Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Making and the Breaking of a Dream (HOME)

As the story goes: Last Saturday (yes, Independence Day) we woke up to a “pleasant” surprise when our godforsaken broker (who had haggled for the deposit money, who had sent three men late at night to our place and who had made our lives miserable) called up to wish us “Happy Independence day” or so we thought. But no, the real idea was to inform us that we are being thrown out of our house (the dream house, which we made our home for the last three months) since our landlady wants to sell off the place! Obviously two days of frantic calls to our landlady was of no use, as this forty year old woman refused to pick up the phone and was apparently scared to talk to us! US: two little kids, new to the real estate underworld. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were homeless once more, out on the streets (literally) serving a month’s notice. So every morning on my way to office, I would stop by at random buildings, chat up suspicious security guards asking them if there were any vacant flats available for rent. They would look at me suspiciously, ask me to come through a broker and on rare occasions, try to be helpful. So while we did manage to almost fix a deal at a nearby apartment, it eventually didn’t work out, and we were back to square one, me half afraid that all the buildings in my locality will now sport a new signboard, “beware of dogs and Shimonti.”

So this weekend we set off on our househunt with renewed vigour, determined to seal a favourable deal. But the houses shown by our moronic broker were either too expensive or way out of the way where only the cream of society can afford to live, because they don’t use public transport and are willing to pay extra for superior furnishing, modular kitchen and smell of fresh paint. Such houses intimidate us, such sophisticated societies scare us and clearly, we don’t belong there. All we wanted was a functional house, with functional bathrooms, in OUR locality where the security was chilled out, where Welcome home delivered groceries and we had “black forest flirt” ice cream when we were either miserable or ecstatic, not to mention where friends dropped by at odd hours and left at odder hours.

Now that we had had enough of our broker and his “Palatial Heights”, we decided to put Padosi on work! And 15 minutes and one phone call later, we had done it. We had a new home, same complex, same rent, similar amenities, and yes, most importantly, same security and same entrance. Who knew finding a house in Mumbai was less time consuming that ordering pizza (Soumya’s perfect analogy). So yes, Padosi has a new alternate career option as a real estate broker.

We shift next weekend, we get rid of our confused landlady and our blood sucking broker and we begin a new life: hopefully a less complicated one. And this time, we try to be less emotionally attached to our home, because, as they say, “nothing lasts forever!”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perfection, Completion and Complication...

Ok, so we have the theory of perfection and completion…applicable to almost anything: people, circumstances and even life as a whole!

Like for example, take my house, no, make that my HOME (from which we are being thrown out by the way… serving the one month notice till we find an alternative, but more on that later). It isn’t perfect by any means: what with the cat poop, the lizards, the bed bugs (some people crib about them… I never had any problems), the plumbing, the malfunctioning television, it has its issues. But as far we are concerned, it’s complete! We couldn’t have asked for anything more, or make that, we were (still are, even though we know the happy days are coming to an end) so happy in this house that we can’t ask for anything else which will significantly add to our satisfaction. On the other hand, consider my house (and not my home) in Kolkata: the plush, 3-bedroom flat in the poshest area of the city, the spacious living room where you can play football, the 42-inch TV, the music system, and not to mention the closet space for my huge bundle of clothes. For anybody who walks in, it’s a dream home: perfection personified! But for someone like me, who has barely spent any time there, who has just visited it for a few days during vacations, who has no emotional attachment to it, it hardly means anything. I miss my childhood rented flat in the modest locality where I grew up, where I made most of my friends and where I made memories: not perfect memories, but definitely complete ones!

Similarly for people, I may not be perfect, in fact, I am very very imperfect… but I would like to believe that I am not quite as incomplete as I am imperfect. I am complete in the sense, that I have not missed out on any of those phases of life (childhood, adolescent, hostel life, working and studying, campus life and now the independent domestic life). Nor have I missed out on the any of the stages of life: I was never born with a silver spoon, nor was I perpetually deprived: so that journey from badly craving something and not being able to afford it to gradually being able to afford it and not wanting it, has also been an experience where you appreciate all the good things simply because you know how bad it can be.

