The Khan House was silent today. Eerily so. After a boisterous, noisy breakfast, the family had headed out for the day. Siblings Ayaan and Imaan, ten and eight respectively, had left for school along with their seven-year-old twin cousins, Jehanzeb and Shahzeb. Their sisters, tweens Mahira and Sahira had left for college and their parents, Ruqhsar and Sufiyan, to the university they taught at. Azaan, Sufiyan’s older brother, had headed off to his construction firm and Dadi had decided to stroll the neighborhood with Hafsa, Azaan’s wife.
It had been ages since they’d spied – err, that is, said hello to their neighbors. Welshing on neighborly duty did not become a Khan.
Since the entire clan was out and about, the day so far had been pretty peaceful. And pretty darn boring. Which is why the mansion itself was pouting. When walking by the road, if you were to turn your head and look through the wrought-iron gate, you’d see its unhappiness reflected in the slight, downward curve of the gleaming window sills, the irritated arch of the lintels and the incessant stubbornness of doors that refused to open.
The house abhorred silence, you see. It had tasted life – it’s glorious, heady imperfection – when the Khan’s moved in six years ago and now the walls were spoiled rotten. Used to noise and banter in the kitchen, shouts and fights in the lounge, and games and laughter in the corridors.
In the beginning, the house had resented the Khan’s, who were a rowdy bunch, politely speaking. In the fifteen years since the old mistress died, the mansion hadn’t allowed one family to make its nest, pigeons and people included. It had banged windows, shaken walls and growled so frighteningly, all life had hopped away like rabbits on skates.
But the Khan’s won over the mansion with their genetic mulishness.
The contractors were ordered to the ignore the snarling rumbles of the foundation, and scrap and paint the dull gray walls into soft, colorful sheen, polish wood and steel until it shone in the sun. Then came the pretty furnishings and bright doors, a choice the old mistress, fond of beiges and taupes as neutral as her face, would have puked over. Reluctantly happy with the new, eclectic look, the house had stopped sulking long enough to give the family a chance.
The board games arrived on the first weekend and the house learned that the Khan kids loved to beat and cheat each other. The women were fond of impromptu dance sessions, the men of un-rhyming slam poetry and the entire clan adored antaakshari competitions where everyone sang atrociously.
Consequently, the mansion now detested the rare occasions when blissful silence resided in it. And so during such times, it went about annoying the staff.
The doors locked themselves so the maids couldn’t escape. Windows opened grouchily for dry winter leaves to dance along the newly swiped floors. The furniture groaned when dusted and carpets flipped if vacuumed. Pots tumbled each other in the kitchen, and water taps and sprinklers spluttered without warning, drenching the unsuspecting staff with cold bursts of water. Vases upended their contents on the floor, curtains huffed and puffed, and lamps flickered nonstop.
But somewhere amid this chaos, silent conversations took place between beings not entirely natural. You see, not all things living have flesh and blood. Matter has a life of its own…