Category: Frickin’ Unfair.

My house has a balcony leading from the kitchen.
Every morning since I moved in, my routine went thus; make a cup of chai, throw open the door, and breathe in crisp, fresh air from the forest right outside the door.
And I mean an honest-to-goodness, dense trees and all, forest, outside my kitchen window. In the middle of Bangalore!

Tree cover so dense, the only sunlight I ever could see was filtered through the thick foliage, falling in soft slants across the mossy floor, punctuated by squirrels scurrying around in pairs, in true Bollywood style. Eagles, perched on branches, camouflaged so well I once saw a squirrel run up and bump into it, pretty much suffer a minor stroke and fall right off when the realization set in. Brahminy kites, ninja-swooping between the leaves. Your garden variety mynahs, pigeons, sparrows and if I was lucky, a beautiful black bird with a long feathery tail that twitched when it sang, looking eerily similar to a legendary Pokémon. A family of migratory storks that claimed the teak tree for their own, overlooking the proceedings like awkward firangs at a desi wedding. And at night, scores of bats flitting around like no one body’s business, the still air punctuated by an occasional ‘hoo hoooo‘ followed by two gleaming golden eyes in an owl face.

The house was always two degrees colder than any part of the city. The fan just sat there, dejected, gathering dust. Because all it took was an open window, and you were instantly transported to the chillness, the sound of rustling leaves, of a forest camp. It was the next bets thing to living in a tree house.
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Until the day I woke up to the sound of power saws.

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Sobbing like a child, I watched my majestic trees fall like matchsticks, one after the other, as if they weighed nothing at all.
The big one with wide leaves fell first, the squirrel family leaping frantically into thin air. The gulmohar fell, taking with it the pigeon nest and her newborns. The teak tree fell, leaving the firang stork family despondent on a nearby broken branch, looking very much like a NatGeo refugee image.

For the first time in many months, I could see sunlight through my balcony.

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In two days, they razed an acre of forest that took perhaps decades to grow, all the while amused by the hysterical, bawling woman on the balcony trying to click frantic pictures before all was lost.
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Today, I wake to the sounds of drills cracking through bedrock. I make chai to the rumbles of earth-movers. My dreams are punctuated by the dull roar of CAT diggers.

I breathe in fine, lung-clogging dust that seeps through the cracks and coats my house.

I bar my windows, my kitchen door, and my heart.
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I watched my view go from Avatar to Mad Max.
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For two weeks, I had to contend with huge rats taking refuge in my balcony, fleeing from the destruction of their underground housing colony. The maid discovered a squirrel nest and four minuscule newborns tucked behind the washing machine, also solving the mystery of how my broom and mop were chewed exactly in half. Chai-time eagle and his friends soar over the dust bowl hunting for mice that are long gone.
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And today, two months later, I rush to hurriedly bolt my balcony door in the morning and see that in the midst of angry JCBs, angrier laborers, steel and concrete and rebars and cracked bedrock and mounds and mounds of debris….

There were the unmistakable beginnings of what looked like small, hopeful, teak plants.

Short.

Absentmindedly brushing my hair near the window, an imperceptible flutter near the dusty sill.

A tiny dragonfly.

Tangled in silvery strands of spider web.

Released from its exquisite deathbed I held it in my palm like a fragile piece of blown glass.

It looked at me with what I imagine must be throes of agony, multiplied manifold in its compound eyes.

Or perhaps the quiet slipping away of a wisp of a dragonfly soul.

What was the point, I ask, of all that minuscule beauty? Those airy wondrous wings? That myriad melee of colour and splendor and perfection?

An ignominious, ordinary death in the palm of an IT employee.

What a shame.

Gene pool deterioration.

My grandma huffed in home one day, visibly distressed. Well, as distressed as a blindingly-fair, jet-black haired, 60 something year old with a figure to die for and a propensity to wear the most un-grandmotherly colours, and is generally considered the epitome of malayali oldie beauty, could be.

Mom and aunt were home, as was her long suffering granddaughter with an inferiority complex larger than the collective angst of an emo party.

“Those guys at the junction called me something when I passed by!! I’m older than their mothers! Alavalathikal!

(Malayalam translations will NOT be provided. You get the gist.)

My mom’s snide *cough*”Maybe if you wore more subtle colours….”*cough* was lost on the poor lady who was by then visibly shaking with righteous indignation at the ignominy..the HORROR!….of being publicly hit on by a bunch of young dudes on motorbikes.

(Or so I thought. It would be years before I would realize she was putting on a great show of disgust. )

My 13 year old freckled and myopic self could only choke at the utter unfairness of it all. Dammit, wasn’t I the one supposed to be getting whistled at?

Aunt by then had swung into action.

Aunt: “Charakku??”

Grams: “NO!”

Aunt: Piece??”

Grams: “NOOO!! Something else!”

By then mom and me had pitched in too with our entire scanty arsenal of mallu hoodlum vocab. The perpetrators appeared to be of a breed quite removed from the usual fare of bisyllabic-comments-limited crowd.

It was only once we’d exhausted all the possible native expressions of endearment did my aunt, an M.A. in English Lit., switch to alternatives in Queen’s English.

Aunt: “Sexy?”

Mom poked her in her ribs and the two of them stifled laughter for 5 minutes.

Aunt: “Glamorous?”

Grams (shaking with emotion) : “EGGACTLY!!!”

While her daughters guffawed and tried not to reveal their badly disguised jealousy, I contemplated throwing myself off a high-rise. (I gave up in light of the fact that in my locality, that would be max 3 stories high). Grandma in turn gave up trying to get the meaning of the word from her highly unhelpful daughters and went home with a slightly suspicious spring in her step.

I weep for my female offspring.