A Big Bollywood Fan: by Pravasan Pillay

You should bang on the wall a few times,” Anika suggested, propping herself on her elbows and leaning in to his side of the bed. “Not too aggressive – just enough to let them know that they’re keeping us awake. It’s like a quarter past eleven. I need to be up at six tomorrow for the lift club. It’s my first day catching a ride with them to work and I don’t want to oversleep and make them wait for me. God, what a terrible first impression that would be.”

Dinesh pretended to yawn and turned to his wife. “It’s not that bad though, is it? I was nearly asleep.” He pawed at his eyes for extra effect.

“Not that bad? Are you crazy?” Anika blurted. “It’s just too loud for this time of night. And it’s for the second night in a row. Yesterday it only stopped at three in the morning. Who does that? It’s a Monday for goodness sake. I can’t have another night like the last one.”

The bedside lamp in the room was switched off, but Dinesh didn’t need it to know that his wife was wearing her pissed-off face. To be perfectly honest he was probably more annoyed by the sounds coming through from the other side of their bedroom wall than she was. He had been trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep for the past hour and was about ready to snap. But it wouldn’t help the situation if they were both angry. He needed to be the calm one.

Their house was a semi-detached council-build and shared a dividing wall with their neighbour’s in several rooms including the master bedroom and the guest room. This was only their third night living here. They had moved in on Saturday. That first night they had slept downstairs on a mattress in the lounge, amongst all the still sealed moving boxes. Apart from being quite romantic, it was also an incredible feeling, to finally, after years of saving and renting tiny flats in the city, to sleep under a roof of their own. Their own. No one else’s. And no nosy landlord to deal with.

Last night, once everything was unpacked and their army of helpers consisting of friends and family had left, they had settled in for the evening in their new bedroom, tired and hoping for a long sleep.

The booming through the wall began about a half hour later.

“It’s a movie,” Anika had giggled, resting her head on his chest. “They’re watching an Indian movie.” Dinesh wasn’t at all a Bollywood fan but he knew enough to recognise the dramatic music and even more dramatic Hindi dialogue.

“We should ask them if we can borrow it,” Dinesh had joked back. “It sounds like fun.”

“Are they deaf though?” Anika had replied. Again in a jovial mood. “Why is the volume turned-up so much? Do they have an IMAX over there?”

And for about two hours or so they had laughed together, still high on the feeling of being in their bedroom for the first time, at the loud, but muffled dialogue and the regular music and dance interludes being transmitted through the thin, brick walls. But then the movie ended and after a five minute break another movie, also a Bollywood flick, began.

They didn’t laugh during this one.

“I know, I know, I also can’t have another night like last night…” Dinesh replied, stroking Anika’s arm. “You’re right. But this is part of the package of life in a township. It’s gonna be noisy at times. We knew this when we signed the mortgage papers last month. There are compromises you make when you want to buy a house. It was this or a one bedroom flat in the city – and I know what I prefer. And I mean it’s not like they’re having a party or something. They’re just watching some movies. Indian movies too – you love those.”

Dinesh hated himself for defending the neighbour’s rude behaviour. He placed his palm on his wife’s bulging stomach and reminded himself why he had to placate her. Anika was seven months pregnant and one of the things the midwife kept telling them was to keep her stress-free and her blood pressure down.

The baby wasn’t kicking. At least someone’s getting some sleep, he thought to himself.

“Ja, but it’s so freaking loud. Why does it have to be so loud? Don’t they know we’re here?” Anika retorted. She lifted his hand off of her stomach and rolled to her pillow. “And another thing. We moved in on Saturday and they haven’t even come to visit or welcome us. Didn’t they see the moving truck? I haven’t seen a curtain stir there. God, who are these idiots? Do you want me to go bang on the wall?”

“No, no-one is banging on anything,” Dinesh said, spooning her. “We’re going to have to live next to these people for many years to come. Let’s not make our first interaction with them this way. Try to go to sleep somehow.”

Anika snorted, brought her blanket to her shoulders and turned her back to him.

Why is she going off on me, Dinesh thought. I’m not the one making the racket. He was serious about putting the right foot forward with the neighbours though. This was going to be home – and good homes needed good relationships with the neighbours. They had no other choice really. Every single cent they had was sunk into buying this house. And it had been a bargain. The previous owner, an old widow in her late eighties, had died and her family wanted the place sold immediately, at well below market price. They had been lucky to find the property. A neighbour watching Bollywood movies loudly wasn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things. They needed to have some perspective, and be grateful for owning a home.

