Late in the night as I was studying, there was a scratching noise which I ignored, at the bay windows overlooking the snow-covered backyard and the deck of the Airbnb.
Luckily, I did not draw the curtains aside, thinking it was the nervous jiggle of my leg that was making the writing table squeak, or we (whatever was outside in the freezing, frigid cold, and I) would have scared each other silly and would have run screaming in the opposite directions.
The next day I saw black prints in the white snow, coming from the steps of the deck, straight to the double-insulated windows.
My wife said it was raccoon paw prints, our son said it was a rabbit, and I thought it was a man with a wooden leg. We all agreed that we should never get stuck in a blizzard when hiking at the many nature trails nearby as we would surely be eaten by a wild animal whose paw print, we would think was of a squirrel’s.
The squirrels incidentally, are jet black and are the size of a cat back in Bengaluru. They frolic in the snow and chase each other, or keep stuffing their mouths with leaves and look like greedy kids with puffed-up cheeks trying to eat all the sweets before the other kids arrive.
The house that we rented out on Airbnb is built of wood. (Airbnb, as you know, started when two designers who had extra space decided to host three travellers. It is a cheaper alternative to hotels and the place you rent has a personal touch that hotels can never provide).
With lumber in plenty in Canada, building a home out of wood makes sense as it helps retain heat and keeps out the cold. But wood unfortunately, contracts and expands, and the floor makes creaking and creepy noises as you tiptoe to the toilet in the night.
Trying to study on what your client should do when the spouse he has sponsored for permanent residency, decides to run away with the neighbour next door, leaving the client with no wife but still having to pay for her upkeep, is tough with all these ghostly noises.
Wintering in cold Canada
Yes, I am trying to get licensed as an immigration consultant and my wife thought it very funny when I got a 6.5 band in the writing test of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), when the Council required a 7 band. “Your writing must have been pretty bad these past 20 years or so (as a journo),” she mocked me.
I gave the test again in Toronto, with my eyeglasses fogging up, and ears burning because of the cold while waiting for an Uber, and followed the instructions on how and what exactly to write, and got the required band.
Back to the Airbnb house and when we looked up the listing of this place, as it is in a lovely neighbourhood in Toronto, we found the new owner paid a horrendous $2.3 million for this two-bedroom, one bath and a powder room. (It also has a jacuzzi that we still haven’t tried out).
When my wife told the couple next door, we had come in these Covid times to see our children, the man held his wife tightly by the shoulder. They haven’t seen their children, who are working abroad, for quite a while.
The neighbour said the last people in our Airbnb were Asian, and they had “swanky” cars.
He said the neighbour in the house in front is of Indian origin. “They have gone to Florida for the winter,” he said.
As it was time for us to pack our bags and leave, we saw a fresh set of prints in the snow. This time it was the neighbourhood cat, who is a very curious cat. It insisted it should be allowed inside, and I think it was most probably because of the heavenly smells of the Hyderabadi ‘murgh shorba’ (chicken soup) that I had cooked.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi