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Living in Manbir Colony

rain dropping from roof


It was already June of 2020 when I moved to Manbir Colony.
The guest who came in March stayed on,
Fifteen days turned to a month then three.
Monsoon brought with it day-long downpours.
Going door to door enquiring for rooms is hard
But the public fright and the frigid cold made it harder,
Distrust had grown and people were alarmed
Yeses, and nos, todays and tomorrows,
Karuna![1] Silgadi bata po aako?[2], and “Keta ho ki keti hau?[3]
Were clear indicators that I wouldn’t find home there.
Days upon days rushed by, tatoh chiya, alu thukpa, chicken cowrie, and beer kept us warm during the rejections.
The month was already ending when I finally found a house.
My parents were relieved in a different state.


July came with hope, and home.
The rain persisted outside, I nestled in.
It was always freezing in Manbir Colony.
A thick fog engulfed the place at all times.
The water was frigid and sometimes ran muddy due to pipe bursts.
Clothes didn’t dry and everything smelled stale.
But I was indoors, wrapped in blankets, surrounded by light green walls,
Curtains coloured like milk coffee, and cheap scented candles.
Video calls and phone calls,

Text messages, exchanging pictures of meals kept us connected.
I worked during the day on my laptop, checking papers, grading tests.
Come nightfall I would roll around in bed
Watching fantasy movies.


Canned tuna quickly became my favourite food during this time.
It tasted the best when cooked with onion, chilly and tomatoes.
I relished it with rice and sliced cucumber.
One night I lay rolling in my bed, watching a thriller.
Right when the man axed down a wooden door, I heard a loud noise.
Snatching off my earphones I listened and listened intently.
Another loud scratching and the shuffling on the balcony died in a snap.
The silence grew and I treaded lightly towards the balcony.
With my ear against the door I listened a little and then swung the door open.
A small animal with two glowing beads for eyes jumped off the balcony into the rain,
Leaving behind a ransacked trashcan that smelled of tuna.


Double mask mandate, government circulars, set-time grocery runs kept us all busy.
My days were filled with attempts at keeping my clothes dry as the rainclouds shifted.
When my 23rd birthday came I was determined to get a birthday drink.
It started pouring early and the day remained grey.
Hour after hour, I peered outside to see if the rain had stopped.
At 3:30 when it started getting slightly darker,
I picked up my umbrella and started climbing uphill.
As usual, only one store was open.
I bought a few snacks, and then bravely enquired if the shopkeeper knew of a place.
He laughed loudly and asked, “Aju special cha, baini?”[4]
To which I replied, “Saaroi jaaro bhayo hau.[5]
I knocked on a lowered shutter of a store the shopkeeper had pointed towards.
Ko ho?[6] a woman questioned. I made my request and she quoted her price.
Placing exactly three newspaper wrapped bottles in my backpack, I sauntered down.


I sat on the carpeted floor drinking straight from the bottle.
Packet chips, fried eggs, sliced cucumbers, and a can of tuna; motley, my snacks.
I tried playing a song but the buffering internet made it lag.
The buzz was kicking in, and fast.
I tapped on a number and tried video calling xyz but that lagged too.
Several tries later, we connected for a bit.
They were laughing with me, at me, and told me to take it easy.

Few hours later, when the bottles and the plates were empty, I climbed into bed.
It was past 11pm and two message notifications popped in one after the other.
11:08 pm, 11:09 pm. Both said, “Happy Birthday!”
I started bawling. The choking made my stomach uneasy.
I jolted up, rushed to the bathroom and hurled my guts out.

[1] The Nepali way of saying Corona Virus. The humour lies in it also being a common name for a girl.
[2] “Oh! So, you came from Siliguri?” The plains were known to have a higher number of Covid-19 cases because of the size of the population.
[3] “Are you a girl or a boy?”
[4] “Is it a special day?” Said in broken Nepali typically spoken by non-Nepali persons.
[5] “Just feeling very cold”
[6] “Who is it?”

Cover Image: Photo by Anna Atkins on Unsplash