I am a survivor !

My house looks unnaturally clean and dust free. Well, as clean and dust free as a ground floor flat in Mumbai can possibly look like. The bright and newly painted walls enhance the clean and airy look of the house, as does the freshly polished, gleaming furniture. As I survey the house, I can’t believe how calm and quiet it is. This calm and quiet is not indicative of a storm to come, but of a storm that has passed. A storm called “repair and paint the house” ! And a storm that I have just about survived.

It all began with the realisation that I had ignored my house for 5 years. Mumbai’s humidity and monsoon had taken its toll and something needed to be done. That something included some minor repairs, electrical work, polishing the furniture and, of course, painting. So the contractor was contacted, an estimate of the cost involved (gulp !) taken from him, the final cost haggled over and agreed upon, a work schedule drawn out… and we were good to go. Or so I thought.

Work began on October 1st and from then onwards it was a roller coaster ride of small and big hurdles that would that would test my patience, and sometimes my sanity too. At the end of each day, I would breathe a sigh of relief and say “Ok, I’ve survived, and tomorrow is another day.” Each day brought up something new—some funny, and some not so funny. So, while I am certainly not going to recount every little thing that sent my blood pressure soaring, let me share with you some of the more memorable ones, and the ones that make me say, “I am a survivor”.

That very first evening, as I reviewed the day’s work with the contractor, he casually told me, “I’m going to my village for Durga Puja.” At the look of horror on my face, he hastened to add, “Tension nahi lene ka, Madam. I’ll complete the work before I go. I’m leaving on the 18th, the work will get over by the 12th.” To say I didn’t believe him is a bit of an understatement. As things came to pass, the work did not get over before he left, but… I survived.

Then there were those arguments I had with Amma (my mother) over giving away the stuff stored in our lofts since forever. But Amma was having none of it and decimated every argument/plea/threat of mine with just one statement:

You can do what you want with this stuff after I am dead and gone.

When I complained about this to my 18-year-old niece, instead of sympathising with me, she supported my mother ! Not only that, she laid claim to an ugly wooden cabinet that has been in our family since 1935, and has never been used either. I survived the ignominy of my mother supervising me as I got the workers to remove, clean and put the stuff back into the painted loft. She probably though that I would sneak some stuff into the trash bags!

While clearing out some shelves I came across pencil cases and pouches filled with pens, pencils, marker pens, highlighters, erasers, sharpeners… I was horrified. I admit that I love stationery, but I am not a hoarder by any standard and could not recall when I had purchased most of them. Not surprisingly, many of the pens and highlighters were not functioning and I had to throw away most of them. The photograph below is what was left at the end of the cleaning exercise.

My “hoard” of pens, pencils, sharpeners, erasers…

Before the wiring, the electrician very solicitously took my opinion on electrical points and switches and fans and lights. He impressed me by making copious notes too. Silly me. I should have waited till he actually completed the job. So, we now have sockets which are operated with one switch in all the rooms, a switchboard that is hidden behind a bookshelf (which means I have to move it to access it!), an off-centre fan and a couple of crookedly aligned lights. And did I mention, that the electrician has also gone to his village for the puja holidays?

Though Amma rubbishes my claim, she has an OCD where cleanliness is concerned. And such an OCD is a disaster in a house that is undergoing repair and painting. She was never satisfied with the cleaning done by the workers, and after the day’s work would want to scrub clean all visible surfaces again. Since I couldn’t convince her to let go or be satisfied with a superficial cleaning and also didn’t want her to do it, I would end up doing the cleaning. This happened Every. Single. Day.

Sometime back, I saw this beautiful watercolour painting of roses made by a fellow blogger, Monishikha, and fell in love with it immediately. And having found that it was for sale, bought it too. Once it was framed, I knew that a simple white or off-white wall would not do it justice. On an impulse, while going through the paint catalogue, I chose a “Lime Grove” paint shade for that one wall in my bedroom where the paiting would be displayed. Of course, nobody warned me that “Lime Grove on the shade card” would turn out to be “pista ice-cream on the wall”. I almost changed the shade, but decided to retain it and I have survived this decision.

I wish I had the foresight to keep a camera handy when the polishwala saw my books. His expression was a mix of amazement and something else. He kept asking me if I had read all the books I had and why I wanted so many books. I took an entire afternoon to lovingly dust and shelve each book, and of course read some pages of the book in between the two processes as well. The look of disapproval and something else on his face as I did it — I survived that too.

