THERE was once a time not too long ago when the living room of a home reflected the kind of people living it; not how much money they possessed but how much warmth existed within. You could sink into inviting easy chair and be sure moments later your host would be as informal, easy going and comfortable as the chair you were lounging in. Then there were houses with stuffy furniture, over stuffed sofas with protruding lumps that poked deep into your back as if telling you were already on borrowed time.
The owner who came in to greet you had a scowl on his face and made you feel as unwanted as the settee you sat on. The maid who brought you tea placed tea cup and sugar far out of reach and neither host nor maid made any attempt to give permission to feed on mandatory biscuits that were set alongside your tea cup and which you suspected were later taken back and served again to next visitor and the next, till some fellow with more courage and guts than you stretched out, bit onto it and shouted, “it’s plastic!”
Living rooms those days revealed who was living in them. Today it’s different. My neighbor downstairs who had been doing some major changes in his home had been calling me over for more than a year. “Come over for a cup of tea!” he would say. “No,” I would plead, “I don’t have anything between meals.”
But yesterday, his wife managed to corner me. “You haven’t seen our home,” she said. “Of course I have,” I said, “you remember I came over in 1985 when my dog strayed inside and you were standing on top of sofa throwing cushions at the poor thing!”
“Ah that sofa is gone,” she sighed, “but come in, come in and see the new one,” and she pushed me into her house. “Do you like it?” she asked, “the floor is Italian marble, the window sills are all granite and the doors are real teak!” “Must have cost the earth!” I whispered. “Fifty lakhs!” she whispered proudly, “and once the bathrooms and kitchen are over, it could touch sixty!” “That’s more money than I’ve ever seen,” I said weakly as she went off to bring me a glass of iced limbu sherbert.
The place was a Taj Mahal. I stared at my reflection on the flooring, and was stretching out to feel costly velvet drapes when a little fellow, her grandchild ran into the room, with grandmother screaming behind, “Out!” she shouted, “out! No playing in the living room! I don’t want the floor scratched, the granite stained…”
“Or limbu sherbert splashed on it!” I whispered as I ran home, hoping she hadn’t noticed the effects of my clumsiness on her spotless flooring! “Oh, give me back living rooms where people live!” I also dared to whisper.
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