You only had to jump across an arm's length to get into the terrace of the neighbouring house. But nobody ever tried. Windows faced windows in dangerous proximity, eliminating the slightest chance for privacy. One could hear low murmurs behind drawn curtains, and the mixed smells of everyday cooking drifted about on its morning rounds.
Inside the building, the staircase was narrow and almost always dark, the steps steep. The yellow bulb had long gone and nobody had bothered to replace it. Brownie, tommy, rocky, doggie - they all had different names for him- used to lay his heavy brown body across the third and fourth steps, curl up and sleep contentedly, oblivious to the many visitors who always almost stepped on him. He never budged.
Everyone came out to their terraces in the evening. Kids played cricket, stopping only after invoking the wrath of the neighbourhood aunties who threatened not to return the ball from their compounds the next time. Men smoked intermittently, and so did two black-eyed young girls; in the corner lay a pile of absently strewn stubs and a couple of old bottles. The starlit night sky watched over couples, throwing their long black shadows into rough denial of embarrassment.
Afternoons were silent with clothes drying mutely on the washing line, save the lone caw-caw of the hungry crow.