For some reason, my MTNL Broadband connection, which had never given me any trouble in the 3 years that I have used their service, decided to act up. Just a week before the work began, the connection died. And then began the story of the broadband guys blaming the linesmen blaming the broadband guys blaming the … You get the point ? So for the last month or so, I have been having intermittent Internet connection, which has meant that I could not read my favourite blog or conduct The Sunday Book Club without some amount of drama or even blog. My suggestion that there might be something wrong with the modem was met with incredulous disbelief by the MTNL guys. But I think l might be on the right track. Yesterday, after hours of struggling with the connection, I gave the modem one mighty thwack. And you know what, it started working. And both the modem and I have survived.

But more than anything else, I survived increasingly insistent and clamourous thoughts of selling my house and taking sanyaas. I thought about sanyaas when I had to make yet another round of tea. I thought of sanyaas when the PoP and paint dust and the smell of primer threatened to overwhelm. I thought of sanyaas after my mother refused to part with our oversized dining table and replace it with a smaller one for the nth time. I must clarify that my idea of taking sanyaas is not heading for the Himalayas or the nearest forest, but to run away to London and lead a bohemian life.

It has been a week since the work got over. The light fixtures have been fitted, my old and new favourite artworks are up on the walls, my precious books have been shelved, and that oversized dining table is still there as is all the stuff in the loft. There are minor repairs to be done like replacing window net, replacing a glass pane in the bathroom window, etc. — but that can wait for some time. Life is almost back to normal and if it weren’t for the faint lingering smell of paint and furniture polish, one can almost forget that a storm had ever occurred. A storm of repair and painting and a storm that I survived.

I would to love to share other stories, like “how the mango yellow wall in the living room turned out to be a sunny yellow wall and then became a turmeric yellow wall”, but you might get bored. Maybe a story for another blog post. And besides my favourite book reading nook in the house beckons 😀

52 thoughts on “I am a survivor !

  1. yes yes come to london … 🙂

    well I have to get builders in my house and its the thought how dirty it will become and all the problems i might face which is putting me off..

    and my loft is oh my god I dont even want to go in there its so fullllllllllllll ..

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    1. Ah Bikram. I can’t tell you how much I want to run away to London. And lead that bohemian life as well. Maybe one day, I’ll really sell my house and run away to London. One day.

      And please, please clear your loft before the builders get in. You wouldn’t want them to know what is there and hear comments like “yeh kis zamaane ki cheez hai” or the English equivalent of that, do you? 😉

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  2. Have you noticed how there’s always one person in the family that can never part with anything? In our house, I am a strict follower of if you haven’t used it in 6 months – donate it or toss it. DH, on the other hand is saving shirts that he wore before we were married. He secretly nurtures hopes that he will slim down to that size again :(. I have been postponing redoing the countertops in our kitchen for 4 years now. The fact that we will have nowhere to cook for 3 weeks plus the attendant mess is what keeps me saying “We’ll do this next year.” Maybe I can run away and come to you and the newly repaired house while the renovations happen

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    1. I think we need all kinds of people to balance out each other. In my house, if something cannot be found, its always, “Ask Sudha. She must have thrown it.” Here I am doing everyone a service by keeping the house clutter-free. And do I get any appreciation for it? No, ma’m. 😦

      I have a better idea for what do to when renovation nappen at your place. Let’s meet up in London and have a blast. That way I can live my bohemian dream and you can stay away from you home when the renovations happen. What say? 😀

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  3. Hahaha..not at all boring. I enjoyed your survival each way through.I have never undergone a repair process at home so far, so no experience at all. Btw, the green isn’t all that bad. It looks pleasant 🙂 You can survive..hehe

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    1. Latha, I can bet that when you have experienced a repair process and paint job at you home, you will be screaming from the roof/balcony/terrace top “I am a survivor”. And I will listen and nod smugly and say with a satisfied smirk, “I told you so ! ” 😀

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  4. Hey, I am glad you survived because that nook is too tempting for me to pass up — be prepared to see me ensconced there one day in the not too distant future 😀 And of course borrow one of the books from your collection. Also the lighting makes the turmeric wall look delectable. Going by what our sanyasis enjoy in the name of sanyas, your wish of a sanyas in London sounds too tame by comparison 😀

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    1. That is not the turmeric wall. It has acquired a golden glow because of the lighting. The turmeric wall is another one and over which my mother didn’t talk to me for a whole day !

      And you are welcome to ensconce yourself in that nook and read away to your heart’s content. I love to share that space. During the day, the natural light is more than sufficient in that nook.

      My idea of sanyaas may be tame for some, but perfect for me. Ah bohemian life in London, when wilst I embrace thee? 🙂

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  5. We shifted house last year and I was so glad to get rid of half of the mess we had accumulated over the years. Of course, mom and dad think that they have to keep everything for bad times, as if we might have to go and live in a jungle one day.
    When we move or paint our house, that is when we understand the stability it provides.
    The painting looks beautiful.

