Ode to Homes

For someone who craves variety, I get plenty packing and moving. The number of times we’ve moved seems like we don’t pay our bills anywhere, and have to make a run for it! Consequently it’s rare for me to get nostalgic about any place, though there are plenty of anecdotes about each one.

kholiTake my ‘kholi’ – a poky little room at Warden Road in Mumbai. I can’t remember if it had a wardrobe, but there was a horribly dusty attic, and to enter the room, you had to jump in about a foot deep at the door. The location was the best part about that room – close to work, close to the seaside, the fanciest shops in all of Mumbai, some lovely walking parks, but I had to fight over the use of the phone line with the neighbouring electronic repair shop.

House hunting in Mumbai after we were married was quite a challenge, since we had very little money and seemingly different priorities. I wanted the apartment in the building with the pool, but Souvik refused to live there because it was called Mota Nagar (Mota = fat). After some desperate searches, we settled down at Amboli Naka, right at the traffic junction, a spot that we both hated; every time the light turned green, all vehicles blared their horns. There was little to recommend that place except that we could afford it. After that disaster, we got on a continuous improvement curve, thanks to our careers and the 11-month lease agreements.

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Paranjpe Complex at Vile Parle

 

Moving to Bangalore was a breath of fresh air. Apartment buildings were swanky shiny, compared to whatever we had seen in Mumbai. Koramangala was the nicest place to live. There are mixed memories of our apartment there. Souvik’s dad battled with his illness there, and sadly lost. We packed up and moved to Chennai.

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Purva Park, Cox Town

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Raheja Residency, Koramangala

MKaka & Varun at home

Gandhinagar 3rd Main, Adyar

So many people complain about Chennai, but we had one of our best years there. Living in Adyar, there was my weekend schedule of grocery shopping at Besant Nagar, brunch at Murugan Idli, coffee and a book at the Barista on the beach. Alternately, driving off to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry at the drop of a hat. Hanging about the house as little as possible.

 

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Our own place in Bangalore

 

 

By this time we had invested in buying an apartment of our own in Bangalore, and ironically that is the one in which I have spent the least time (1 night) calling home. Back in Mumbai, we had a jolly ride over 3 years. Dosti Acres – tiny flat, massive furniture that I had to move around like a jigsaw puzzle to make it fit. My cousin got married there, well, across from there. Moving from Wadala to Pump House (yes, that’s what the area is called) and Kalpataru at JVLR because of, you guessed it, the 11-month lease. And just as I was ready to renew my lease at Kalpataru (gasp!), we took the call to shift to Hanoi.

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Dosti, Wadala

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Cousins at Kalpataru

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Ciputra Window, Hanoi

We were blissful enough in our Hanoi place for Souvik to make a crazy video of it. I spent hours looking out of the big window, blogging about my life there. Then we realised what a jinx we had with lease renewal. Every time we signed that paper, we would have to move. This time to Ho Chi Minh City. That year I spent half the year looking at houses. As we were about to finalise the flat there, we ended up moving to Jakarta instead.

(Click to view video)

 

I went into an ‘instant hate’ mode with the city. Endless traffic, horrid apartments where windows wouldn’t open, big palatial houses that seemed like to much work for an apartment-inured person that I was. After sound advice from a friend, we settled on the house that we’re in now. Finally there was some love, especially with the pool in the backyard. The house was too big for just the two of us to enjoy, we were happy to open it up to welcome family and friends. And plenty obliged. Not that they were lacking in our ‘smaller’ places, but the joy of jumping into the pool at will is irresistible. We renewed our 2-year lease last November. And guess what – we’re moving again! Right this very week. And this time the nostalgia seems to be coming on, mostly for that backyard and pool. Never have I enjoyed a house (not counting Kolhapur) as much as I did this one. Watching the rain in the afternoon. Barbecue on weekends. Painting the wall. Sewing curtains. Killing off plants one after the other. Negotiating banjir, the floods after a heavy downpour. Jalan Tikus, the tiny lane shortcut to the main road. Decorating at Diwali. Chasing Mia.

