Ding dong, ding dong, is anyone there?

Humour: Step into the mystery of the ringing doorbell.
Last Updated 10 November 2018, 19:30 IST

It is a pleasant night. The nip in the air lulls me into a deep slumber. I am in my land of dreams. All of a sudden, I am jolted awake by the sound of the doorbell — ‘ding dong’. I grab my phone to check the time. It’s sharp 1 am. I dismiss the ‘ding dong’ to one of my sleepy fantasies. I try to go back to sleep. The doorbell rings again — ‘ding dong’. Someone wants my attention pretty bad. But it’s 1 am. Who can it be at this hour? Am not expecting any late-night visitors. Is it someone genuinely in need of help? Or worse, a thief with unholy intentions? My imagination runs wild.

Should I open the door? Or, play it safe by ignoring it? After all, it’s 1 am. Not an hour to welcome unexpected guests. Even as I am caught in a Hamletian dilemma, it’s ‘ding dong’, yet again.

The sound is no longer pleasant now. It’s tinny and grating. My wife is also awake now. Sleepy-eyed, she looks at me askingly. I decide to go check the door. I stumble out of bed and lollop to the door. My wife cautions me to peep through the kitchen window before opening the door (that’s her look-out point for safety as the main door doesn’t have a peephole). After all, we have grown up on a steady diet of masala flicks where the hero gets unwelcome visitors in the night and then there’s shooting and fighting, and what not. So, yes. I peep out of the kitchen window. I see no one. It’s pitch dark outside. I flick the light on. Even as I am doing so, there’s that ‘ding dong’ again. I look out of the window again. There’s not a soul outside. By now, I am wide awake. Worried. Intrigued. Terribly shaken. But, being the man of the house, I have to be brave. So, I reassure my wife that it must be a case of mistaken address and ask her to go back to sleep. Luckily for me, the ‘ding dong’ stops. Now, even I want to believe in the mistaken address theory. I go back to sleep.

By morning, I have almost forgotten the midnight drama. It seems like a dream. In fact, I wonder if it happened at all. Over breakfast, my wife brings it up. I dismiss it as a freak incident and ask her to forget all about it. That night, yet again, I am rudely awakened by ‘ding dong’, ‘ding dong’. And, yet again, it’s sharp 1 am. I am terrified now. It cannot be a case of mistaken address. Not two days in a row. I peep out of the window and, yet again, no soul in sight. The first thought that comes to my mind is to call the police. But, there’s no one outside. Won’t the police dismiss me as crazy? What do I do now? I have no clue. My wife is also visibly worried now. Both my children are sleeping in their rooms, blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding outside. I am worried about their safety. I try to go back to sleep. But, sleep eludes me.

I decide to speak to my neighbours about it.

At daybreak, I go to the house bang opposite mine. It belongs to Mr Mathew, lovingly called Mathew Uncle, a former jockey. Short and stout with a handlebar moustache, Mathew Uncle is a man you can turn to in such circumstances. I explain the midnight happenings to him. He listens with great interest. He is intrigued, too. After much thought, he assures me, “Don’t worry, Mr Reji, we will catch the culprit.” We devise a plan, according to which I stand on the terrace of the house while he waits inside his compound, and as soon as that ‘someone’ rings the doorbell, he will flash the torchlight on him, and I grab him and call the police.

I wait for it to be night. I am eager to put an end to the mystery of the ringing doorbell. I wait on the terrace, in cold December night, while Uncle Mathew waits in his compound with his trusted torch. It’s 1 am. Promptly, the doorbell rings. Mathew Uncle flashes the torchlight on my door. I run downstairs to grab the ‘someone’. But, there’s no one. I am confused now. My creative cells get active. Can it be a ghost, I wonder. But I don’t articulate it. I don’t want to scare my family. But, how else to explain the mystery of the ringing doorbell, that too at 1 am sharp?

I think and think and think, but fail to come up with a logical explanation for the same. I google.

One site takes me to another, and another, and another. I finally find my answer. Am left astonished. It is nothing but a common occurrence during winter months, explains science. If the doorbell is exposed to sunlight during the day, in the coldest time of the night, when the air temperature drops, thermal expansion or contraction of the metal electrical contacts lead to the random ringing of doorbell. In my case, the coldest time of the night happened to be at 1 am sharp, for three nights in a row!!!

Boy, am I relieved? Maybe. But, on second thoughts, I think I would have liked a more adventurous story to relate.

(Published 10 November 2018, 19:30 IST)

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