It was two minutes past midnight, and they were making so much noise. The music was loud, and the clinking of beer glasses could be heard all the way to the end of the street. When was the party going to end, if it was ever going to end? They were making so much noise.
Anand Trivedi had his head in his hands, his simmering frustration rapidly rising in temperature to a boiling anger. How was a writer to concentrate in such an environment? His publisher had been calling him up every day to ask him when his draft was going to be finalised, and when he was going to receive the first copy of his new story. Fat chance of that happening, if his neighbours kept making so much noise!
The music got louder and louder and the party was getting noisier and noisier. It wasn’t even good music, the soft melodies that Anand was so fond of, and which would have even kindled in his heart some kind of forgiveness for the boisterous family next door. No, this was the loud semi hip-hop, semi rap variety that nobody seemed overly fond of, but somehow it was the variety that music companies kept dishing out in large numbers. It was the kind of music that only people like the Saxenas could possibly enjoy. This kind of loud and disturbing music went well with their loud and disturbing temperament.
Anand Trivedi had been a successful writer, getting two novels published, and getting a special mention in the reviews of leading critics. He seemed to be on his way up. Then the Saxenas had moved in next door, and life had never been the same since then.
They were small time traders who had struck it rich on a business deal, and now seemed determined to show off their wealth by spending lavishly on cars, parties and just about anything else their heart fancied or did not fancy. And in the process they seemed determined to disturb the calm of what had otherwise been a peaceful and quiet neighbourhood. The other homeowners on the street were too busy eking out a daily living to worry about the Saxenas, and besides none of them was a writer. They did not have to dream, and put their dreams down on paper, and hope that the readers liked reading the dreams as much as the writer liked dreaming them.
Anand Trivedi could only dream in silence, he could not dream in noisy surroundings, and he needed peace and quiet to put pen to paper. The Saxenas had taken that quiet away, and Anand was at a loss for words, literally.
Unable to write and unable to bear the raucous party, Anand decided to turn off the lights and go to sleep. But he was powerless to do that as well. The lights from the party were shining brightly into his bedroom, and the noise decibels were only getting louder and louder. In frustration he put his pillow over his ears, turned his face upside down, and tried to make himself mentally go to another place; a place with less commotion and more calm. He didn’t really succeed for a while, but after some time the efforts must have exhausted him because he dozed off.
The sun was already high in the sky when he woke up the next morning. Anand saw the bright light shining through the window, and thought that he had wasted a good part of the day already. The night had gone away, the morning had come and gone, and judging by the light it seemed that afternoon was soon on its way. He blinked his eyes hard and shook himself getting his body to wake itself out of its stupor. He expected to wake up to some peace and quiet thinking that the Saxenas would probably have left for work. But those expectations were soon proven wrong with a high pitched whining sound that penetrated the windows and attacked his ears. The effect was jarring to say the least especially since Anand was still groggy.
A burst of anger raced up his body, and he furiously threw the sheets away, jumped out of bed, and ran to the window to target the source of this noise. It was the Saxena’s gardener mowing the lawn with a rather expensive mower. Anand shook his head in disbelief. Was there no way for him to get some peace and quiet? How could a house be this noisy both at night and in the middle of the morning?
The phone rang. Anand’s heart skipped a beat. He knew who it was from. He looked apprehensively towards the hallway and wondered for a second if he should pick it up or not and finally decided that he had no choice. He ran to the hall, and lifted the receiver on its fifth ring.
“Hello, Raghav. How are you?”
Anand was trying to keep his voice as steady as possible, but deep down, he was shaking. He had already fallen behind his deadline by quite a bit, and he knew that his publisher was furious. He was surely going to get sounded out today. And true to expectations, he did. His publisher Raghav Shastri spent a good 30 minutes explaining the financial and reputational implications of Anand not finishing his book. His voice was quite threatening and by the time the conversation was over, Anand was shaking. He had to finish his book one way or the other; else his career as a writer was effectively over.
Anand went to the kitchen, made himself a cup of coffee and sat by the bedroom window, staring at the neighbour’s house and trying to find a solution to his problem. He drank the coffee slowly, one sip at a time. From time to time he glanced at the typewriter on his work station thinking that maybe he should start writing. But he could not. His mind was far too distracted by the angry thoughts that were flooding his mind; thoughts about all the horrible things that he could possibly do to the Saxenas. One horrible idea after another horrible idea kept passing through his mind. As he kept thinking them, a smile slowly emerged on his face. He was enjoying this.
The thoughts were vicious and cruel. He wondered what they would look like if they were ever enacted on film. He was pretty sure that the movie would be unsuitable for most audiences. But he was enjoying it. He kept sipping his coffee and he kept daydreaming; daydreaming about all the horrible things that he could do to the Saxenas.
When his cup of coffee got over he went into the kitchen and he made another cup. He once again went back to the window, sat on the sill, looked at the Saxena residence and continued dreaming. The gardener had finished his work and had parked the lawnmower in the shed. That annoying activity was over, but a new one had started. It was Mrs. Saxena trying to back the family car out of the gate. She was not very good at it and she was creating a huge ruckus doing it. Anand sighed with resignation.
