The Dilemma continues in my mind. This time it is to shift or not shift. Own house vs rented house. Own house on loan vs house given by the company. Own house in suburbs vs a company place in town. Own house far from work and kids school vs a well located rented accommodation. Own house road facing vs rented house sea facing. Own house with a pool n huge lawns vs a single building in the rented block. Own house to do furniture vs fully furnished company given flat.I have lived in hostels for fourteen years of my life and in company given accomadation for the last eleven years. Hostels were fine except for the social taboo in the Gujarati community. The moment I said I live in a hostel, the looks changed. Sly comments like Now you dont like living at home and hostel timings would arise. I took it with a pinch of salt. But staying in a company given flat post marriage has been tough. The people in your building look at you as if thats the worst that could happen. Its always a rented place because you dont have your own place. I had to swallow a bitter pill and answer the building people. When we got married, the watchmen , building manager( God bless his soul) and all the building occupants treated us a bit shabbily. It was in their attitude. We felt quite like outcasts. People would ask me how long will I live here. If I took my child down for a walk, the people were curious about two things: my rented house and my inter caste marriage. I would come up and howl. Sometimes, I d fight with my husband for not having our own place. Amongst all the un belonging feeling , this was the worst that could happen. I was never a part of the building talks, renovation or parties.We were not invited for any building weddings inspite of knowing the families beyond courtesy hellos.Thanks to my children and my non working status, I made friends in the building and was a part of all the fun. But for years, all the fights in our house were about why cant we buy a house and live in it. The building had only housewives with an odd working woman. Till then I did not know know how to converse with house wives. Some people belonged to another century. The friends I made were fun and like minded. We changed three apartments in the same building in ten years and then it was time to bid goodbye. Househunt lasted for six months for a new rental place. All helped and all advised. People said to move into any place as its going to be for a short while. But I wanted a house. Somehow, inspite of all this external conversation about owning a house vis a vis living in a rented place, I loved all the houses I lived in. They were never rented places for me. They were home.Hostel felt home when I lived there. How much ever we partied, end of the day I wanted to go home and home was the room shared by two in the hostel. The society is so proprietorial. All want to own a house, a place, a flat, a bunglow, a penthouse a palace maybe. But where does this lead. The world’s richest private house is still unoccupied despite the staff of 600 and all the luxuries. Really, owning a house doesn’t mean a thing. Then again I am giving an example of someone who can afford houses or cities. It gives me a high for a while and makes me feel rich and then life goes on. There are people I know for whom ownership of a house is the most important thing in their life. I am not talking about having a roof over your head. That sure is important. I am talking of owning,possessing and gloating.
She has grown up in a constructed chawl in the suburbs. They are four sisters and one brother. She is the youngest. Her father is no more. Eldest sister s husband no more. She and her mom live with the eldest sister to support her and her children. She worked at a resort for five years cleaning the spa, changing rooms, massage rooms etc. Her mom worked as the cleaning lady in the hospital. Mom would get them acetone from the hospital so they could remove their nail polish. She saw my nail polish remover while cleaning and asked me what it was. She said we couldn’t afford it.
She has never lived in a slum and she calls it jhopadpatti. She is clean and well groomed. She is constantly washing her hands after every cleaning job. The place we call a BMC chawl ie Bombay Municipal corporation chawl, she calls it jhopadpatti. She blames her luck that she has to live in a slum. The move from Kandivili to Dadar is of no importance to her. She doesn’t know that this chawl can fetch more money than her place is kandivili. It is of no consequence to her as she doesn’t own any and neither will she get any.
Her husband is the second boy of four brothers. Her father in law is with the BMC. He will give the house to the youngest son who is eighteen now. The 18 year lad will not work as his father will retire in five years and then he will get the father s job and hence the house too.
