[This won me a first place on Shakespeare and Company]
Late at night, when the rest of my family is asleep, I am reading Stephen Jay Gould in my little study. I hear a soft whisper behind my shoulder.
"Thanks", it says. I turn around. There is no one.
"Who was it?" I try to yell while muffling my sound.
"'Tis me, the bookshelf. Don't be frightened. I just want to say thanks."
"Why?" I ask, trying to suspend disbelief.
"I would have been satisfied to live out my life as piece of middle-class kitchen furniture; content in the company of tumblers, plates and utensils. You gave me a breath of new life when you volunteered to have me as your bookshelf, when the new kitchen cupboard came. And you have enriched me beyond imagination by putting me in the exalted company of Darwin, Narayan, Dickens and McCall Smith."
And then the shelf became silent again.
Recovering from the shock and awkwardness of it all, I went to the kitchen to have a drink of water. There I see the old birdcage.
"When will you get new songbirds?"
This is a strange night.
"I have lain here, forgotten and bereft of music. Bring back the old days when the twitters, the love-calls, the fledglings cheep be heard again."
Now I suspend disbelief. My home is talking to me.
"You know how traumatic it was when the virus got them. I don't think there will be birdsong in this house for a long time to come."
"But…" the sad voice breaks off, and is silent.
Eager to listen to more, I try to strike up conversations with the chairs, tables and other things. No response. I look at the walls.
One of them speaks.
"We were proud when we were a house, being shown off by the builder as a good investment. You liked our strength, the glow of our paint. The strength is there, though the paint is fading off. You make us feel happy when you come back tired, lean against one of us while sipping coffee, and draw your strength from us. But the floor is upset."
"Why?" I ask. "Thanks, anyway."
"Your maid does not wash him properly. The polish of his tiles is wearing off. And ask your younger brother not to stomp so much."
I grin. "I'll tell him! He may not believe me, but I'll tell him."
The solemn old Godrej wants to say something.
"My son, I have been in your family from the time your father was a baby. All this while I have served selflessly have you ever given a care? My old hinges are creaking, my paint is peeling off. I heard you saying that I should be replaced. I tell you, my boy, you'll never get a sturdy one as me. The new generation is all made of thin metal sheets, and falls apart soon. Besides, will you ever get a custodian for your family jewels as good as me?"
"I'm sorry I said that. Now I know why father has clung on to you. I'll get you a brand new coat of paint, and oil your hinges. This is my promise to you."
It is late now. Sleep envelops my senses and promises to carry me far away from home, into a life that I wished I had lived. I lay on my bed.
It groans. I ask what the matter is.
"I'm teakwood. I do not deserve to be in this house. There is no A/C, no carpets. The dust chokes me."
"You had a flaw in you. You should be happy that we still liked you and got you here. This is quite a good home."
Next morning, I wonder whether it was all a dream. Did my home really talk to me? Were the walls really happy, did the bed really complain? In any case, I will have the Godrej oiled and painted scrubbed. And little brother will not stomp!
I know my home now.