December 10, 2007

Dream homes/home dreams

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.

10 comments:

Mayank Bhatnagar said...

Very interesting post, extremely thoughtful. There is, perhaps, no end to extravagance and in my opinion, simpler, ordinary things last longer, people usually don't get bored with them as easily as they get with 'stylish' things because sooner than later, anything stylish goes out of style :-) To me, a majority of modern and posh houses / apartments now so common in India seem as if made up of plastic and in contrast when I see an old, wrinkled house, I always stop to admire it as it seems to have an incredible character that 'copied-from-the-west' buildings lack. The difference, is between 'body' and 'soul' wherein ultimately the soul shines!

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thanks very much, Mayank. You said it right...'copied from the west'...If we can stop imitating and carry forward our own unique aesthetics, India would be a different place.

dharmabum said...

i think i'll visit your parents sometime.

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Dharmabum: You are most welcome.

Anonymous said...

Dream homes and home dreams is beautiful.It brought tears to me and my husband was chocking while reading it.It makes one realise the futility of the modern day styles which soon become outdated as Mayank Bhatnagar pointed out....like our modern gadgets!!!!!!!I can tell you large spaces and lot of people in a home makes one large hearted.
I am Sadhana'mother.Dharmabum ,you are most welcome to visit me and my husband.Thanks for the thought.Jaya

dharmabum said...

i'm so very touched by your mother's comment. she located in hyderabad too?

tell her, i'm honoured by her invitation, and that if and when i come down, i shall most certainly pay them a visit

Ramesh said...

Hi Sadhana

What a touching piece you penned straight from your heart. I will give a different take on this. I live in the West that you alluded to, we can perhaps afford most of the gadgetery and other luxuries--but chose not to.I am also pleased to say that we are not a minority.Our home is a HOME with people,laughter,acceptable normal mess and above all full of life. No Plasma TV,nothing shining spick and span-nothing to make one feel hesitant to touch--just a cozy warm place with OPEN DOORS and HEARTS--this is the motto in our house led by my dear wife. Truly I feel display of wealth, extravagance and lack of selfless giving (my def. of Philanthrophy) is the unfortunate norm of Indian Immigrants. This truth is not the American norm. people love old homes with character while they may still live in gated communities.

I can relate to your nostalgia of your parents home--The home that Igrew up in Hanamkonda is gone-but my memory is still fresh--I can recall the spot I sat on the terace and read Pharmacology, even more vivid is the still fresh conversations of my mom,dad,siblings & granny at dinner time. I would love to go back down the memory lane and share the feelings with my family(they may not appreciate my intensity).

Thanks for your lovely,thoughtful piece--enjoyed it.

Ramesh

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Dharmabum: My parents live in Warangal, 140 km from Hyderabad. I will pass on your message to her.

Ramesh: If you are living a simple life in the US, hats off! Thanks for writing your perspective.

dharmabum said...

ah! i remember some years back...i trying to get into colleges, there was REC warangal...and people said "no no...too much naxalite problem there"...not that i care, now i have real good reason to go there...

sangeeta said...

This is the house that holds all our memories,The rangoli contests,The hide and seek games, The Mango and Badam tree and our infamous Papaya tree,The lizards(Yes I'm still scared of them),The Old pond and the Jhula.We all used to sleep on the terrace upstairs.Ahh the memories of summer vacations in Aunty and uncle's house in Warangal And your wedding Sadhana Who could forget the fun we had then.I will bring my kids this trip.
Sangeeta