Her sister in law ie the elder brother s wife has two children. She keeps giving the kids’ money. This girl is very clear that one should not spoil children with money or sweets. Its better to cook something at home for them rather than buying them sweets or wafers. Her mother in law is very strict. There is one gas cylinder. The women are not allowed warm water baths. The men are allowed and the water is heated on the kerosene stove, not the gas.They have to make rotis from two and half kg wheat atta everyday. The mother in law doesnt allow them to buy grains or masalas in bulk. So everyday they buy garlic worth five rupees to use in dal and sabji. SHe feels its cheaper to stock and is embarassed to go to buy for every meal. Her mother in law says ‘you eat one meal at a time then why buy for another day?’
Her husband is nice. He takes her to the sea at Shivaji park on holidays. The attic is their bedroom and no one else sleeps with them. The father in law has got them a foam double mattress to sleep on. They have made a cover for that mattress. Rest of the family sleeps on handmade gudris or blankets made of old used cloth. She washes her sheets, blankets and pillow covers regularly.
The father in law has bought a flat in the far flung suburbs on loan. He wants her and her husband to move there. She is concerned how her husband will travel to work. So they all nine people live in this house. She wants her own house but she doesn’t want to fight and move out. She says even if you live in a slum, you cant live like a slum dweller. She liked the pink nail polish. She liked the shower cap as she can use it when she puts henna in her hair.
She is India.She is proud of who she is. Are we proud of Her?
Got up early this morning. Went for the 615am yoga batch. It was pitch dark. I thank Mumbai and its people for keeping it safe. Class was dark too as the shavasan was going on which is the sleeping pose. On the way, there was Mayhem. Lots of branches of every single tree had been cut by the corporation. The monsoons are still far away but they have butchered the canopy which formed on the full road. All branches and leaves had been chopped and thrown for some other agency to pick it up. One man was collecting the twigs and branches for his night bonfire. Even in the corporation, one agency throws stuff on the road, in this case greenery and another agency picks it up.
My heart bleeds for the life in the trees cut for no reason at all. In colaba, they want to cut 50 trees for road widening. I know that street well and there is hardly any traffic there. They plan to cut all 100 year old trees so that some people and some contractors benefit.
Such is life. Cut, chop, cook and eat.
Lights, Camera, Action…Cut.
When I write about a guy, it is not to cast aspersions on the guy or his family or the middle people who show us the boy or my family who wish to see me settled. It is just that the world is full of all kinds of people and I am sharing the impressions I had as a twenty something. I definitely don’t want to criticize anyone. Telling you , frees me up. So thank you for listening.
I had just started working. There came a guy, we met at the renowned Taj. By now the ‘Sea Lounge’ waiters must be recognizing me as all the meetings would be there. I d pray that the waiters are discreet or a different one at our table or the meeting is on a different shift. Sea Lounge is this incredibly beautiful tea/ coffe/ snacks place at the old Taj.Calling it a coffe shop would be blasphemy. The moment you climb the red carpeted staircase of the old taj, you start walking with your shoulders drawn back and your chin up. It has the regal air about it. The seating is sofas drawing room style and the view is the shimmering Arabian sea with ferries and maybe a cruise liner docked far off into the sea. The Gateway of India stands tall and on the window tables, one could even see the pigeons. Picture perfect view with some imperfect meetings.
I remember an Uncle from Kolkata came with his daughter and took me to Sea Lounge.I forgot to tell you, with all its grandeur, the menu had street food. The sev puri with chutneys in fancy silver jars, was awesome. I was so excited and thrilled. Uncle had given me a packet and when I came to the hostel, I saw dry fruits. That was such a joy. All came to visit me with chocolates and I never ate chocolates.My friends in the hostel must have enjoyed them while I enjoyed relatives visiting me.