Dinesh leaned over and kissed Anika on her shoulder.

“Love you,” she said.

“Love you,” he replied, with a strained smile, in the darkness.

On the other side of the wall, an upbeat Bollywood dance item began.

It was midnight now.

The retching behind the bathroom door stopped, and Dinesh heard the toilet flush once, refill, and flushed a second time. Then came the bathroom tap, its washer was worn and it squealed like an animal in pain.

I must get that changed, Dinesh thought, making a mental note. There were a lot of things that needed to get fixed around the house, and the yard also needed a thorough cleaning, which was why he had taken one week off from work. He was going to paint some of the rooms as well. He would complete the remainder of the painting during the weekends.

He heard Anika gargle and spit, and finally the shuussht from a can of air freshener. The door opened, the smell of cherry blossoms and mint – the scent his wife favoured – rushing out.

He showed a concerned face to Anika. It wasn’t an act. Anika hadn’t thrown up or displayed any signs of morning sickness since her first trimester. He was internally debating phoning their midwife for advice – even though Anika had already said that it wasn’t necessary.

“Are you okay, hun?” Dinesh asked, putting his hand on the top of her back. She gave a thin smile, and took a couple of deep breaths.

“God, were you listening to me?”

“Nothing I haven’t heard from you before. Especially during our partying days. You could never hold your liquor,” Dinesh replied, giving her a playful nudge.

“Well, apparently now I can’t hold my oatmeal. Anyway, I’m fine really. I just felt a little nauseous. I should get going, my lift club will be here in ten minutes.”

“Do you want me to get you something? Maybe you should stay away from work today?”

“I’ve got too much to do at the office. And I promise you, it’s nothing serious. The only thing that’s wrong with me is that I’m completely exhausted. I need a good night’s sleep that’s all,” Anika replied, walking past him and to the kitchen, where she began packing her lunch.

“I’m sorry, hun,” Dinesh stared at her in the harsh daylight. Even though she had applied her makeup, it didn’t hide the rings around her eyes, and her droopy eyelids. He was sure that he looked worse. He was drained.

Yesterday was the fourth consecutive night that a Bollywood double-feature was blasted through their wall. Like clockwork around ten-thirty the television would be switched on and moments later a DVD loaded. Four nights of this madness. Four nights of only getting to bed at around three in the morning. And it was not like they could go to another room for a bit of respite. They only owned the one bed, a king-size base and mattress, and there was no way that Dinesh could carry it all by himself into the guest room. Besides even if he could carry the bed the guest room wasn’t much of an improvement in terms of noise. Only the lounge seemed safe but again he wasn’t about to haul the bed there.

“You know you need to go over there today right? It’s getting ridiculous. Enough is enough. Take them some of the biscuits I baked,” Anika said, stuffing a bunch of grapes in her lunch-tin and closing it. “Be nice about it. But you need to get the message across.”

Dinesh grimaced. He knew she was right. He had initially planned to wait it out until the weekend and hope that this was just a phase, that the person was suffering from a bout of insomnia and would soon return to a normal sleep routine. But he couldn’t take it anymore.

“And it’s not healthy for the baby for me to not get any shut eye,” Anika continued. “If I’m tired all day it also affects the baby.”

“I’ll go over later,” Dinesh replied, giving Anika as confident a front as he could muster. He hated any sort of confrontation. One of the best things about living in flats all those years was that you could always complain to the landlord or supervisor on the rare occasion you had an issue with a neighbour. Now they were on their own and responsible for everything.

“I just hope they’re at home and not at work,” Dinesh said. He still hadn’t seen their neighbours outside and had no idea of who lived there.

“Thanks, sweetheart. And trust me, someone who watches movies until that late isn’t going to work the next day. They probably don’t even know that they’re causing a disturbance,” Anika replied, gathering her backpack and work files under her arm. “Give us a goodbye kiss before my ride arrives. Don’t worry I gargled.”

Dinesh smiled, then hugged and kissed his wife. He bent down in front of her and planted a kiss on her stomach. “Have a nice day, kiddo,” he whispered.

Dinesh gave two meaty knocks on the wooden front door of their neighbour’s house. In his other hand he carried a plate of short bread that Anika had baked the previous night before coming to bed at around two.

“I might as well get something done,” she had said.