He saw Mrs. Krishnan from across the street drive down the road in her battered old Maruti. As she neared her house she applied the brakes noisily and the worn out car made a loud screeching noise as it struggled to slow down. Mrs. Saxena who was backing out of the gate of her own house slammed the breaks, put both hands to her ears, and shouted at Mrs. Krishnan for making so much noise. Meek Mrs. Krishnan hurriedly apologized, parked her car as quickly as she could, and ran into her house.
Now Anand had had enough. How dare they? The Saxenas who specialized in creating intolerable chaos; the Saxenas who were the noisiest people in the neighbourhood; the Saxenas who had little regard for other people’s feelings, could barely tolerate it when the shoe was on the other foot. He decided then and there to implement one of those horrible thoughts that were going through his mind.
He slammed the coffee mug down on the dressing table, slipped into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and marched out of the house. He walked straight to Colonel Lal’s residence where he found the retired army man sitting on the lawn and reading the newspaper. The colonel was quite fond of Anand and the two shared a warm friendship. Without even waiting for the customary greetings, Anand poured his heart out to him and argued that a solution had to be found to the problem. Colonel Lal listened patiently and agreed that he found the Saxenas tiresome as well. It was just that in his old age, he no longer had the will to enter into more battles.
Anand told Colonel Lal his idea and said that he would talk to the other neighbours and get them on board his idea. The two talked for a while, agreed on a plan, after which Colonel Lal went to make some phone calls and Anand went to talk to the other neighbours.
The sun was just starting to show the first glimpses of light the following morning. Mr. Saxena was snoring and tossing in its sleep. Mrs. Saxena was also snoring next to him. Suddenly without warning the sound of loud band music thundered through the window. The Saxenas woke up with a jerk, startled at what this noise could possibly be. Mr. Saxena threw aside his sheets and raced to the window.
He was shocked to find a marching band on his front lawn playing military music. They were marching up and down on the grass destroying the flowers and ruining all the hard work that the gardener had put in. Mrs. Saxena was never in a good mood when she was woken up before noon, and she shouted angrily at her husband asking him to put an end to this ruckus. As Mr. Saxena ran out of the room in his dressing gown he could see that his teenage children were already awake and complaining about the noise.
Mr. Saxena raced out of the house shouting and screaming at the band demanding to know who they were and how they got there. The band leader ignored him, continuing to conduct the music played by his troops. Mr. Saxena stood in front of the band leader nose to nose and demanded an end to this noise. The band leader glared at him fiercely and made sure that Mr. Saxena could see his nostrils flare in anger.
Mr. Saxena suddenly went very quiet. The 20 man band continued playing, but now they were all glaring at him. They were all strong and well-built men, and Mr. Saxena suddenly got the uneasy feeling that they were all quite willing to make mincemeat out of him. He turned around and saw that his family was on the lawn as well angry at the commotion.
The band leader finally spoke, and he spoke in a stern voice.
“Mr. Saxena, we have a message for you from the people of this neighbourhood. The message is that THIS IS WHAT LOUD UNWANTED NOISE SOUNDS LIKE. YOU WILL KEEP HEARING THIS NOISE EVERY MORNING FOR TWO HOURS. IT WILL GRADUALLY INCREASE TO FOUR HOURS THEN EIGHT. IT WILL KEEP ON INCREASING TILL YOU STOP MAKING SO MUCH NOISE. OR ELSE LEAVE OUR PEACEFUL NEIGHBOURHOOD AND BE GONE FOR GOOD”
Mr. Saxena was shaken and so was his family. The people of this neighbourhood had somehow managed to get a military band to show them what ruckus and commotion sounds like. Like all others Mr. Saxena did not like it when the tables were turned on him. Partly in shame and partly in anger he turned around and stomped back into the house with his wife and kids in tow. Once inside they discussed the matter with each other and came to the conclusion that only Colonel Lal could have arranged this. But they did not have the courage to confront the colonel. So they decided to see what would happen the next day. Was the band’s threat an idle one or were they serious?
True to what they had said, the band came back the next morning with more ear shattering music and this time they played even longer.
Every morning Anand would sit on his bedroom window sill with a coffee mug in hand and watch the scene unfold. It was fun for him and painful for the Saxenas. Now the tables were turned and it was his neighbours next door who were suffering. Let them suffer, he thought. They had inflicted enough pain on others.
Then one day Anand went to the window with his coffee mug and looked out waiting to find the band, ready to play their loud music. But when he looked out he heard only silence and he saw no one on the lawn. He was baffled. What was going on?
He got dressed and quickly ran out of the house and went to the gates of the Saxena residence.
There was no one there. No band, no music, and most importantly not even the Saxenas. They were gone. They had taken their annoying music, and their loud lawn mower and their rickety car, and their pesky kids, and they had left.
Anand breathed a sigh of relief and just stood there for a while, enjoying the silence. Then he went back to his house, made himself a fresh pot of coffee, went to his study table, sat down, turned on the typewriter, and began writing. There was peace and quiet at last, and now he could dream again.