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    1. Thank you, Amit. I fully appreciate the stability of having a house as I have lived in 6 cities and countless number of houses. And the stuff in my loft has travelled through all that and more as some it had been with my grandparents since the time they were in Karachi.

      But stuff used in a large palatial house in pre-Independence India just doesn’t mix with a small flat with limited storage space in Mumbai. But the memories and sentiments attached to it are priceless and that’s what makes me bow down to my mother’s argument year after year.

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  6. this made for a wonderful reading, Sudha! and may I add, congrats on surviving the mess! and having come out of it alive and kicking, you can imagine the situation here considering we are going to have a whole year of people coming in and doing bits and pieces at a time!!!! wonder how i will survive… and with samhith too!!!! and that part about the loft is oh so familiar…. m-i-l is a hoarder, and to be honest, so am I 😦 and looks like samhith is going the same way 😀 hubby has the least stuff in the house, and left to himself, will keep nothing but basics…. he even gives away the books he buys to read!!! can u imagine that??? left to me, i would have had every book i ever owned!!! of course, that means i would need a palace to live in, with samhiths book collection already rivaling mine!

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    1. Thank you, Anuradha. And having been through the process, I know that you will too. I know exactly what you are going through.

      One can hoard shoes, clothes, vessels, bags but NEVER books. So make space for the existing books and the ones to come while the renovations are going on and shamelessly barter for or usurp more space with everyone at home. I do that all the time with my mother 🙂

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  7. How you write! Like the style so much. I’ve visited your blog after ages and just enjoyed this post.

    Am sure you don’t need yet another opinion on the wall…but the pista green is not a colour I’d associate with my idea of you 🙂

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    1. Good to see you here after so long. And how’s Ph.D. progressing?

      You’re right, pista green is not a colour I’d associate with me. 😀 But the wall was never supposed to be pista green; it was supposed to be lime grove. But for the painting, that pastel shade is perfect. Trust me. That photograph does not do justice to the painting at all.

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  8. You have a beautiful home…. and that little nook is to die for!!! Loved the post, and the color of the wall is not too bad either! You have not just survived; you’ve nailed it!! 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Nirvana. That nook is my favourite place in the house and I love it. 🙂 Though lime grove turned out to be pista green, it complements the painting, really well. 🙂

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  9. Aha! And you say nothing about the time sense – which is always my major bugbear. In Delhi, if a workman says he would come by 10 AM it only meant that he would come some time that day. In Bangalore, it means some time that week. Mumbai seems to be better or you are not as much a stickler for time as I am 🙂

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    1. I din’t say anything about the time sense because that is one thing I didn’t have to worry about (Psst…I have an OCD about punctuality 🙂 ). The workers would be at work by 9.00 sharp, and sometimes even earlier. Lunch break from 1.00-2.00 pm and would finish work at 6.00. My mother would actually force them take a break when she served them tea; they preferred to work while having tea !

      The reason why work took so long to complete is because the contractor underestimated the amount of work involved in his hurry to go to his village. Plus the painters and the polishwalas turned out to be perfectionists —the polishwala took an entire day to polish my clothes cupboard ! It was a treat to watch him work as he sanded and polished and sanded and waxed and polished. 🙂

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  10. WOW!!! I have to visit your house soon. The yellow wall looks warm and inviting – there is such a lovely glow in that corner. As for the stationery collection – the less said the better. You see, I have to remove the log from my eye first. I might end up with more of the stuff.
    As for the repairs and workmen – I have weathered many such storms. Every time is a nightmare and I do not want to go through the mess for quite a while.

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    1. You are the true survivor. Haven’t I heard your tales often enough? I bow to thee, Neena.

      And that wall in the last picture is not the yellow wall. It has that golden glow due to the lighting. The yellow wall is at another place and you have to come home to see it. So when is that going to be? 🙂

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  11. Designer smart stuff
    preening like a model
    in minimalist decor,
    the colors of life
    don’t seem to be
    what they purport to be,
    as she walks the ramp,
    throwing some staionery here,
    a piece of furniture there,
    trying to
    hide clothes and linens
    of other geographies
    circa 1943
    or thereabouts?.

    Only
    to see some
    honest to goodness
    golden kanjeevaram folks
    stand up and
    throw it right back at her,
    begging her
    to store the memories up there.

    Amazingly,
    the vigorous cleaning,
    scrubbing and wiping
    of the daily make-up,
    quietly circumvents the
    collection of memories …

    They cannot be
    renovated,
    repaired
    or
    polished.