Seconds passed and Dinesh didn’t hear any sort of movement inside. Maybe, they weren’t at home. The thought filled him with a bit of relief. He had been dreading coming over the entire morning. If they weren’t in he could postpone having this awkward chat a while longer. Anika couldn’t get mad at him for that. He didn’t control their comings and goings.

But what about the baby? Anika needed to get some proper rest tonight. Perhaps he didn’t have to talk to the neighbours. He could write a polite note and slip in their postbox and leave the biscuits on their window ledge? That could work.

He still heard nothing. Knock one more time, and if no-one answers you can go home and write a note. Dinesh tightened his fist and was about to knock again when the door was unlatched. It wasn’t opened all the way, but it was enough to make out the person standing there. It was a woman, in her early sixties, around his mother’s age. She was small in size, a creased housecoat hanging off her frail body. She looked like she had just woken from a nap, her graying hair was untidy and her eyes groggy.

I guess that explains how she can stay up that late, he thought. She sleeps all day.

“Hi,” Dinesh said, getting over his momentary shock, raising his hand. He smiled broadly. “We just moved in,” he said, pointing his thumb to his house. “I’m Dinesh.”

The woman inched out a little more and stared at Dinesh and then at the short bread. He couldn’t interpret the look on her wrinkled face, it was blank, or slightly confused, like a person who hadn’t interacted with others in while. She was likely still in dreamland.

Then very quickly – lightening quick – the confusion cleared, like something clicking on, and her eyes were alert and watchful, like a guard dog. “You’re here to complain about the noise every night?” the woman stated, with a timid, but knowing voice. “The films.”

“Uh,” Dinesh replied, fumbling on his words, with a sheepish grin, rubbing the back of his head. “I mean, that’s not the main reason why I’m here. I wanted bring these and introduce myself.” He tilted the short bread. “It’s from my wife, but she’s at work,” he continued, trying to keep smiling. “But ja, the movies… The walls are so thin, you know. It’s kind of difficult to sleep…”

The woman considered him with sympathetic eyes. “Mrs. Naidoo, she was the woman who owned your house before you, was hard of hearing and the films never bothered her. But I suppose it’s too much to ask for every neighbour to be deaf.”

Dinesh tittered nervously. This wasn’t going as bad as he thought it would go, and the woman seemed agreeable enough. Who knew why she watched those movies at that time of night and at such high volume. Maybe she couldn’t sleep? Or maybe she was also hard of hearing like the late Mrs. Naidoo? Whatever the basis for her behaviour she was at least aware of it. That meant that she could be negotiated with, and a compromise hopefully arrived at.

“I’m certainly not asking you to stop watching the movies,” Dinesh said, shaking his hand in front of his chest. “Not at all. If you could just turn down the volume a few notches that would be perfect. It’s just that Anika, my wife, is pregnant and she needs to get a solid sleep – for the baby’s sake.”

The mention of his pregnant wife seemed to affect the woman and she cupped her palm to her mouth. “Oh no…I’m so sorry,” she said, softly through her fingers.

She appeared genuinely concerned.

“She’s completely fine,” Dinesh replied, trying his best to reassure her. “Nothing to apologise about. But yes, please lower the volume when you’re watching. We actually both love Bollywo-”

The woman stopped him. “It’s not me that’s watching the films. It’s my son, Boya.”

Dinesh was a little taken aback by this new piece of info, after all it was uncommon, at least in Durban, for men to watch Indian movies regularly. But it didn’t change anything about the situation.

“Okay, maybe you could relay the message to Boya for me,” Dinesh replied, earnestly. “I’d really appreciate it.”

A strange look – fear? – passed the woman at the mention of her son’s name. For the first time in their conversation, Dinesh felt apprehensive.

“There’s no point in doing that. He won’t turn down the volume,” the woman said, or rather whispered. “He likes to watch his films on his surround sound system. It’s like being in the cinema he says.”

The fear in her voice was more apparent now. Dinesh felt his chest grow heavy and contract, as if he was underwater. This wouldn’t be as easy as he thought moments ago. The woman in front of him was normal and reasonable but the look on her face told him clearly that her son – presumably a grown man – wasn’t.

So what though, Dinesh thought to himself. I’m in the right here. What could he possibly do to me?

“I think I should talk to your son,” Dinesh said, his tone flatter and matter of fact. Determined.

The woman replied: “Dinesh, is it?”

Dinesh nodded.

“You don’t want to do that, Dinesh. You don’t want to talk to my son. You don’t want nothing to do with him. If the films are bothering you, use ear plugs when you’re going to bed. I say this as his mother: He’s not well. He will hurt you.”