So while perfection need not imply completion, it’s not necessary that just because you are imperfect, you are incomplete as well. In fact, I would rather be complete than be perfect. It helps to choose because right now, I am neither!

And of course, apart from perfection and completion, there is complication which is probably the most rampant feature of our lives! So yes, I may not be perfect, I may not even be complete, but yes, I am definitely complicated…

Friday, August 14, 2009

Freedom or the lack of it...

There are times, when it starts with small petty issues, and before you even know it, things have escalated to such an unpleasant extent that you are left feeling pretty small yourself. So after two months of shifting to our dream home, two months of enjoying the domestic bliss, two months of freedom and late night banter, two months of what was only the beginning of a new journey, we encountered a pretty nasty surprise! Without getting into the petty details of what can only be described as materialistic oneupmanship, when a second hand fridge and a malfunctioning TV destroyed our peace of mind and embroiled us (my gutsy flatmate more than me… don’t know what I shall do without her) in a war of words, we were left defending ourselves against three random delivery men at 10 p.m. Yes, we did have “manpower”, but that doesn’t make it any less repulsive. Life throws you into all kinds of intricate complicated situations and if you manage to survive it, you take back some valuable lessons with you. In this case our learning essentially was that it is one thing to deal with uneducated crude people who try to take you for a ride and do so in an unpretentious way, and quite another to deal with sophisticated and articulate conmen- yes, the second is much tougher. It was no longer about rotten furniture anymore, but about trust, about rapport, about constantly being lied to and about credibility. “Unfortunate” as it, it is the unpleasant truth.

Anyway apart from the rendezvous with strange men late in the night, my life is pretty much boring; yes, I am eating out too much, yes, I barely get any sleep, yes, I no longer go jogging and yes, I am putting on weight and suffering from that familiar “I am so fat” feeling, but yes, it no longer makes me insecure because that extra 3 Kgs of lard is so worth it: yes, even that half asleep, half lost, sucking on an empty bottle retarded look! And yes, covering the whole spectrum from whether debit cards are accepted by Indian Railways to balloon decorations in our living room in a matter of five minutes at 3 a.m. when you are trying to stop yourself from crying as the 12-year old looks on with a smile may not be very interesting, but extremely demanding.

What with the swine flu panic spreading across the city, protection masks and closed multiplexes, the Independence Day weekend promises complete lack of freedom as we look forward to staying cooped up at home.

P.S. We have discovered that the theory of diminishing marginal utility doesn’t hold in case of alcohol… think about it!! I don’t know how it never struck me before…

Monday, August 10, 2009

cake, candles, childhood and getting old!

