Not a Stalker || by Shaurya Arya-Kanojia

I WOULD LIKE TO set something straight before we start discussing the… unusual conundrum I found myself in the other day. Standing outside a building in a neighbourhood I don’t live in, looking in the large window on the second-story, you may think of me as a stalker. A 60-year-old, sallow looking man, who, fraught with loneliness and the possible accompanying sadness, tries to find solace in spying and stalking other people’s homes.
     The evening sky had turned a beautiful peach pink, which reflected on the window glass. I can’t say how long I had been standing there, but it must have been several minutes, because an uncomfortable sensation of being watched crept up on me. I shifted my eyes down, and sure enough the man standing guard outside the building gate, in his pale blue shirt, navy blue pants, and slick hair combed back, was staring at me with what I can say was anger—like I was the hyena and he the mama lioness protecting her cub. 
     I breathed in deeply, returned the stare—What you looking at—and failed miserably. His stare bore into me, and after a few seconds, I was forced to drop my stare. I am not a stalker, I wanted to say; and, under my breath, launched into a justification. 
     I like taking walks in neighbourhoods. Why, despite a perfectly maintained park right outside my house? Walking in neighbourhoods gives me an indescribable comfort. A sense of belonging. Like I am a part of something. Like I am one of… everyone. 
     And, on the heels of that, I said: I AM NOT A STALKER.
     But let’s face it. Would a justification like that have worked? I couldn’t even convince myself with it. Sense of belonging; that’s hogwash. The real reason why I like neighbourhoods is because I’m curious; to want to know what life outside the shell I live in is like. I look at residences and imagine what people living inside would be doing—sitting in front of the TV after a tiring day at work, in the kitchen preparing their meals, in the bathroom getting ready to go out…
     I heard a thump, a soft, cushiony something striking a wall. More like a crunch actually, like the wall was glass. I turned to the guard, who I saw was now looking up. I followed his gaze, and noticed wetness on the glass I was looking at.
     Looking. Not stalking! Okay?
     Anyhow, I saw the setting sun glinting off the wetness on the glass, before the window started sliding open. A woman’s face appeared from behind it. She was… angry? Her eyes were bulging wide, and—even from a distance—I could see her teeth gritting. And she was looking… at me. Her hair was tied in curls, and she had makeup on. I shifted my gaze to the guard, who was looking at me as well. My heart started pounding, wondering if all of it was a bit too much for my feeble 60-year-old heart to bear.
     “How dare you?” the woman screamed. If I were closer, I would’ve seen spittle flying from her mouth. But, right then, I just imagined it.
     I looked up at her, puzzled. Had she noticed me looking at the window earlier? 
     “I’m sorry,” I said, wanting to add I didn’t have a perverse intention. 
     “How dare you hit that water balloon here?” she shouted.
     “Water ba… what?” I said, stumped.
     From the corner of my eye, I saw movement; a couple of boys scurrying away. I turned to watch them properly, but by then they had disappeared behind a row of bushes.
     “They did it!” I cried out, pointing at them. But, apparently, it enraged the woman even more. I turned to the guard—to be my witness—but he too was looking at me. Accusingly. Come on, man. You know I was just looking…
     “You wait, creep,” she said. “I’ll show you…” She turned and went back inside. 
     If I thought that was the end of the freak show, I was wrong. I half-expected the guard—his eyes wide (and if it were a cartoon, they would’ve popped right out), beads of sweat on his massive forehead—to pick the gun standing just outside his shed. 
      And shoot me. 
      Because all this could only be a dream. 
     What happened instead was… well, truly terrifying. From the depths of the building, behind the guard, I heard a growl. A menacing, deep throated, sharp growl. The chill it ran down my spine was instantaneous. The hair on my back stood up. The growl became louder. A couple more seconds later, the faint shadow of an animal materialised; and, as this ferocious beast advanced to just inside the closed gate barking its head off, I took a step back. 
     “Sorry, sorry,” I muttered, and started hurrying away. When I turned—a few seconds later no doubt, but what felt like hours—what I saw froze me. The guard was standing beside the open gate (THE OPEN GATE!), his arms crossed across his broad shoulder, smiling a triumphant smile (even his teeth showed), and the beast pelting after me. My heart skipped a beat. My mind felt both overcrowded with a million thoughts and empty at the same time. The dog was maybe a few paces away, when a blast of adrenaline surged through me; and I turned and ran. 
     Ran for my life. 
     I don’t remember what happened after that. 
     The next thing I remembered was waking up in the hospital. “You sustained a fracture in your leg, your arm is swollen, and you scraped the side of your head,” the doctor informed me. “Still missing your twenties, huh?” he added, smiling a patronising, the when-are-people-going-to-learn smile.
     You don’t know the half of it, son, I thought of saying.
     And the last thought before I closed my eyes, as I let the drowsiness take over me, was…

Image Credit: © Arts Caad


SHAURYA ARYA-KANOJIA authored his debut novella, End of the Rope, in 2019. He likes sports (cricket, mostly), eating out, and watching reruns of The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond. 
His social media handles include @shauryaticks (Twitter) and @main.hoon.ek.sharara (Instagram), and more about him can be found at

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