It all seemed like a joke, like something out of The Godfather, or more accurately one of those hyper-melodramatic Bollywood movies. But the woman was dead serious, scared even.

Dinesh was suddenly filled with a mix of unease and anger. Who did this asshole think he was? How dare he hold them hostage in their bedroom?

At the same time, if his own mother said such things, maybe it would be best to take her advice and leave it alone. Why court trouble? Keep your head down and mind your business. But what would Anika say if she knew he had wimped out and avoided confronting the man?

The woman seemed to sense his turmoil. “I want to show you something. I want you to come in. Take off your shoes please, and be very, very quiet.”

Dinesh looked at her. The concern and sympathy of earlier had returned to her face. He trusted her. He didn’t respond, but nevertheless took off his sneakers and stepped inside her house.

It was dark. All the curtains in the lounge were drawn, and it took a moment or two for his eyes to adjust. There wasn’t that much of furniture, an old fashioned sofa set, a coffee table and a display stand holding bric-a-brac and photos. On one of the sofas was a rumpled throw and a pillow. The woman – he still didn’t know her name – walked beside him.

“As you can see I was taking a small snooze when you knocked,” she said, under her breath. She was talking even more softly than before if that was possible. Dinesh raised his eyebrows, disinterested.

“The house is in a state. It’s been a while since it’s had a spring clean. And sorry about it being so dark. Boya doesn’t like to draw the curtains or open the windows,” she said, going to the sofa and making a small show of straightening the throw. “He doesn’t like the outside to come in.”

An odd phrase, he thought. It was only now that the mustiness of the room hit him, stale and behind it hung the vague smell of damp.

“It’s a nice place you have,” Dinesh said, finally. It was lie, of course, but he needed to say something to break the silence, and clear the air after the threat the woman had issued a moment ago. The sooner he got out and back home the better.

The woman immediately shushed him, with a finger to her lips.

“Please, you need to keep it down,” she said, admittedly with a sheepish averted gaze. “Boya is sleeping and I don’t want to wake him. He sleeps most of the day. He gets very upset if he’s disturbed.”

He could see that she knew full well how absurd her request was.

The woman pointed upstairs. Dinesh made out faint snoring.

“Of course,” he replied, in as mockingly soft and polite voice as he could manage. Mustn’t wake the baby. Meanwhile, my pregnant wife only got to sleep at half three. The unease that he had felt outside was starting to be overcome with irritation. The arrogance of this man.

Dinesh put down the short bread on the coffee table. “So what is it that you want to show me?” he asked. “Or are you going to give me more threats from your son?”

The woman wordlessly walked to the display stand, picked up a small frame and handed it to him. The frame held a old photo taken in a studio: a young man and his wife, and a preteen boy.

“This is my husband and me with Boya. We only had the one child,” she explained, saddling next to him. “My husband is dead. He’s been dead for twenty years. A heart attack. It’s just Boya and myself left. It’s tough for us financially. I’m retired and collect a state pension while Boya collects his disability cheque every month. But we get by somehow – I’m not complaining.”

The woman caught his surprise at the mention of ‘disability’.

            He’s not well. He will hurt you, she had said earlier. Why should he be scared of a disabled person?

“Boya isn’t in a wheelchair or something if that’s what you’re thinking. He has a condition. A special condition. Take another gander at that photo,” the woman instructed.        “How old would you say my son is there?”

“I don’t know,” Dinesh replied, still reeling somewhat from her revelation. “Eleven or twelve?”

“He’s three there,” she answered, quickly.

“Three!?” Dinesh nearly shouted, then remembering the woman’s warning and covering his mouth. He stared at the photo and whispered the next part. “There’s no way that he’s three. He looks like a bloody teenager.”

The woman had a proud smile – as if she got a kick out of shocking him.

“Boya has always been a big boy. I guess that’s a bit of an understatement. He was two to three times larger than all the kids in his daycare and his primary school. This was before we pulled him out of school. He got into a fight with another eight-year-old and broke both the poor boy’s arms. We couldn’t take another chance of him injuring or worse killing a fellow pupil – which, believe me, was a definite possibility. Even after he was out of school there were incidents – violent incidents – in the neighbourhood. He has an awful temper,” the woman said. She sounded like she was discussing a naughty puppy rather than what was obviously a disturbed child.

She seemed almost eager to share her story, as if she hadn’t had a real conversation in a long time, as if they were just two neighbours gabbing about local gossip.

