Monsoon of Memories: The curious case of the doorbell
My love-hate relationship with the daily gongs that started early in the morning and punctuated the day till nightfall. One never knew what each new ring meant—it could be a pesky salesman or a welcome, aromatic curry offered by a neighbor.
I miss the sound of the doorbell, I told my parents over a call. Of course, when I go back home to visit them in New Delhi, I get miffed at how the doorbell never stops ringing in our home.
Ever since I can recall, our days started with the ding-dong sound, the first alarm of the day rung by the house help. It was welcomed by one and all—for, if she didn’t ring the bell at 6:30 a.m. sharp, our entire day would turn into an orchestra gone bad. A while later, it would be the milkman’s turn. Daily, he climbed up three floors to deliver the two packets of full cream milk. Next up was the trash collection fellow. It was after this that I stopped counting the chimes and got busy getting dressed for school.
Upon my return home, the melodious loop continued. Mum returned from her teaching job, which is when the help came back for her second shift; the laundryman came to collect clothes, having noticed from the ground floor, where he sat under a tree, that the clothes in our balcony had air-dried by now; neighbors’ children often rang the bell incessantly asking for contributions towards a class charity project; sometimes a salesman with a dozen encyclopaedias in hand would stand at the door and convince the parents to purchase a copy for the kids; other times a salesman from one of the water filter companies took a chance in case we weren’t consuming pure water.
And just like that, it would be time for the most awaited ring—for dad to return home. The doorbell rung by him and mum always sounded sweeter and familiar. Each had a distinctive style.
We’d settle in for the night, having eaten our dinner and packed our bags for the next day when the two-tone sound would reach our ears with an urgent shriek—this time, it would be the community security guard asking us if the neighbors could park at our car spot for the night.
I would like to believe it was a different time, but the doorbell and its romance with many homes like mine continue to flourish. Why do I miss it, one may wonder? A rather strange element of one’s past life to miss after all! Well, nobody rings the doorbell in a land away from home. Deliveries are left outside the door (lately more, due to Covid-19 protocols), friends and neighbors don’t surprise us (we’re all busier, plans are made after checking on WhatsApp, and location pins are sent to make sure the arrivals are welcomed), smart locks allow us to click on the app on the phone and let a cook enter the door (when we’re not around), we throw away the trash in the chute (within the community), milk for the week is bought ahead of time, and we let ourselves in (carrying a copy of home keys) after work.
It feels like a lifetime ago that I had remarked how one can never catch a wink because the doorbell is always at work. As I look back, I experienced a different emotion each time the bell rang. Love it or hate it, there is no way to date that I can ignore the gong that signifies the arrival of ironed clothes, or a hot curry offered by the neighbors.
Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this article, please write to email@example.com.
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