The Strange Story of Mr. Briggs- Chapter I
by Geetashree Chatterjee
(New Delhi, India)
I am not exactly at daggers drawn with Mr. Briggs, my neighbour, but I don?t like him either. There is something very distasteful about him. Unfortunately, we stay in the same building. He stays in the flat opposite - both ground floor dwellers. That is why, most probably, in spite of my not wanting to have anything to do with him, our paths cross now and then, which always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I don?t know about Mr. Briggs though. In fact, I wonder if anybody actually knows anything about him. He keeps to himself, hardly interacts with anybody in the block and even if one wants to do so with him (under duress or in exceptional circumstance), his response is so minimal or monosyllabic, that one ends up wondering why at all the conversation is initiated in the first place.
It is said that a dumb person does not have enemies. (In fact, he cannot because the seed of enmity lies in exchange of words!). Mr. Briggs has not crossed swords with anybody either. But he has a few very odd habits which irk me to no end. He is a loner. His wife died quite a few years back. His children are married and settled abroad. Rumour has it that Mr. Briggs once had a very cushy, handsomely paid job but he retired prematurely due to some mysterious health problem but nobody exactly knows what it was.
Picking flaws is very easy. So, I enlist Mr. Briggs virtues first.
Mr. Briggs is a peace loving man (as I have said he keeps to himself). He keeps his house spotlessly clean. He keeps himself spotlessly clean. He does all the household chores himself. No maid is allowed in. In fact, nobody in the Block has ever seen the interiors of Mr. Briggs' flat! He never invites anybody in! Every evening he religiously visits the temple, adjoining our Block. He is a devout worshiper of Lord Ganesha. I have found him prostrated in front of the deity, quite a number of times, his hands outstretched in a pranaam posture, the fingers almost tickling the tail of the rat sitting idly at the Lord's feet.
Mr. Briggs is of medium height. Often, I have seen him going for an early morning walk with a stealthy gait which some may find graceful. He is not exactly a dandy but colours his hair (I do not know whether this is a vice or a virtue!). One can make that out from the brown streaks amidst a mane of black. But as usual he must be saving each and every penny and doing the job himself. Result, a slap shod work which makes his hair look grubby.
I detest everything about him. So does my pet Mr. Snow Boot.
It is impossible to list out Mr. Briggs. vices. There are so many.
Mr. Briggs has to have fish every day (giving Bengalis a stiff competition any time!). How do I know that? By the plastic trash bin bag that he leaves out every evening and which every morning lies tattered and torn in the middle of the lane with the fish bones scattered all over. Some skulking cat or dog doing the honour!
I have pointed this out to Mr. Briggs innumerable times. In response, he just smiles.
Oh yes! Mr. Briggs does not allow the sweeper in too! But then he should dispose off the grub in the MCD dump yard located further down the main road! But he doesn't. He just smiles.
I was woken up from my afternoon nap, by a huge commotion outside. It was the guard and the RWA (Resident Welfare Association) assistant. The latter was out on collection of the outstanding Society Fees, a nominal amount which is paid by each resident family towards the maintenance of the Block. Mr. Briggs must have skipped his. The assistant had therefore called upon him, rung the bell and then knocked on the door several times. Not getting an answer from inside, he got worried and called the guard to help. Between both of them, they almost hammered down the door yelling out Mr. Briggs? name countless number of times. But Mr. Briggs did not open the door.
This is another one of his vices, if it can be called so. Mr. Briggs never answers the door bell during day time! He is just not seen in the mornings! Though he is equally incommunicable during the other half of the day, the difference is of degree and not of kind.
In the evening, Mr. Briggs was at the RWA Office depositing the pending Society Charges. I was there too with a complaint (No, not about Mr. Briggs). When asked about the morning, he apologetically coughed and said that he had taken a sleeping pill last night and the drowsy spell continued till late during the day. That was why he could not hear the banging on the door!!!!!!!!!!
Mr. Briggs has a soft, sing song voice which reminds me of something, I can't place what it is now!
Mr. Briggs is self centered..
Mr. Briggs is contemptuous of his neighbours.
Mr. Briggs is unsocial..
Mr. Briggs is vain.
Mr. Briggs hardly has any sense of humour..
When he smiles his eyes do not lit up.
Oh! I can go on and on and on.
But most of all he is strange, very, very strange.End of Chapter 1