All that I hear from everyone these days is, ‘Have you settled in?’
I tell them that no, I have not settled in yet, and add under my breath, ‘What’s the point?’
For the moment though, I have learnt by heart the Oriya song which is the caller-tune of my plumber-cum-handyman. I call him a zillion times a day for one thing or the other. And the Man Friday that he is, he fixes whatever problem I might be facing. It need not be only the leaky tap or a clogged drain. He can get me an electrician, do minor carpentry work and even find a maid for me. Having to listen to the song is small price in comparison, don’t you agree?
You know something? When one keeps shifting houses and localities, sooner than later you end up in the same neighbourhood you have lived sometime in the past. So it is this time too. That means I have some good friends nearby! Isn’t that swell?
This small housing society is one of the older ones and so everything about it is ‘charmingly’ old-fashioned. Luckily, I am used to every type of facility and non-facility and the L&M doesn’t care about anything else so long as his TV is working and the internet is connected, and oh, there is a walking track and plenty of fresh veggies. He is one happy man these days I tell you, since all his needs are met. And I am one happy woman too because her L&M is not cribbing.
The first day we came to this house, my next door neighbor — a young mother of two –graciously offered us tea and snacks. I met another girl living in the flat upstairs, on the stairs. She smiled a wide toothy smile — friendly and welcoming. ‘If you need anything, let me know aunty,’ she told me. It felt good to hear the words, spoken with sincerity. It is rare to hear such welcoming words these days.
I don’t know why I liked this house the moment I saw it. Even the L&M was surprised. I had knocked off some of my requirements I look for in a house and bent some more of them. It was too small for one — the rooms were small, the kitchen smaller. The housing society was not tosh; there were no landscaped gardens nor was there anything elite about it. And yet I felt instantly at home. A fortnight and more here and I know my instincts were right: I can see kids playing hide-and-seek, tag and other games in the evenings. The mothers yell for their Sunnys, Buntys and Pinkys to come home this instant or else…The older women smile at you and ask, ‘Aur? Sab theek? ’ (So, is everything fine?) But the best part are the owners, who were happy to let it out to someone who would just take care of their property for a small rent.
And now for the ‘settling in’. I think I will always feel uncertain about any dwelling and so will never actually feel ‘settled.’ Perhaps this innate gypsy in me makes me restless. So used to change am I that I need to at least keep changing things around. The L&M will vouch for this fact.
When we wake up in the morning, he looks apprehensive and his first words are, ‘I hope everything is finally in its place now.’ What he means but doesn’t articulate is , ‘Are you planning any change in the house today?’ There is considerable trepidation in his voice, which mounts as I remain silent. My mind has been working overtime and I DO have some changes in mind. I can sympathise with him, for he is the one who has to shove, pull and shift the stuff around. Not a single day passes without some major shuffling of things around.
‘Let me get everything sorted out right and then we can relax,’ I say in a mollifying tone. ‘And oh, by the way, could you please bring that shelf to this room? No, not there, here!’
‘But that’s where it was the day the before yesterday,’ he says exasperatedly. I shrug. Well, he would not understand if I told him that it had looked out of place there that day but looks fine today. Who can say about tomorrow? I can swear he has lost some hair in the weeks we have been here – pulling them out in exasperation!
This is all in addition to the enlightenment that I have got. I now know for a fact that minimal is maximal or put simply, ‘less is more.’ If a house can teach you such a valuable lesson in life, I think that house is worth all the adjustments one needs to make.
Take the size of the house for instance: by the time you finish asking, ‘where is the ….room?’, you are in it. I don’t need to walk miles to go from one room to another. It is more like a few steps and I am in or out of it! My kitchen is mine alone. If you want to enter it, I will go out. No, I am not upset because you want to come in, I actually have to go out – it is not designed for two cooks. Probably the architect believed in the saying, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’
Initially I felt I had made a mistake taking this house. Our Mumbai days with its small flats are all way behind us and I felt cramped. Where will I put this cupboard? What to do with this table? Things big and small loomed large but slowly I started appreciating the house. From appearing cramped, it began looking cozy. And it is neat – I am using this word for want of a better one. It does not afford us to be sloppy – no throwing of stuff all over the extra spaces and surfaces – there are no extra surfaces! That means the house is neater. You see now what I mean?
Talking of houses, I can’t but mention the 27-floor Antilia, the residence of the senior Ambani. The costliest house in the world at $1 billion, it is a study in contrast to my humble home. Six floors are earmarked for the family, one for each of the six members. That is a mere one floor per person! Another six floors house the family’s 168 cars, add a few more since the news item is six-months old. Wonder what the family does with all that space? That merits a separate post. There are 600 maintenance staff to keep the house in order! And here I am cribbing about managing the single woman who comes to clean and wash.
There might be some who would chastise me for grudging the tycoon his house. Or even say it is sour grapes. After all, it is his money and he can damn well do what he wants with it – even build a 27-storey home. I don’t honestly know if he feels the coziness of smaller home. I bet he actually only relaxes in the few rooms where his family congregates during the day. So what’s the point?
But I am digressing frightfully. Coming back to my home it is not that small, come to think of it – three rooms, a lobby and a sliver of a kitchen. Am I happy? Oh boy! I said less is more, didn’t I? We use only two rooms – one to sleep and work in and one to watch TV in and seat friends when they drop by! The third room is for the children when they come or when we have guests. Palatial? You bet! Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is spaciousness or lack of it, I guess.
Contrary to what the ad gurus would have us believe, more is less and the more the dil maange, the less satisfied it is. So when we go for more, larger, or costlier, we are only getting into a vicious cycle of need and greed.
We have discarded the unwieldy pieces of furniture and got some compact ones – including a hideous looking but incredibly comfortable small sofa! I am actively considering downsizing our lives further to live light and happy. Best of all, I have come to the conclusion that we can well live in a smaller apartment — even a motor home!
Do dreams come true?