    They shine brightly
    as they are
    ….

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    1. Yay ! Suranga’s verse comment on a blog post. 😀 I wish I could reply in verse form too, but… I’m honoured and my mother will be thrilled will what you have written.

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  12. Interesting and funny. Renovating and living in the same place is a tragic-comic experience. Thank God you did not add furniture renovation. I am sure you have left the cost overruns for another blog.

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    1. A warm welcome to my blog, Vivek. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Yes, it is difficult to stay in the same place when renovations are going on. But since my mother refused to budge, I had to stay too ! And thankfully, in spite of the delay, there was no cost overruns 🙂

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  13. So happy to hear you survived. It reminds me of the many times I have moved house, had the house painted, pest controlled etc. Would love to see a picture of your bookshelf. 🙂

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    1. Pest Control ! I knew I had forgotten something (*face palm*) ! I just hope that Amma does not realise that I have forgotten it.

      As for a picture of my bookshelf, you mean “pictures” of my various “bookshelves” don’t you? 😉

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    1. The result is totally worth it. But it is a little more than difficult to forget the dust and the paint and the chaos and my mother watching me like a hawk, lest I chuck something away 🙂

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  14. Hello Sudha, glad to see you have survived the little ‘storm’ and you enjoy life again. Impressive peace as I could relate to it when we had undergone the upside downs of relying over a group of fixers a few years back. Your house looks unbelievably beautiful. Keep the exceptional writing! Khalid

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  15. Love the painting and your reading corner. I got my house painted last year after loads of dilly dallying. The whole process moves me closer to nervous breakdown — the moving of furniture, the dust, and with kids and a dog being in the house, it is a nightmare. The end result looked lovely to me, but hubby with his perfection found flaws everywhere :). I am washing my hands off any painting for as long as I can delay it :). *Shudders* at the memory :).

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  16. Sudha ji,

    You are a survivor indeed! I know I’ve said it before, but Im really flattered and honoured that you got the walls painted to compliment my paintings! And like someone said earlier, Im waiting to see pictures of the book shelves too 😀

    We shift homes every few years or so, and before every move, the two of us decide that THIS time we’re going to throw away the stuff that has been sitting packed in trunks from the last to last move. Then we go out and buy more trunks to hold all the new stuff we’ve bought while staying in our present house 😉

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    1. If I had not chosen the wall colour to complement the paintings, I would have been doing them great injustice ! And there is a separate post coming up on the paintings themselves. 🙂 Wait and watch this space.

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  17. Hey, this sounds like deja` vu. In the past 10 years I have been through the ordeal of painting thrice and shifting house once….the clutter terrifies me! I am always amazed by the amount of clutter we accumulate and not part with! However I tend to agree with Amma about the ‘ugly’ wooden cabinet! I am the queen of hoarders and I know how difficult it is to part with stuff 😉 Your reading corner looks so attractive and inviting! Waiting to see your ‘new’ house and congratulations for surviving so well, phew, quite a task, I must say!!!

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    1. Yes, you are the queen of hoarders and while I would dearly love to tell my readers how much you hoard, it will not serve any purpose as I know that you are not going to change ! 😛

      When are you coming this side of the world?

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  18. I remember shifting and giving away lot of stuff. And it seems after almost 4 years in Pune, the stuff is accumulating again. Ofcourse whenever my MIL or mom visit, they keep telling me to hoard as much.

    The electrician seemed to be the real pain. btw, the painting and the nook is looking nice.

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    1. Let’s call the electrician “creative” shall we? If anyone were to visit my place they would be quite impressed with the electrical fittings. At first glance, of course. Then if they have a really keen eye they will strat noticing things. 🙂

      Mothers and MILs will always tell us to keep stuff for a rainy day or a needy day. And I hate to admit it, but just when I have thrown away something I or someone else needs it. I had an unused comb cleaner lying at home for about 8 years. I chucked it during the painting process, and what do you think happened? My niece calls me up last week and says, “You know that comb cleaner that you never use? Can I have it?”

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  19. The walls look very nice. Yellow one is so photo friendly.
    Till date, I was under the impression, that work ethics in Mumbai is top class, unlike Hyderabad. Enjoyed your sense of humour in spite of so much stress.:-)

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    1. Thanks, Pattu. The yellow wall in the picture is actually a result of the lightting. The real yellow wall has not been shared here.

      Your impression of work ethics in Mumbai being top class is correct. The work would have got over on the estimated date if the contractor had not underestimated the repair work involved. As for the goof-ups in the electrical work, they will be corrected once the electrician gets back next week.

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