This is not a fiction story. Last night there was a big fire outside my house and like a cheap journalist, I’m ripping the night’s event as a story idea, and writing a blog post about it. (Of course, I don’t have a picture of it, because I’m not that cheap a journalist to not to anything about the fire and stand clicking pictures, especially when it’s my car that’s about to catch fire). Anyway.
Every night, my dad comes home from the garage at 9 thirty, after fixing all the bikes and an occasional car. We have dinner watching TN Seetharam‘s never ending TV serials. It used to be Mayamruga whenI was 11, then Manvanthara, then Muktha, then Minchu, then Muktha Muktha and now it’s Maha Parva. It has been the same routine forever, except the number of people sitting at the dining table has changed (now it’s minus my grandma and my sister, who is married and watching Times Now, during dinner, instead), and the names of the serial itself, although the content is pretty much the same.
Anyway, so we had a peaceful dinner, followed by my dad lying on the sofa, increasing the volume on TV, my mum increasing her own volume, yelling and asking him to reduce the volume, me just sitting and reading Three Men in a Boat. Just day-to-day stuff, you know. I told my mum something was burning and my mum checked the stove and said there was nothing on it. I shrugged and stuck my nose back into my book. Suddenly, someone began banging at our main door. We all looked at the door and for a second, just sat and looked. The rest of the story is as follows:
Mom: Who do you think it is? At this hour?
(We all turn to look at the clock, which is set 25 minutes late, so it just gives us the feeling that it’s always late. The clock presently showed 11 pm, which is really late for someone to come knocking, by our standards)
Me: I don’t know. Maybe Sunayana. Because who else would bang the door like that?
I open the door. It’s the man who lives opposite to our house, Murali uncle, shirtless, with a surprisingly big paunch and clad in a lungi and no chapplis.
Murali uncle: Nim car benki hathkond urithaide! (You car is ablaze!)
My dad jumps off the sofa, flinging his hands in shock, tossing a bunch of things off the centre table, that fall making a loud clinging, clattering noise. My mum, almost in tears and a pained look, gasps. I wordlessly run after Murali uncle, down the staircase outside and onto the road where our car is parked. From the staircase itself I could see an orange glow on the road outside. I thought Oh shit! Please don’t go boom car! because of course I’m concerned about people’s safety more than the red Maruthi Esteem itself.
So yeah, I ran out and saw my car. I could see the left side of the car, there was no fire on that side. On the other side was a growing fire, taller than the car itself and it was burning with all its might. I wasn’t wearing chappli and was too shocked to go close to the car. For what felt like ten minutes (although it was hardly two seconds), I stood with my palms clasping my jaw-dropped face. My dad ran towards the car to see what could be done.
Then suddenly it stuck me out of nowhere. WATER! I always thought that during emergencies, I’ll absolutely forget what to do. But water came to my mind instinctively. I was so proud of myself. My mum was still on her way out of the house, when I ran back, fetched a full bucket of water and took it to my dad, still with no slippers. This time, I went all the way to the other side of the car and saw for myself. The car was completely fine. Phew! (Thu you cheap bastards were hoping the story was going to be epic with a full blown disaster eh? As much as you’d like to read about such things, I wouldn’t write a blog post about such a disaster. I’d be distraught and beside myself in agony. I have left a very nice Bodyshop lip gloss in the back seat of my car). The fire was growing less than an inch away from the car and had Murali uncle been late by five minutes, the car would’ve been a wreck.
All my neighbours ran out of their houses, a few with buckets slopping with water and a few just to look and exclaim a loud “Haw! Kai zala?” or “Kasan zala?” or “Aiyo! Enna Natantatu!” It took us around 15-20 minutes to put the fire out. We didn’t need to call a fire truck or anything. My car was safe and the fire was out, all 15 neighbours, strolled back inside the compound in twos and threes, discussing what might have happened.
“You know! Three boys came running inside the compound, and hid in that corner house! We got scared and shut the door when we saw them pa! Maybe it was them!” contemplated a Rajani atthya. (These titles like ‘atthya,’ ‘moushi’ and ‘kaka’ become universal terms when one of the youngsters in the compound calls their aunts/uncles that. So Uttara’s Shubadha moushi is moushi for everyone. Pranjali’s Rajini atthya is atthya for everyone). The mystery of who started the fire still remains unresolved but my dad is being extra cautious and planning to install a CCTV camera outside the house. (Damn! I can’t be sneaky anymore!)
The whole experience was like one of those fire drills that happen in office spaces. We all worked efficiently together and avoided a crazy mishap all thanks to Murali uncle’s misinformation about the car already being on fire. Everyone went back inside and continued watching TV, talking, arguing and I stuck my nose back into my book.
Stay cautious everyone.
Until next time.