“Didi! There is something wrong with the new occupants of 10B! The lady practices black magic. Her son is weird too. I went to work for them. They have a room where everything is upside down!”
“What do you mean?” “There is a computer with an inverted keyboard. An inverted television and inverted books! I’m not going to work in their house anymore!” I dismiss my maid’s concerns.
Later that evening, I am in the kitchen cooking dinner. My children are out playing in the playground. Or so I thought. Anant came running in, all flustered. “Amma! Help! Aliya is trapped in 10B. That witch is going to eat her up!” I panic. I grab my keys and rush to the lift. “What happened?”
“We wanted to see the upside-down room for ourselves. So, Aliya and I went up to the tenth floor. The door was open. We crept in. We found the room. Everything was upside down! Just like Alice in Wonderland!”
“Then, a boy saw us. He screamed for his mother, who came in and asked us what we were doing. I ran away as fast as I could to get you. Aliya is still in there!”
“You trespass on someone’s property and you leave your baby sister behind? Haven’t I raised you better?” I scold Anant. I’m worried. God knows what cult this woman is a part of! And my little one is alone with her!
I reach 10B. I knock on the door firmly. A woman my age appears. “Where is Aliya?” I demand. “Hi! I’m Neeta. Aliya is with Sikander in his room.” I push Neeta aside and march into the upside-down room.
Aliya is well, alive, and talking happily to a boy her age. Neeta continues. “They want to play. Can she stay?” After a moment of hesitation, I nod. Anant joins his sister and her new friend.
Neeta offers me tea. I look quizzically at her. “Sikander has a rare genetic condition called spatial orientation phenomenon. His brain is wired to see things upside down. Not everything, but some things. My husband couldn’t deal with it. He took off. It’s just me and my son. We moved here to start afresh. It’s difficult for him to fit in. He can’t attend a normal school. His books have to be inverted to read and write.” Neeta plays nervously with her fingers.
My heart goes out to the woman here. I hold her hand and tell her that things will be OK. I promise her that she can count on me. We finish tea and check on the children.
“Mom, Sikander is so cool! He can see things upside down. I wish I could too!” chirps Aliya, doing an impromptu headstand. I glance at Neeta with a smile. Her eyes are brimming with tears.
My child’s innocent enthusiasm tells me that imperfections are beautiful. After all, who gets to decide what is upside-down and what is right-side up? Perspective changes everything. Including ourselves.
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