natty lady’s outfit hanging at the centre . Starting from a fashionable hat – to a gown – to an exquisite pair of high-heeled black sandals, the attire had elements of royalty comparable to fable – queens.
‘ Must have belonged to Mrs. D’Souza once.’ I murmured.
It was about quarter past one when Divyesh woke me up. I saw his expression was one of fear and he was shivering. He said in a low voice, “They’re there.Come ….”
He took me near the half open window and both of us looked down in silence. The lights in our room were switched off, so nobody would see us.
A couple walked towards the building. Their faces were not clearly visible from the top. The man held the lady around her waist. They appeared drunk from the way they faltered.
As they were about to enter the building the guy stopped and took out a bunch of keys. Looking steadily from the window I could see that the lady took the keys and opened the door quite authoritatively. Never for a moment it looked it was not her own house or she was committing anything wrong.
I insisted on going down but Divy won’t let me. I told him many times but he didn’t agree.
Then we came back to our beds and slept. It was a cold, foggy night, the kind that’s best to have a sound sleep. But somehow, I had a bad dream and woke up early in the morning. It was still dark.
By sheer chance, I looked down from the window.
A car, with it back-lights on, waited on the way leading out of the mansion. A female figure exited from the ground floor. As she reached near the car, the car door opened. She entered the door of the front seat and sank in.
I don’t know why I was matching the attire in the almirah to the frame of this lady. Perhaps because the way she carried herself. Her elegant style, the graceful posture and the careless way she walked were somehow indicative of her status.
As the car’s engine vroomed, I turned around to slip in my bed. But I was surprised to find Divy standing behind me and watching my activities carefully. His face was red and there were drops of sweat on his forehead.
I felt there was something Divy was not disclosing to me.
“Why are you so afraid? They’re human beings, not ghosts. You can always go to them and ask them. If some body is trying to play a mischief we can take the help of the law.”
But that won’t soothe him. He was gasping for breath and his body was shaking terribly.
At about half past six my wife called me and reminded me of some important deals I had to complete by evening. So I took leave of Divy and drove back home on my bike.
As I rode the bike I kept repeating the words, “Why should….I take anybody’s permission? It’s……my…life..”
“Why should I take anybody’s permission ? Why? Why? It’s……my…life..”
There was something magical about this sentence. The actor in me was in his spirits.
The sky all around was clouding dark and the wind blew fast. As I drove at 90 my long hair waved and once more I shouted at the top of my voice…”Why? Why? Why should I take ….anybody’s permission? It’s my….It’s my….It’s my…….house.”
Suddenly my hands pressed the brake and I slowed. Something dawned in my mind. And the next moment I had stopped altogether.
“What did I just say?”
“My life?” “Or my house?”
“Oh…wait…wait”, I said to myself, “Should I go back?”
There was definitely something Divy was not disclosing.