The New House: What’s Not to Like?

September 21, 2012

Last Friday, we moved into our new home.

This place has four bathrooms. Four. The two on the first floor were “working”. That meant, as soon as you flush, water came gushing out the bottom and spread all over the bathroom floor, heading, reluctantly, for the drain in the bathing area. After flushing the pot.

“I’ll fix it tomorrow,” said the plumber, looking harassed.

Gulp. Ok.

We’d been rushing around the house barefoot all day, moving our stuff around, trying to get sorted. I’d bathed in the morning, before the madness got fully under way, but by night I desperately wanted to wash my feet before going to bed. “That’s 50% water, 50% pee,” Amit warned me. He was exaggerating, of course – it must have been only about 5% pee.

I’d left office early on Thursday with full determination to buy bed linen, ours being completely disreputable in the extreme, so I had two large bags full of bedsheets, doormats, hand towels and so on. On Friday morning, our packing got under way in right earnest. That means I started packing at 7.30 a.m. as soon as the kids left for school, while Amit went for tennis and a coffee with a friend and got into all sorts of shenanigans and came back at 9.00 a.m. and then spent a leisurely hour or so on breakfast and a bath.

Naturally, it was 4 p.m. before we were ready for the movers. They turned up when we had only finished with 40-odd cartons and started throwing stuff into their truck at random, including a very precious carton that I’d not yet sealed and I’d specifically told them not to pack. Amit got busy dismantling our only cot, leaving me to pack and seal another ten cartons on my own, trying frantically and ultimately futilely to get them packed before they were thrown into the truck.

I thought we didn’t have much stuff, apart from a dozen boxes of books, but it took the truck (a mid-size one) three trips to cart everything to our new home. Luckily our new home is only a km away from the old home, but even so, by the time they departed for the final round, it was long past dark. I lugged my two bulky bags of new linen into the new house, which was still in an advanced state of chaos, and managed to put the fresh sheets on our and the kids’ mattresses. If only we could have been half as crisp and clean as those pretty, new sheets! Sadly, I had to settle for a dirty, dusty self with feet washed in 5% pee and retire to bed with sore and aching muscles and only two curtains in our room of four windows.

On Saturday morning, we usually leave home early morning for tennis. This weekend saw us leaving home early morning to rush to the old home to use the bathroom. During the course of the day, whenever the kids were feeling slightly left out or neglected, they had only to say the magic word, “potty” and one of us had to go rushing off to the old home, where the toilets flushed without leaking.

Whatever was left of Saturday was spent cleaning up the old house and carting across the little bits and pieces that had got left behind.

Meanwhile, at our new home, work was in progress on a war footing. There were 20 workmen swarming all over the place. Frantic efforts were made to fix plumbing and other crucial aspects. Over the course of the next few days, plumbing was made largely functional (apart from three or four separate leaks), the water connection to the Cauvery pipeline was established and the leak fixed, broadband was connected, locks were installed and keys handed over ceremoniously, the washing machine was serviced, repaired, and made to shudder like a supersonic plane, a water purifier was installed (but not connected, due to plumbing problems), and the front porch and boundary wall began to acquire their final form. And the new Faber four-burner hob was installed and various eyes were trained on us expectantly, waiting for the milk to be boiled along with whatever ritual is supposed to accompany that symbolic act. In the event, the first thing to be made on the hob was a passable khichadi on Saturday morning (after we’d already spent a night) and omelette and eventually milk was boiled on Sunday morning for coffee.
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Monday was an interesting day. We awoke bone tired and packed the kids off to school. I skipped my exercise and dragged myself blearily off to office. Amit went to the bank. While he was still at the bank, the broadband guys called him. They were at the house and they needed him to get there pronto to explain the broadband setup. He rushed back home. He was supposed to go to the Registrar’s office, get an affidavit printed, stamped, and then get me to go to a Notary to get it notarized so that it could be handed in to the electricity department. In fact, our contractor had asked us to do this at 3.30 on Saturday afternoon, amid all the chaos. So we were already late by a couple of days. I left office at 12.30 and by the time I reached home, Amit had not yet gone to the Registrar’s office – he was just about getting done with the broadband guys. So we went to the Registrar’s office together, leaving our home and belongings at the mercy of the 20-odd workmen. We locked our bedroom, however.

Naturally, by the time we got the printout and went up to the Registrar’s office to get it stamped, it was the official lunch time. “Come back at 2.00.”

Neither of us had had lunch yet, so we headed to a little restaurant nearby, when the curtain guys called. They were in our house to install curtains that had been deposited on Friday. The only hitch was: the curtains were securely locked in our bedroom.

Amit headed for lunch and then back to the Registrars office at 2, while I rushed home, got the curtains guys to install the curtains in our bedroom, take the rest of the curtains out of our bedroom, gobble lunch and then leave to pick up Amit. We drove to the Notary where Amit dropped me drove around, and was waiting to pick me up two minutes later. The notarization done, we rushed home and handed the affidavit to a guy on a bike who raced off with it. Then we paid off the curtains guys. It was 3.00. I sat down to work. At 3.30, we got a call – I was needed at the KEB office in person. Off we went, fingers crossed.

