Another move, another round of packing, cleaning the house you are leaving, cleaning the house you are moving into, unpacking, arranging everything, making adjustments in the new place, and settling down. All my life I remember shifting houses, the time period in one house is never fixed. Sometime a few months, other times a few years, but move on, I must.
It is destiny, I guess, the same way as in the movie Chocolat — when the north wind blows, it is the signal for Elizabeth Binoche to move on, as her mother and her mother before her had done.
Only no North wind blows to signal a move for us. But some unseen force is work or else we wouldn’t still be moving, when others our age are settling down to a peaceful life.
It is a family tradition passed on from my parents I guess. Father was in central government service and was transferred regularly. Though my mother stayed put in Nagpur with us children due our school and college schedules, we didn’t escape the moving routine. Instead of moving to different cities, we shifted houses. One year, I remember shifting three houses in one street!
Why? If the house was fine, there was water problem, and if water was aplenty, the ceiling leaked in the rains. Sometimes the rent was unreasonably high and at others, the house was too small. Mother made do with the worst facilities, even cooking in an open veranda in one house since there was no kitchen! When I have to make do with abysmal arrangements in the various houses I have lived in, I remember her with admiration and soldier on…
Back then there were not too many items of furniture and the entire household stuff would be filled in boxes or bundled up and the shifting done on the two bicycles of my brothers. So simple!
My parents kept shifting houses, cities and didn’t stay for very long even in the ancestral home of my father! The tradition has been passed on to us children. While my sisters and brothers have shifted houses, I have SHIFTED houses – about three dozen of them, give or take a couple. The boys are following suit too!
In Mumbai one has to shift every 11 months in rented accommodation. But we move houses in other cities too. It is not just the tenancy laws that work in our case: something larger and more powerful like the North wind in Chocolat, works. So we cannot stay put in one house, no matter which city we live in. Once we vacated a house in just three months – the owner wanted to live there himself and my husband, the accommodating man that he is, agreed, despite the agreement on stamp paper and all. “It is his house, after all,” he reasoned when we protested.
So used to the moving were the boys when they were growing up that they settled in the new house seamlessly, thanks to….ahem….yours truly, who put up the familiar curtains and arranged the few pieces of furniture so that they felt instantly at home. As they grew, they began helping in the cleaning and packing routine too.
When we bought our own house, the younger boy was still a pre-teen and probably the enormity of living in one’s own house had not sunk in. So, a couple of months after we settled in, during which I went berserk hammering as many nails as I wanted on all the walls, and pushing and pulling stuff without having to worry about the owner’s objections, he asked, “Ma, when are we shifting from here?”
Though it is a big drain on resources – physical and financial – there is something to say for the constant change in one’s dwelling. There is variety and excitement of the new neighbourhood, making new friends, the challenge of making a home out of a house (which can sometimes be a real challenge believe me!) and the varied experiences of new places.
The flip side is the leaving behind of friends and familiar neighbourhoods. Also you have to divide your childhood into packets of different places, houses, neighbourhoods.
I have often wondered and sometimes envied those who live in one place, even the same house for generations. I have been to houses where three or more generations of inmates have lived with not only the same furniture but also in the same arrangement.
While some might find this comforting, the nomadic genes in me get restless with constancy. So when we are not actually shifting houses, I shift around the furniture, change rooms, curtains and the like, to beat the monotony.
And so here I am, trying to arrange the stuff I have unpacked for the nth time, trying to get used to a dark kitchen and sundry other discomforts. Wonder when the moving bug will bite again, I am so tired…Wish it were as simple as the ashes of the urn spilling and signaling the end of our nomadic days!