“The doctors said he had some kind of hormone and gland problem, a disorder in their words. I don’t understand everything about this disorder, but I know that it makes him grow faster than a normal person and that it affects his moods. It really affects his moods. He has pills to help with it but to be honest the only thing that seems to calm him down is his films. He loves his Indian films, especially the action ones. I have to buy him new DVDs every week.”

Dinesh stared at her stunned and tried his best to process this flood of information. He didn’t know what to make of it. Part of him thought that the lack of sleep had finally caught up with him and he was hallucinating. He had been using a lot of paint thinners recently so it wasn’t completely out of the realms of possibility.

“Are you a Christian, Dinesh?” the woman asked, looking very much real and not a figment of his imagination. “Do you read the Bible?”

Dinesh shook his head. “Hindu.”

“But you know the story of David and Goliath?”

“Ja, who doesn’t.”

“The simplest way I can put this is that my son is like Goliath. He’s a giant.”

Dinesh snorted through his nose in disbelief.

“Follow me,” the woman said, heading towards the stairs. It came out more like an order than a request. “Again, please be quiet.”

Might as well, Dinesh thought. Humour her. A giant! What was the next thing she was going to say? That her nephews were tokoloshes? There was no way that this morning could get any weirder.

He trailed the woman as she tiptoed up the stairs of her home, and headed to the closed door of the master bedroom. The upstairs was as sparsely decorated as the downstairs, with not a single frame on the walls. The woman carefully opened the door to the room, but it creaked, causing her to stand still until she was sure that whoever, whatever?, lay inside was asleep. The snoring coming from the room was loud – uncommonly loud – and deep.

Again, the tightness in his chest increased. What was he doing here?

The woman, in what appeared to be her trademark gesture, held a finger to her lips and then pointed into the room. She was going to let him peek at her giant.

Dinesh aped her exaggerated slow movements and stuck his head in the room. Like the lounge it was dark but the odour was far worse, terrible in fact. It stunk of old food and sweat. He had to resist the urge to gag. It was a dump. The floor was covered with crusty dinner plates, clothing and, most of all, stacks and stacks of DVDs. There was enough to stock a small video store. A television with a DVD player on top sat in one corner. Large speakers straddled each end of the television and were pointed, Dinesh noted with ire, directly towards the dividing wall he shared with his neighbour. Plastered around the room were posters of – presumably – Bollywood stars, muscular men and pretty, busty women. Dinesh didn’t recognise any of them.

The bed was out of his eyeline and he had to edge in some more. He gingerly stepped further in, trying to avoid a pile of plates at his feet. And then he saw him. Or at least he saw the shape of him, curled under the blanket. His entire body, including his head, was hidden.

Jesus. The woman wasn’t lying. He was huge. No, scratch that. Gigantic. It was like bags and bags of cement under there. It was hard to say with the blanket and all but Dinesh guessed that the man must have been easily over two metres, perhaps two and half metres. The bed was too small for him and it sunk under his weight.

Dinesh needed to get a better look. He walked into the room proper. He immediately felt the woman grab a hold of him, trying to pull him back out. He shook her off, but in doing so nearly tripped on the plates on the floor. Luckily, he managed to side step and land on an enormous pair of track pants – which were definitely homemade.

That was too close.

“Get out of there, you were only meant to peep in,” the woman hissed at him. “He will kill you.”

Dinesh ignored her. His curiosity had taken control. He wanted to see this monster, who had been tormenting them, with his own eyes. He was still cautious though. He certainly didn’t want to wake the freak – just have a closer inspection. The man’s snoring continued, blissfully unaware that there was a gawker in his squalid room.

Dinesh got to the bed and lifted the blanket a few centimetres. He caught a glimpse of a foot and gasped. He didn’t lift the blanket any further. That was all he needed to see. The foot was easily twice the size of his own size tens. It was hard to believe, almost otherworldly. It wasn’t merely the size though, it was how the foot looked. It was flat, gnarled, and hairy with thick, long blackened nails and cracked heels, red, raw callouses and it was filthy underneath, like it had never been washed. It was one of the grossest and simultaneously scariest things he had ever seen. The man – if that indeed was what he was and Dinesh was beginning to have his doubts about that – stirred, but he was still asleep.

Dinesh turned in disgust and made his way to the door, zigzagging through the DVD stacks and plate landmines all around the floor. One thing he was sure of: He never wanted to enter this room or this house again. Or more accurately to ever find out what lay under the rest of that blanket. When he was out the woman wordlessly took his arm and led him to the stairs.