Only to be told that the Affidavit we’d spent the entire morning running around for was useless. What was needed was a notarized copy of the sale deed.

It was 4.00 and the office would be open till 5. So we rushed off to the Notary once again. When we got there, we were politely informed that the Notary was out and would return at 5 p.m. “But there’s another Notary nearby. Take the right at Reliance World, go to the deadend, take a left and he’s right there. Five minutes away at most.”

The Aquaguard guy had been calling me. He was at our house waiting to install the water filter. I spoke to him, while Amit fumed. Then we headed for the other Notary, Amit driving and still fuming. There was, of course, no Reliance World on that road, as I well knew. On a hunch, I asked Amit to take the turn opposite Reliance Mobile. He flatly refused, pulled over, got out and told me to drive, while he tried to rustle up another Notary on the phone. Five minutes later, we were at the other Notary’s gate.

“You were right,” said Amit, incredulously.

The gate was locked.

4.45.

We drove past the first Notary again, just in case he’d decided to come back early, but he hadn’t. So we hung our heads, headed back home and drowned our frustration in a bottle of wine later at night.
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Now, one week after the move, we have our solar water heater in place, and a nice, new, 42-inch television adorns the family room (though we haven’t had any time to watch it yet). We don’t have any furniture in the living room, but our cycles are parked there since the cycle garage has not been erected yet. The first floor only has four cartons surrounding the TV, but our basement still looks like a warehouse with 20-odd boxes of books and papers waiting to be unpacked. The kitchen is impeccable, with the modular woodwork and gleaming black hob, but a vast number of empty cartons occupy prime real estate under the breakfast counter, waiting for disposal. The front compound wall is largely done, though there is a hole in it spacious enough to slip through if you happen to forget to take the key to unlock the gate as I did yesterday. (It’s actually supposed to be our letter box, but for the moment it serves as a convenient entry point for us, potential burglars, and the street dogs who used to live on our site before we took it over.) We’ve managed to get the attention of the garbage collectors and the security system guys have come and dumped their stuff in our house but not installed it yet. We’ve got grill doors in place, but they have no mesh, so we’ve been providing a feast for the neighbourhood mosquitoes. The Aquaguard water filter finally got installed and the plumbing was finally fixed sufficiently so that we can use it without flooding our new modular kitchen woodwork… but the cupboards still smell of paint and the hot water has some weird chemical in it which smells and froths and hisses like something acidic.

And we still haven’t got the legal electricity connection, despite having finally managed to get the sale deed notarized on Tuesday. We aren’t living in darkness, though – we are using the commercial connection which is used for construction. It’s billed at a higher rate than a residential connection, so we aren’t guilty of cheating the exchequer either. However, it’s a temporary connection, provided by means of a bare wire pulled from the nearest pole and strung over our front balcony, so one could wish for a more elegant solution.

The past couple of days there have been only a few forays by the workmen into the house and the first floor at least is beginning to feel less like a railway station and more like a home. The outdoors, though, is still a mess, littered in equal measure with tools and detritus. Neither a lawn nor a driveway looks like a possibility anytime in the next two months.
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And now, after all that, it’s time for some fun – splurging on furniture and furnishings. Amit frowned at the thought of a new washing machine and fridge, but- cushions, floor seating, sofa and chairs, dining table, a big comfy chair for me, a computer table, occasional tables, a bookshelf, more bedsheets, desks for the kids, pretty little soap dispensers for the bathrooms, a gleaming white cabinet to go under the big, big TV… ooooh yes, I’ve got lots on my list to keep me busy for the next several weekends. Amit’s had his fun building the place – now it’s MY turn!

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The Bicycle Diary

September 7, 2012

I still remember watching them take their first steps. Oh, god! I sound like a grandma – or at least someone whose daughters are on the verge of getting married or leaving home. Corny does not start to do this justice.

However – I do still remember watching them take their first steps. I remember the completely unexpected and thoroughly unjustified sense of pride I felt – as though I had done anything at all in getting them to that milestone. As though – all being normal – they would not have got there sooner or later on their own without any help from anyone.

And what made me think of all that, you might wonder. Well, it’s a long story. Or at least – it might not have been, but when I’m telling it, it’s always a long story.

When our girls turned two, their first birthday at home, we got them a pink-and-purple Barbie tricycle which they still have and they still ride.

When they turned three, we got them bicycles. They had those supporting side wheels, though, so they were sort of quadricycles, but that’s what you get these days. For some months, they rode them regularly. Then, life changed, we moved, and cycling, even if it was quadricycling, became irregular.

Then, one of the cycles developed a problem – the tyre wouldn’t hold air. Tara was willing to do time-sharing on her cycle, but Mrini wanted to ride on her own cycle. So cycling came to a complete halt until we could find the time and energy to take the cycle to the original cycle shop and have it serviced and fixed. By the time we did that – you know what? Obviously, the other cycle developed a problem.