With great power, comes great responsibility! ... seems like with no power also, you have great responsibility and the worst part of responsibility is that you are assumed to be doing your job when you do things right, but lo and behold, you slip up once in a while, and you are singled out for all the mistakes committed by your last three generations. Well, I guess that’s how life functions and no, we ain’t complaining because we get to crib about it till the early hours of the morning while watching “deadly” movies on a dysfunctional TV.
So this weekend was my flatmate’s birthday, and for the first time in my life I got to plan a whole birthday party which is no mean feat. While in campus, you had neither the money nor the opportunity to indulge or be creative. The standard thing was to gift a huge card with scribbled messages, cut the cake at midnight, make a collage of some snaps, torture the birthday boy/girl, go to Tamanna Café on D-Day, not eat anything and share a bhel and a sandwich between 13 people, and finally have one combined grand birthday treat some two months later when we have pooled in enough money. The lack of surprise element, the lack of variety and the lack of finance was made up by the sheer number of people who celebrated your growing old.
But this time, now that we have an apartment to ourselves, more freedom and a little more money, things were a little different. Being the only flatmate I had a lot of responsibility with no power; This wasn’t quite a cakewalk but the walk for the perfect cake was quite long. I mean, after I had narrowed down all the bakeries in Hiranandani, after I had spoken to all of them, and after I have zeroed in on a shop, it should have been an easy task to simply walk down to the store, take a quick look, select the cake and place an order. WRONG!! There I was, wondering around Galleria on a Saturday afternoon looking for the illusive BROWNIE POINT, asking random people and coming back to the same place I started as people kept directing me to this swanky salon called Brown n Brown which I can never afford. Finally after about an hour when I have had enough, I called up the shop again, this time asking for their exact location, and the morons had the nerve to tell me that they have closed down the shop at Galleria and shifted to JB Nagar and suggested that I should come down there! Yeah right, like I have no life. Ok, I don’t but they don’t know that. But think about this… you update your phone number on the net, but you don’t update your address!!! Who does that? So yes, I definitely didn’t buy anything from such a place and stuck to good old Monginis, trying to fit in a message from my roomie’s parents on a tiny cake. While the rest of it was smooth thanks to my precision and planning (I did study Operations Research in college, even though I almost flunked it). Cake done, gifts done, card done, decorations done, birthday messages collected from the entire CKB group over the phone, security guard taken into confidence! As we somehow managed to whisk the birthday girl to-be to a nearby pub where we were offered cake by another anonymous birthday girl (thank god for the power of alcohol), a couple of my friends sneaked into our empty house, decked up the place with balloons and paper streamers, switched off the lights, and screamed “happy birthday” (albeit a very feeble happy birthday given that we were only four people instead of some 25 people at Sweety Stores in campus) as we stepped into the house sharp at midnight, a little high, a little happy.
Sunday was chilled out, as all of us just lazed around the house, bitched about people, ate huge amounts of cake, ordered biryani and my flatmate dutifully paid homage to her temple (D Mart) on her birthday, buying groceries for the house and making me coffee!
So yes, this weekend was about the “TA DA!! Factor”, the alcohol connection, and yes, a bit of childhood: what with the birthday party and the children’s park…

Sunday, August 2, 2009


A hectic week in office (which includes feedback, i.e. polite way of saying “nit picking” about consistency in decimal places, font size, font colour, and spacing) with me being stuck in office till midnight on a couple of days followed by stifled dinners, difficult and intense telephone conversations, late night movies and cold wars with my bai (I think sarcasm, and that too in my broken Hindi is wasted on her… I should be more firm and nasty like the middle aged aunties portrayed on TV, but I have no clue how to be like that) have taken a toll on me. But strangely irrespective of how much I crib, irrespective of the fact that I have been told that I act like an immature, impatient 5-year old and irrespective of how my salary seems miniscule compared to what people earn around me, I am a happy person: both generally and specifically.

And finally I have seen some application of Micro Economics in practical life and I can’t express how glad I am!! I mean I have studied this subject, for five years, each time wondering how I can ever apply it in real life simply because it stood on some pretty strong assumptions which rarely hold true in todays dynamic situation. Macro economics, on the other hand, is something which is easily identified with. But, at last, one fine aspect of Micro economics has found favour with me: “the theory of diminishing marginal utility”! and yes, it holds for the big M, i.e. MONEY… the point is that, once you have the basic minimum to sustain yourself, to have a decent lifestyle, that extra thousand bucks really don’t add much value to your life. You can easily do away with it for other things like satisfaction, work life balance, good people, better quality of work, so on and so forth. So after a point, money alone stops being a motivation; but yes, that basic level of financial security is important, and the basic level is defined differently for different people, and thankfully for me, that level is pretty low. So yes, my kids will grow up like I did, they will wear unbranded street clothes, they will eat ghar ka khana (which my husband will make because I am a bad cook) with no junk food, they will play kabaddi and kit kit and pittu instead of fancy video games or playstation portables, they will go to ganpatiphule and goa for vacations instead of fancy foreign trips and they will take education loans to finance their higher education, but most importantly, they will figure out that they don’t need obscene amount of money to be happy!

And yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I have watched Love Aaj Kaal and irrespective of the Brazilian model playing the part of a 1970’s conservative Punjabi kudi, irrespective of cheesy dialogues like mango people (translation of aam aadmi), irrespective of Deepika Padukone’s pathetic acting skills and irrespective of my aversion to commercial Hindi movies, I still liked the movie;

there was a certain imperfection about the movie, a certain imperfection in the characters, and I am a sucker for imperfection…