Architects of ancient times saw to it that along with buildings built for human inhabitation, there were also those that were built for no real apparent purpose. The rooms of these buildings scarcely allowed for a man or woman of average height to enter. If one did, somehow manage to slip inside, one would suffocate under the oppressive lack of light and unexpected joints and corners of the furniture. The articles of the furniture, however, have neither been archived nor inherited, and hence we know very little about them.
In many cities, one found such buildings situated in the very heart of the market place. They were precursors to the high-rise tower by virtue of their unexpected height. If one did enter, one would find one’s own body badly shaped and contorted, the breasts too large, the stomach too round. As a result, one would be compelled to imagine a very different kind of human being.
It would be almost meaningless to imagine what these buildings must have looked like. For all you know, one might have differed from the other drastically. It is also possible that some might not have recognized these buildings as buildings. To try and draw them would be impossible.
A group of young children were told by their teacher to construct a building. Some children got to work right away, building out of nothing, pasting their drawings, diagrams and descriptions on the class wall. The more contemplative ones sat and thought. Some fell asleep and woke up just in time to have their lunch that had grown cold. Some were overwhelmed by the nature of the task. They couldn't imagine how someone could be so precise and unfaltering to make something as sturdy and large as a building. A drawing of a building or even a diagram was still alright. So long as this enterprise remained only on paper, it was harmless.
Down the road there is a building designed in such a way that none of its residents can bump into each other, even if they wanted to. Each apartment has its own entry and exit way.
The possibility of a chance encounter is, however, conceivable outside the building’s premises, but not immediately outside, for the building’s outside is still a part of its essential architecture. Leaving one’s apartment building in this case is essentially tantamount to being suddenly deposited or dumped into the city center. Long tunnels that start at each main door lead to different stations scattered across a small radius that constitutes the city center. The city itself is small, its suburbs, however, large.
The chances of the building’s residents meeting at one of these stations is also quite small, for they are not indicated as such and one anyway ends up quite swiftly to be among a moving traffic, so much so that one almost forgets how one even got here in the first place. The building, however, bears a name, so it is possible that people living there might meet somewhere else and speak of the building. They might, however find it difficult to do so in familiar terms, for each one most likely will have a different building in mind. As a result, there is nothing to prevent them from imagining that there might be another building with the same name somewhere else in the city.
All this is, however, unimportant, for no one really experiences this building, as such. One spends most of one’s time lost in its tunnels.
An old woman took a pencil out of her pocket and tried writing something. It was a story about an old woman but she wanted her character to be nothing like her. To achieve this, the old woman walked out of her apartment and started behaving like a child. And it was in this way that she wrote about her childhood.
She imagined herself as a little girl, standing on a street, looking just like an old woman. Pedestrians passed her by, asking her all sorts of questions, but this girl was too little to understand. One little girl even asked her what it felt like to be an old woman. She stared into the sky, hoping for an answer. Some asked for directions to a faraway market, but no one had ever taken this little girl there before. An old man proposed to her, to whom she said that he was too old. This little girl spent her whole life on this street, even though she had a beautiful ancestral home close by. She was well fed, though she didn't work for a living and had severed all connections with her family and friends. It was, however, well known that she was in loving terms with them, even though they never spoke. This little girl somehow thrived quite comfortably till extreme old age without the slightest pain or effort.
She hadn't left her home in years and when she walked out, she realized that the city had grown old. The buildings, which she had grown up with, were falling apart, some looked like old women. And there were new buildings, skyscrapers, high-rise towers. The old woman had never in her life felt so short before.
As she had grown older, her legs had stopped working, so she replaced them with artificial ones. Soon, she wasn't all that old anymore.
Instead, she was young.
She kept on down the street—the street was narrow and thin, the only sound was those of her mechanical legs—and reached a point where there were apartments without any windows, rooms, balconies, doors—apartments made because someone just felt like building something. She soon reached her own apartment. She clambered up the stairs. She hadn't received a visitor in years and it had nothing to do with her appearance.
This woman was very young. She was also very tall and liked to wear boots with heels. Slowly the heels of her boots started to flake off. She was also no longer tall.
She never left her apartment because she felt the danger of the street traffic. She lived in a city whose name she occasionally forgot. This young woman, who never left her apartment, slowly lost all signs of her youth.
Gaurav Monga is a prose poet born in New Delhi, currently living in Basel, Switzerland. He learned German to read Kafka and is inspired by writers like Nikolai Gogol, Daniil Kharms, Walter Benjamin and Robert Walser. Some of his work can be read at Birkensnake, Zero Ducats, Philistine Press, Juked, Spurl Editions, and Sein und Werden. Excerpts from his forthcoming book, Ruins, published by Desirepath Publishers, can be read in Hardly Doughnuts and is forthcoming in the Fabulist and in the Baroda Pamphlet. He has taught Creative Writing, Literature, & Theater at schools and universities across South Asia, and currently studies Jewish studies and East European Cultures at the University of Basel.