Time passed. More time passed. A heck of a long time passed. Amit bought a cycle. I bought a cycle. On one memorable occasion, Amit and I went out cycling together (very slowly) and made the kids walk/trot/run alongside. We got some very hard stares from passersby that time. (The kids enjoyed it, though – but it was tedious for us, having to cycle that slowly.)

Finally one day, everything fell in place and we had their cycles fixed and functional at the same time. The cycle shop had also removed the training wheels and the kids now had to learn to balance on a genuine bicycle. For several weeks, we took them out fairly regularly, holding their cycles from the back and running along while they tried to learn the trick.

Then one day a neighborhood friend brought out his bicycle (quadricycle, though he’s their age and bigger than them) and so, of course, they had to take out theirs as well. Amit was busy so it was just me, but they wouldn’t wait and they couldn’t be stopped. I strapped their helmets on and they were off! I had Mrini’s cycle from the back and I let go and she went pedalling merrily down the road passing three houses before she managed to stop – legs splayed wide in the typical childhood style.

From that point, it took three sessions. The third session was yesterday. Now, they both have acquired the knack of starting by pushing off from a standstill, without needing to be held. They usually stop by crashing into something, but have managed to avoid any serious damage to themselves or the environment so far (barring a tiny scratch on the neighbors’ new car). It’s not that they don’t know how to use the brakes… I think they’re just so thrilled to be actually cycling like big kids, they don’t want to stop. Their steering is rather unpredictable right now – they change lanes faster than a Formula One driver – but I suppose they will figure it out soon enough. They were trying U-turns yesterday, but without much success.

And yet – the day that we all four go out cycling together is now just around the corner!

When I see them weaving their way across the road, pedaling furiously, grinning – yeah, I feel just like I did when they learnt to walk. This time, I did play a role in it, at least to some extent. And this time, it’s not something that they would have learnt anyway – it’s quite possible to grow up without learning to ride a bike (however sad that might be). So at least my role in this little achievement is not completely insignificant. All the same, it’s nothing in proportion to the sense of pride and achievement I feel.

And that’s partly what being a parent is about, I suppose. To feel pride in another person’s achievement even when your contribution has been marginal or mainly in the form of encouragement. There’s nothing quite like it.


Life’s Good (right now, at least…)

September 3, 2012

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself today. I’ve had a very busy and very achieving weekend.

I completed and submitted my archaeology assignment – only six days late. Which is not bad, considering I started the module ten days late (and lost more than a week to typhoid in the middle); and especially commendable considering I started writing the assignment two weekends ago, got stuck at the beginning, and practically didn’t touch it again till Friday evening. Three thousand words in one weekend – not bad at all.

I gave my cycle for servicing. And got it back. And took it for a spin. I practically haven’t run up any mileage on it since typhoid a month ago.

I started my exercise regimen for my next trek in November, right on schedule. It’s only 20 minutes of cycling and 5×3 squats as of now, but it’s a start. When it comes to exercise, getting started is a major milestone in itself, at least for me. (What, you didn’t know I was going for a trek in November? Well, I am, and I know it’s going to be damn cold, but still.)

AND, on top of everything else, I managed to watch a movie. In a movie hall. With Amit. Without the kids. That’s happened only four times in the last five years, so now it’s up to a respectable average of once a year. Expendables 2 – junk, but fun.

Did I mention that I managed to complete my Archaeology assignment? That’s a huge load off my chest. This one was from the second year undergrad course and it was more detailed than the first year modules that I’ve done so far. There was a lot more reading involved and not one but two assignments. I started the module late due to the mix-up in course material that was sent to me, so hopefully they won’t cut marks for me sending in the assignment late, but, as usual, I have no idea whether the assignment I’ve sent in is any good or not. They usually delight me with their marking, but I just never know.

This time round, what with having no household help and having to do every damn thing around the house on our own for the past two months, which HAD to coincide exactly with my course AND with my typhoid… it was really tough keeping pace with the coursework. I decided I would put in an hour of studying every morning before getting to work, but leaving home late meant getting stuck in the worst of traffic and wasting half an hour (ok 15 minutes, but it felt like more) crawling forward an inch at a time. So I took to carrying my books in the car, getting past the worst of the traffic, and then stopping on the roadside and studying for as long as I possibly could without getting inexcusably late for work. And also, of course, sitting with my books in the car outside the gym and fending off mosquitos while the kids did their gymnastics.

So yay – now I’ve sent it off AND our cook is back at work (with newborn baby in tow) so I’m going to have loads of time on my hands. My mornings, of course, are now going to be devoted to my enhanced exercise regime, so I’m probably still going to be stuck in traffic. Because, you know, I can’t possibly drive past the traffic jams and then stop on the roadside and do my exercises, can I? No, I can’t – even I draw the line at that.

And my evenings? Amit thinks they’re going to be spent helping him with his website for his business, but you know what? After I’ve done that for a week or so – just for a change, you know, just by way of relaxing and recharging – I’m going to get down to work writing my next book. I’m so looking forward to it – I’ve been itching to start, but until I finished my course, I couldn’t.

The only big thing still pending now is to move into our new home. If only we could have squeezed that into this last weekend as well…


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