Rear Window

Posted August 24th, 2004 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Do you remember Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Rear Window? The protagonist in the movie is an adventure photographer who is forced to stay cooped up in his apartment due to a fractured leg. His only source of entertainment is the view from his rear window, as he observes the personal and at times private life of his neighbors in the opposite apartment complex. The inhabitants of the apartments range from a pretty young dancer who has to fight a bunch of pawing admirers, a lonely woman, a murderous husband, a couple of newlyweds, a nagging wife and a struggling musician. . Through his passive surveillance of the daily life of the residents of the opposite apartments, the director looks into the various relationships amongst people, especially man-woman relationships.

Nowadays I am in a similar situation. For 8 hours each day I am cooped up in an office room, forced to pass time by observing the various people passing outside my office and in the office complex outside us. My room is towards the rear of my office complex and it faces the back door of another office complex. One wall of my room– the one that I face while working–  is made of huge glass panes from the ceiling to the floor, perfect for window watching.  My room also has a door which opens out to the back of my office complex and there is a similar backdoor for the opposite complex in front of ours.   The backdoor is the easy access door to the cafeteria for both the office complexes and so has a steady stream of visitors passing through it, especially around the lunch hour.

Early morning is not a busy time. But I am kept busy at such times watching the antics of a bunch of lively squirrels who scramble across the ground and climb up and down the huge tree outside by window . They come without fail every morning, almost as if to wish me good morning and give a short display of their jumping skills and vanish discreetly amongst the trees, come early afternoon.

At around 11 am, the two young men in the office next to mine take a smoke break. They are almost always dressed in white shirts and grey or beige trousers. They stand under the tree, chatting for about 10 minutes and then I see one guy reluctantly drag the other away. The shorter guy appears several times more during the course of the day, puffing away at his cancer stick.. He paces up and down the little pathway puffing away, the length of his stride indicating his mood.

In the afternoon, 4 Indian guys from the opposite complex, come down for lunch. Their usual haunt is the wooden table and bench at the far left side of the path. From where I sit I can’t see the bench but I can see them walking briskly with colorful lunch boxes hanging on the shoulder, (one of them has a purple box) to the table. They are a quiet crowd ,not unruly, no boisterous laughter, but quietly sharing their food for exactly 45 minutes, after which they will get up and move back to the door, walking briskly again.

At 1: 30 a young lady, with black curly hair steps drives home for lunch. She is a young mother , I decide looking at her tote bag. It is one of those things you see young mothers carry, overstuffed and colorful. (Why does it need to be colorful…it’s the parents who carry it not the children??)

At around 3 pm, a big bosomed lady, stands outside the door of the opposite complex smoking away. Everyone in my office knows her, although only by sight. As one of my colleagues mentioned, she is one of the reasons our breast detector cannot be used optimally.

In the room right opposite mine, a young man stares at is computer screen. He is a restless personality I can tell by the way he wanders around his room after every 15 minutes. His supervisor sits in the adjacent room, with his desk facing me. He has a beautiful office and a lovely picture hangs behind his chair. He is hardly in the office though. When he is , he stops by at the desk of the young man , whence the young man starts furiously working. In the room above him, in the corner there is a huge board. Meetings take place in that room. On those days I see well dressed people standing near the board and talking earnestly. I can’t see the rest of the people, but I hope they are listening as earnestly. A sliver haired man steps out a couple of times to talk on his cell phone. He always seems to talk fast with one eye constantly looking at his watch as though each conversation has to end within 30 seconds.

The two large windows on the opposite bldg to my right are always obstinately shut. I spend some time imagining the people who might be working behind those windows. They are big windows, probably big office rooms with big officers sitting in plush desk with a plush carpet on the floor.

At around 4.30 pm, the janitor exits the building opposite to me and enters our office. He carries a huge trash can, a bunch of cleaning liquids , mops of various sizes and a vacuum cleaner. He positions all of this outside my door and then walks around to the main door and rings the bell. Once admitted into the office he walks across to my room, opens the backdoor and gathers all the tools of his trade and starts his job.

He is a stocky Mexican with almost no knowledge of English. I smile at him once he enters and thank him when he clears the trash can. That’s the sum total of our conversation. Although once I needed to ask him to clean my table because there were lot of ants there. It took me 10 minutes to explain this to him. It involved elaborate hand waving, which failed and then I thought the best way was to show him the creature and tell him “finito finito”. But ants , intelligent creatures that they are ,seemed oddly elusive at that moment. Till that time, they were merrily roaming across my table and even my keyboard but then they all decided to hide and watch my gestures. The explanation ended in a game of pictionary. I drew an insect and saw the man’s face light up. I don’t know what insect he thought it was, bees, bugs or roaches but …the ants were really gone

Just around the time the janitor leaves, there is an exodus from the opposite building, People hurrying to their cars, carrying car keys and bunches of files rushing homewards. It reminds me that it is time for me to go home too. I wait a little more till my boss leaves and then draw the blinds of my windows. Its time to go home.

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