“You’re very lucky,” she said, when they were back in the lounge. “You nearly got yourself badly hurt. I can’t imagine what would have happened if he woke.”

She walked towards the front door and passed him his sneakers. “You need to leave here. I took too much of a risk inviting you in. But do you believe me now?”

Dinesh nodded at once. There was no way not to believe her after what he saw. True, it wasn’t the fairy-tale picture of a giant that had initially popped into his head when the woman had first used the word to describe her son, but he a giant nevertheless. A grotesque.

But what was he going to do about the nights? Was this going to be the rest of his and Anika’s lives? To not get any sleep? To look like zombies? He had to try one more time.

“Couldn’t you could talk to your son on our behalf? Tell him that we’re expecting a baby. Tell him that Anika is pregnant. I know he has a disorder and a temper and whatnot but surely you can reason with him. He’s still your son,” Dinesh pleaded, standing at the door, with his shoes in his hands.

The woman gently pushed him outside, and locked eyes with him. “I already spoke to him about it. On Saturday, when you moved in, I told him that he should skip his films for a few days, to give you a chance to settle in.”

“And what did he say?” Dinesh asked.

“He didn’t say anything,” the woman replied. “But he did give me this –” The woman pulled on the sleeve of her housecoat and showed her arm to Dinesh. His mouth hung open. Her arm was covered in bruises, gone a mixture of black and yellow in colour. But the sickest thing about the bruises was that Dinesh could make out the vague shapes of fingers in them.

Massive fingers.

“Oh my god,” was all he could say.

The woman released her sleeve. “Stay away from here and you and your family will be fine,” she said. She shut the door in his face.

Dinesh staggered in a daze onto the street and through the gate to his yard. Images of the woman’s bruised arm flashed through his head. The yellowness of them. Images of the foot he had seen. The smell of the room. Everything was spinning. Dinesh hunched over and threw up on his front lawn.

“Babe, Game City has the same stroller we saw at Hyper for R200 less,” Anika said, handing him the ad insert from The Daily News. Dinesh scanned the page, under the dim bedside lamp.

“At the bottom,” Anika added.

“Cool, it’s the same colour we wanted,” Dinesh replied.

He studied the specs of the stroller. “We should take a drive there on Saturday morning and buy it. We have the lunch at your father’s at twelve but I think we can make it back in time. What do you say?”

“Definitely,” Anika replied, tossing the other sections of newspaper to the floor and getting under the covers. “I’m going to hit the sack. Will you see to Kriya?”

“What time is it?” Dinesh asked.

“It’s nearly time.”

Dinesh got out from bed and went to his daughter’s crib. There she was, his pride and joy. Absolutely gorgeous, with a pile of black hair. She was asleep, her tiny arm under her pillow, in much the same way that her mother slept. She had turned five months only a week ago and already she was like a real person with a personality all of her own. She was just perfect.

Dinesh reached inside his pyjama pocket and pulled out two small ear plugs, which he inserted very carefully in his daughter’s ears. She groaned but her sleep didn’t break. She was used to it now. The ear plugs were bought from the pharmacy and were specially designed for babies to use on aeroplanes.

Dinesh glanced at Anika and watched her putting her ear plugs in.

“Love you,” Dinesh said.

“Did you say something?” Anika asked. She removed one of the plugs.

“I said, ‘I love you’,” he replied, climbing back into bed and giving her a kiss.

“Love you too, hun,” she said, once their lips parted. She stuck the plug back in her ear and placed her head on her pillow. “Sweet dreams.”

Dinesh switched off the lamp and scrolled down his Facebook feed. The light from his phone gave the room a warm, cozy glow. Five minutes later, the opening musical notes of a Bollywood film began to seep loudly through their wall. He recognised the song. A repeat. Dinesh scrolled down his feed some more. Then he put his phone down, picked up his plugs from his side table and pushed them in his ears. Cocooned by the foam of the plugs, the night in Chatsworth almost seemed like it was silent and peaceful.



Pravasan Pillay is a South African writer. He has published two chapbooks of poetry, Glumlazi (2009) and 30 Poems (2015), as well as a collection of co-written comedic short stories, Shaggy (2013). Pillay’s short story collection, Chatsworth, was published in 2018 by Dye Hard Press. He is the editor of the micro press Tearoom Books.

Related country: South Africa

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