 

In the midst of packing chaos, I’m letting the shifting blues set in, but visualising living in the new place. The landscaping is definitely better, with plenty of tree lined avenues to walk, run and cycle. Actually, with a lot of our ‘stuff’ packed already in round 1 by those efficient packers, I’m in the mood to get going right away. Going by the lethargy I’m exhibiting though, it’s clear that I enjoy unpacking and setting up house, but sorting and packing is just not my favourite thing. HELP!

My top tips for painless relocation:

  1. Hire a good packer-mover service. That’s money well spent.
  2. Pack a week’s clothes, towels, toiletries, shoes, bedsheets separately yourself. If it takes time for the washing machine to be installed, you’re not going crazy. If you’re moving cities, make that 2-week supply. That should give you enough time to figure out the laundry.
  3. Pack VALUABLES (jewellery, electronic gadgets – phones, laptop, tablet, chargers,cameras, power adaptors,  important documents – passport, tickets, IDs, insurance policies, bank papers, house papers) and MEDICINES yourself, and don’t let that bag out of your sight until you have set up the new house. If you are moving cities, carry your valuables in cabin baggage.
  4. It’s useful to wear something (like a jacket) with plenty of pockets to hold small stuff like keys, phone, pens, wallet, so you don’t put it down and accidentally have it packed up, or worse, stolen.
  5. If you’re moving country, make sure to finish or give away all the beverages – yeah, have a big booze party the night before. Spillage in the suitcase is such a pain.
  6. If you’re an Indian like me, take your pressure cooker with you.
  7. Keep calm and enjoy the change!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

My top 5 silhouette shots, in random order:

We aren’t allowed to photograph the original at the Museum, so we have to make do with replicas. Here is one of David at Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, is best associated with the bustle of traffic around the lake and crowds of people enjoying the breeze. This is a rare sight of people meditating amidst all that chaos:

Buddha is one of those forms that lend itself beautifully to silhouettes. One of my favourites at Borobudur, Indonesia:

Photographing exotic orchids at Singapore’s Orchid Garden can get tiring for the eyes and the feet. Then when I lay down on the ground, exhausted, I had to raise my arms for one more click:

This may not be the best silhouette shot, but it is my absolute favourite, bringing back memories of a wonderful trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. A sunrise cycling trip, and we were looking at the wrong side until Souvik decided to walk around the monument, then rushed back to let me catch the view just in time:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset

From all the pictures I have in the collection, it appears I’m more of a sunrise than a sunset person. So this one was surprisingly difficult. Here are a few, culled out with some difficulty:

Souvik & I went to Goa with our friend Anshu; drove 24 hours to stay 36 hours in Goa; but it was such fun. Here’s the sunset after a particularly exhilarating parasailing attempt by Anshu & me.

 

 

Sunset at ‘Sunset Point’, Kanyakumari, which is the sangam of the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. A rare piece of land from where you can catch the sunrise & sunset over the same water, just a few km apart. Which is about all you can do at Kanyakumari!

 

 

Sunset at Hearst Castle, California. After a beautiful drive along the Pacific Coast, the sunset was the icing on the cake. Gorgeous!

 

 

 

Sunset in Rome, pretty late on a summer evening. We were walking back from Bocca della Verita (the mouth of truth, remember Roman holiday?), in search of a change from Italian food (imagine!), and just a little gloomy about having to leave Rome the next morning.

 

 

Sunset view from our apartment in Ciputra, Hanoi. A riot of colors just before a massive storm heralded by a giant dark cloud coming over from the east.

 

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There’s the New Hanoian website (http://newhanoian.xemzi.com/) that makes life fun in Hanoi.
And there’s Ngā, who made life so easy for me, cleaning the house till it gleams! To start with, we had only one word in common – OK – and I polished my dumb charades skills by acting out everything. Over time, she learnt some useful English to get by, and I picked up a smattering of Vietnamese, and we are able to have complex conversations, aided by online translators. I think we’ll both cry when I leave.

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