Houses and Homes!

We renewed the lease for our home a couple of weeks ago and the husband was surprised to find me celebrating when the papers were finally signed! But when there’s been only one place you’ve called home for the first twenty years of your life and when you’re someone who spends a couple of days in a nice resort and gets attached to the hotel room, and then when you change eight homes in less than half that number of years, you would be pretty relieved to not add a ninth home to the list, wouldn’t you?

Yes, changing houses has been the story of my life ever since I left ‘home’ after college about four years ago. Not that it’s been all bad though. There are a couple of advantages to switching homes every few months. There’s no need to spring-clean for starters! No junk accumulated over the years and a brand new décor every few months. (Yes, the décor change is a huge plus in my book, as you can imagine!)

But the constant changes get to you after a while. The tedious pack-unpack routines, the frequent change-of-address forms, struggling to get to know new neighbors every few months and the inability to buy nice furniture or knick-knacks because hey, you might just have to get rid of everything you own the next time you move!

The husband (a typical Gemini who thrives on change and variety) loves this sort of nomadic life. As for me, a more tranquil Libran, I’m still getting used to the excitement. It’s hard to say but I have a dreadful suspicion that after all my moaning and whimpering, I might actually miss our current lifestyle if we ever decided to stay put in a place for a couple of years or more. For now though, it’s fun to look back and reminisce on some beautiful memories of the houses I’ve called homes these past few years.

It all started with the P.G. accomodations I moved into for the three months of my on-the-job training in Pune. (It was called fresher training and the name was apt because our software knowledge was indeed fresh, more like blank actually!) The house was a beautiful Victorian bungalow in one of the posh districts of Pune, owned by a retired Maharashtrian couple who were vaguely known to some of our distant relatives in Pune.

The highpoint of my stay in this place was the lovely garden adjoining my room with a fragrant Parijat tree just outside my window. But alas, the garden was good to look at only, I couldn’t really enjoy it because of the big bad (bad for me!) dog that lived in it. (I thanked my stars each day for the strong fence that kept him there!) The dog terrified me at first, especially with his penchant for barking each time I walked in at midnight after a late-night movie, but I actually ended up missing the terror when I moved out after my training ended!

Aside from the dog, the house was perfect in every way and when the homeowners sounded out my mother on the possibility of a matrimonial alliance with their son, the only regret I felt when I said no was the house – the handsome little house! (Yes, I’m crazy about houses like that! But hey, I was madly in love with the husband, better known as the boyfriend back then and dil to pagal hai and all that jazz!)

On a side-note, I was always puzzled by the attention the landlady and her friendly daughter showered on me those days, bringing me homecooked food and encouraging me to watch tv with them, especially since we were three girls living together and all the attention was directed towards me alone. The mystery was finally solved after the aforementioned chat with my mother, and not surprisingly all the special attention ceased very soon thereafter!

My stay in the P.G. digs was my first taste of independence, my equivalent of a hostel experience you could say, and naturally I had mixed feeling about the entire experience. I was lonely and scared at first (I couldn’t sleep at all for the first few nights), but it turned out to be great fun once I got used to living (and sleeping) alone. And yes, I’m ashamed to think of the number of times I succumbed to the Maggi temptation living in this place. I’m sure Nestle would have made a tidy little profit in the three months that I spent here!

My most beautiful memory from this time will always be the lovely Rajnigandha flowers I’d pick up on the way home from office every Monday evening. I can still close my eyes and imagine the beautiful white flowers livening up my otherwise bare room, and ah, that heavenly fragrance! I’ve never been able to find Rajnigandha flowers with that sort of delightful fragrance anywhere outside Pune so far.

Once my training was done, a colleague and I rented a nice little flat a little closer to the office and we had fun doing up our first independent home together. Managing a home for the first time, buying vegetables, calling up the grocery store – ‘Ek kilo aata bhejna bhaiya!’ – writing down all our expenses in a little red book, settling accounts at the end of each month – these were all learning experiences for me and sadly the roomie was no help at all. (She acted as if I was her housekeeper or something. But never mind!)

The nicest memories from this place are of Chaya, our ‘kaamwali bai’ (household help), a talkative and mischievous little girl with twinkling eyes and an ever-ready smile who I became good friends with. This was her first time working without her mother in a home (Her mother probably thought we young girls would never know the difference!) and it was a first of sorts for me too.

So we played at ‘keeping house’ together, planning elaborate menus with recipes borrowed from the friendly neighbour a couple of floors below where Chaya worked in the afternoons, going vegetable-shopping to the nearby ‘mandai’ (market) and giggling over the resultant meals (Most of which were quite good incidentally though some were total disasters!) which I insisted she share with me before she went home for the night.

Chaya was slightly younger than me but had been out of school and working with her mother for many years by then. Those were the realities of her life and though I did not like them one bit and felt guilty about ‘employing’ her, there was little I could do to change them. I tried prodding her to pick up a new skill and offered to pay for sewing classes or something of that sort, but she’d only laugh at what she perceived was my naivety and proceed to enlighten me on the hot new gossip in the colony instead!

I lived here for about a year and Chaya was a far better friend to me than the colleague I was sharing the flat with. I remember wanting to take her along for a Marathi play the roomie and I were going to – she had confessed she always wanted to watch one and her mother just couldn’t afford to take her – but the roomie dismissed the idea outright. She obviously couldn’t be seen in the company of a servant girl, now could she? Sadly, the roomie and I are still in touch, but I’ve no idea where Chaya is right now.

Coming up next, six more homes from Connecticut to Pune to New Jersey and finally New York, all of them shared with the boyfriend (better known as the husband) from now on. And yes, lots of memories of course!

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9 responses to “Houses and Homes!

  1. I totally understand the feeling 🙂 Though I’ve never lived away from parents ‘ever’, when I first came to the US with the husband it was so thrilling to set up our own home. Its a very beautiful feeling.
    ..and find out where Chaya is 😦

  2. What lovely memories……isn’t it so therapeutic to ‘re-visit’ them?
    Home…..ahh….I am moving into my new, though temporary home on May 7th…a lovely Victorian one overlooking a field. I am excited!

    yes….do look for Chaaya….I had a few friends like that back in India…I wish I could get back in touch with them. 🙂

  3. Yeah M, I really wish I could!

    Trupti, welcome back! Your new home sounds just lovely! How about a few snaps on the blog? 🙂

  4. Enjoyed reading this post. My husband and I are exactly the opposite! I am the one who is always keen to move. Must write a post about it..nice idea!
    I have the address of an old ‘friend’ like your Chaya, and I remember her a lot, but have not contacted her for years…reading your post I am feeling terrible! Let me do something about it.
    And look forward to reading more about your many houses.

  5. Yeah IHM, do something about it if you can. My biggest worry is that I’ve no idea where to go start looking for Chaya. Especially since I heard she was married the last time I went to Pune.

  6. May be you could – in the true tradition of software industry – outsource the task of locating the the twinkle-eyed little Chhaya to your earstwhile neighbours in that Pune building !

    Chhaya deserves being re-discovered by a wellwisher like you.

    In the process, both of you would be thrilled.

  7. Yes, that sounds like a great idea! Next time we go to Pune perhaps?

    P.S. No new nicknames Baba? Or have you finally figured out that your dear daughter is too smart to be fooled by strange nicknames? 🙂

  8. I can totally relate to you….enjoyed reading the post….even started counting the number of houses i have called home so far!
    strange life is, we come across so many people in our lives…some we keep in touch with but then there are a few,who may never cross our paths again in life.

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