Must share about a guy I had to see for marriage. My cousin n her hubby took me to a friend s place for a party. The friend was the Guy. Good looking , rich and beautiful house with a balcony. House also had an ethnic swing and paintings on the walls. Very tasteful and so unlike a Gujju household. Gujarati houses are ‘oh so interior decorator’ made. There is no planning involved by the women folk. Not because the men consider their women inferior but most Gujju women do not have good taste in aesthetic or artistic things. They are good cooks and good shoppers. They run the house with ‘Karkasar’ which means with sensible expenditure no wasteful stuff. But the creativity in the aesthetic appeal of the house ends here. I am being biased, as being a Gujarati, I have visited lots of Gujarati houses. But this house was unique and the guy s sister was a curator and an art gallery owner. Nice gathering of married couple and new parents. I was completely out of place and the guy hardly even spoke to me.
The sweet cousin tried to fix me up but it is very difficult to fit into the typical Bambaiya mould. Bombayites in most cases want to marry women only from Mumbai. Their conversations and comfort levels are the best with people born and bred in the city. This is very prevalent in Gujaratis. Remember hearing a rumor that his mom had died years ago by jumping from the same balcony.
We in India are all obsessed with our skin colour. When I had been to pay the swimming fees, There was a mother daughter in the line. The daughter was a good tennis player. Mom made her stop playing in summers as she had become very dark. She told me that she doesn’t mind the child playing in the rains. Her son was in some IPL team but she was concerned about her daughter becoming dark. Daughter was a school going kid of 12.
The other day at the swimming pool, I met a girl. She said she has comes for the first time in years. We were changing and she saw my tan. She told me she wont come to swim as she is getting married in four months time and she cannot afford to look dark. This was a rich, educated girl with an I phone 4S. The reason to write this is that irrespective of the social strata they belong to, people in India are thinking the same about skin colour. I told her I used to swim regularly before I got married and nothing happens. She just gave me a little disgusted look. It said like ‘You old woman, What do you know about how one should look at their own wedding.’
Dark is not good. Fair people can wear all colours. My younger one calls her elder one chocolate brown and she hates it. I don’t know where these conversations seep into the child s mind. The elder one is at a stage that whatever the tv says is hundred percent correct. She comes up with all these answers for my problems..new stain remover, some hot oil treatment for 20 min, some sanitary ware, bulbs, cars and what not. Today , she has told me that since I get very angry, I need to fill my mouth with water and hold it as long as I can. By the time the water has gone down my throat, I will be calm. Not a bad idea from a child less than a decade old. Time to try it.
I cant discuss my writings with my husband. I can talk about all that I did the whole day. I can talk about what I chatted with whom, but I cant talk about what I wrote and why. So I feel the writing is more personal or is it a different me. Actually lot of friends do not connect with me and what I write, And then there are friends who cannot connect with the ‘housewife’ me because they knew the ‘working’ me. Lot of relatives compliment about my switchover from a working women. All have this wonder element about how could I manage to quit working. Actually all the things in life have been a gradual progression from one level to another. Not that there are any levels, stages may be a better word.
The passing thru has never been simple nor easy, but in hindsight, it has all worked out. It always works out for all of us, eventually. The question is how much time are we willing to give ourselves. Its a matter of going with the flow and working on yourself. This whole sermon tone is coming to my conversation because I know it is possible and I have done it. People take long to come out of relationships, take breakups easily, face ill health and what not. Apart from death, all other situations are more or less workable.
Mom has this way of shrugging worries. She says ‘Its no big deal’. I remember at the time when Dad s company was debt ridden, my Mom did not stop going to the jeweller or buying her diamond bangles or changing some jewelery design. I used to be scandalized that how could she spend money. I’d also wonder why she doesn’t give it all to Dad. But my Mom was always clear that this is not where life will stop. She said this happens in business and I am not taking his money. I would up my moral stand and tell her all her gold is because of Dad s money. Yes, she did not ask him for money and she helped him with her savings when he needed. But most of all, she lived her life on her terms. She was rock solid in her belief that they d be in wealth and abundance. Her “Never Say Die” attitude was wonderful is what I am willing to give in to Now.