In Aurangabad, there is space. Open, wide, free-flowing space. I don’t have to stretch my eyes beyond tall buildings that scrape the sky to greet the life-giving sun. No, here, they are still squat, no more than 6 or 7 stories high, usually only 2.
Easily, my eyes meet the blue sky. It is an abundant expanse, more than I am used to. In these pre-monsoon days, bulges of clouds fill it, looking larger than life, patiently gaining in size and darkness till the day they descend in roaring sheets of rain. The ready, lame reference that comes to mind is the way a 72″ HD tv experience feels after being accustomed to a 28″ standard definition screen. Big, bold, and breath-taking.
I reach home, to find a neighbour-aunty waiting for me.
“I just came to check on you, taking a gamble that you might be back from the gym,” the 65-year old aunty says.
“Come in, come in,” I reply, turning the keys to my door and opening up the home. She lives on the floor above me, and has turned out to have the same roots as me in my hometown, Ambajogai. Tall, slim, and with light grey eyes (unusual for this part of India), she moves gracefully. Heading straight for the kitchen, she turns and squarely confronts me.
“What are you planning to have for dinner? You’re all by yourself, so I’m sure you get lazy and skip proper meals.” She gently scolds me.
I’m caught. “Umm, I haven’t really thought about it,” I meekly answer. “But look,” I say, eagerly, opening my refrigerator door, “I’ve stocked up on all these veggies from the Farmer’s Market, so I have to do something with them.” There, I’ve proved myself, clear evidence that I will not be eating cheese toast for dinner.
“Ooookaaay,” she says, unconvinced. “I’ll send you some roti-sabzi, just in case.”
“No, no, please don’t trouble yourself, ” I protest. I don’t want to impose.
“What trouble? You eat like a sparrow, ” she berates me, suggesting I nibble instead of eating like a person. “I’m sending it down.”
I give her a pleading look, which flops miserably. She’s not buying my story.
“Okay,” I give in, “but not too much, please.”
“Done.” Triumphant, she strides out the door, like a general who has conquered.
I look after her. It’s actually a bit amazing, this emotional claim that people here stake like a natural right. They offer up space in their heart, and enter yours with equally innocent abandon.
So much space in Aurangabad. I smile to myself.