Luxury villas, gated communities, bungalows, NRI cities, elite residencies...these are the names one sees being used for dwellings that would become someone’s homes. Houses that sold for some lakhs are now being sold for some crores. This business of ‘property’ is far, far from the reality in which I live, and I get perplexed by how much money people are willing to pay for a home.
When we got our flat done in 2001, it was under the most unexpected of circumstances. Having been cheated by the builder, we were forced to complete the flat ourselves. We had not saved for this, but since we had to do it, we started with idealism and dreams. Very soon we had to come back to reality...every time we went to buy anything for the house—whether it was wall tiles, a wash basin or a switch board—we had to make an agonising choice between what we wanted and what we could afford. Invariably we compromised, and got the one that was not the cheapest but not top of the line either.... again and again we were put firmly into a place that spelt middle class.
In our house, there are no fancy fittings nor is there the best in technology...taps look like taps, doors and cupboards don’t have a brand name, and our bathrooms are wet...and not like those carpeted glamour rooms most people seem to want. But over the years, our house became a home. It reflects us...our children’s paintings adorn the walls, we designed our furniture from teak wood from the doors of our old house, there are plenty of books and paper, paints and music, and a happy mess. We love it, we try our best to maintain it well, people come and go.
We went for the grihapravesam of a high-end flat recently. The top-of-the-line in 2001 seemed bottom-of-the-line when I saw this house. It came fully furnished; everything was shining, impeccable, futuristic. In spite of my cheerful personalised home, I felt jealous as hell, and terribly ashamed that I felt this way. I felt jealous because, all said, the flat was fantastic, and I knew that this was, for the likes of me, simply unattainable. The fine drapes, the plasma TVs, sleek kitchen, glamour bathrooms...they were everything I could never afford. But I asked myself honestly, if I could afford it, would I have chosen a house like this? The answer was no...if I had the money, I would buy a small house with a sloping roof, and a little garden all around...
...Much like the home I grew up in, and like the home I was welcomed into after marriage. Both ordinary but large houses with greenery all around...with mango, guava, badam and sapota trees, Ashokas and bougainvillas along the compound walls, with the sweet smell of Bakula and tree jasmines, raat-ki-rani and din-ka-raja. During my childhood, rainy season invariably found my mother and I digging, preparing plots to plant seasonals that would burst into beautiful bloom. I used to study on the terrace, with my desk in the half-sun, half-shade of a woodrose creeper. The house I grew up in, and interestingly, the one my husband grew up in, were shelter, not just for the people it belonged to, but also for many others who needed to be there for study or job, or for child widows to simply spend all their lives in because they had no other place to go to.
I realise now that I spent my childhood in a ‘luxury villa’...where my parents still live, and where my children have the good fortune to spend their holidays in. However, 25 years back, if someone had told me that we were living in an ‘elite residency’, I would have just laughed and dismissed it away. Such a thought never occurred...one just lived in large spaces, among ‘unbranded’ surroundings in a house full of people, chaos and laughter.