Monthly Archives: January 2010

I Must Be Desperate. Or Crazy.

Or both.

One of the nice things about our new home is its balconies. We have four – one at the top of the steps, one attached to the study, one attached to the master bedroom, one attached to the dining room and one attached to the kitchen. Ok, that’s five. Two of them are deep, squar-ish, and covered with a sloping tiled roof. The others are small, and largely or entirely uncovered. The one attached to the kitchen is enclosed by a metal grill, which makes it safe to keep the washing machine there and hang clothes there, though everything is exposed to the elements. The one attached to the study can actually be accessed directly from the ground floor, which makes it a slightly public balcony, though it is hidden from view from the road. The other three balconies are very visible from the road, but they are nice for sitting on with a cup of tea. Not, of course, that we’ve ever done that yet; or ever did in our old home which also had a couple of balconies. As a matter of fact, we don’t even have chairs and tables to put on the balcony, yet.

In addition to the five balconies, we have terrace at three levels. Technically, the terrace is shared with the tenants on the ground floor (and I suppose that, equally theoretically, their garden is shared with us), but I’ve never seen them use it.

And of course, we have a large garage, which should do for two cars but for all the junk lying in it; and a separate side parking area for my car.

So basically, we have a lot of open space in this place – a lot more than we’re used to. Which is great, except when it comes to cleaning it.

We haven’t properly cleaned the whole house more than once or twice since we moved in, so obviously, we haven’t cleaned the outdoors areas even once. I decided to tackle the many areas one-at-a-time over the weekends. By the time I get done with all of them, it’ll be time to go back to the top and start again. It’s as good a way to spend the weekend as any…. Well, almost.

So on Sunday I decided to tackle the balcony attached to the dining room. Since it is larger than the others and covered too, and since it is centrally located and cannot be access from anywhere other than the dining room, it has unfortunately been elected as the best place to hang clothes to dry. Unfortunate, because I’d much rather not have to see our clothes drying every time I pass by – about 200 times a day – but it seemed to be the only practical option. The other balconies are either too far away from the laundry area, or too small, or too public, or too exposed to the elements. So, since we had to hang our clean clothes there to dry, it seemed logical to get that balcony cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Now, if I have to get my hands dirty cleaning up our new place, why should I have to do this alone? Especially when I have another two pairs of hands that are only too eager to get themselves dirty? So I tore a large rag into two small rags and one large rag, handed the smaller bits to the twins, equipped us with a mug of water with some detergent in it, and we all got busy. I cleaned the upper surfaces, while the girls worked on the lower surfaces. We did the glass doors, the ornamental railing, and the floor. By the end of an hour or so, much of the dust that had formerly been in the balcony had been transferred onto parts of the girls. I’m not sure whose idea it was – most likely, not mine – but somebody decided that the muddy water in the mug and the muddy rags in our hands would be ideal for mopping the dusty floor with. Given that large quantities of water had already been spilled on the floor, though, this probably did no more harm than had already been done.

Like I’ve said before, when it comes to my own kids, I have nothing against child labour. But… just that weekend I’d heard of two small kids who’d been hit by something allergenic and had to be taken to the hospital in a hurry and put on a nebulizer. Neither of these kids had any known history of asthma, so probably it was something in the air. And dust is the last thing you want to expose people to if they’ve already got breathing problems. Why, exactly, was I making my kids practically roll around in the stuff?

The good part of all this was that I got some very funny looks from people passing by on the street below. Hopefully, some of them were domestic help, and some of them were people who know or employ domestic help. If they have no pity for me, they might at least take pity on the two little girls scrubbing away so Cinderella-like and come and ease our pain. Till that happens, there are plenty of equally public spaces that I can coax the kids into spend the next several weekends scrubbing.

New Home

It was a chaotic weekend, made much worse by extraneous factors that should have had no influence whatsoever in the manner in which we moved house.

To start at the middle, it has to do with the twins’ adoption, which is still (yes, STILL) not quite done. The legalities, I mean, are not quite done. Our lawyer has to file some papers in court and when we went there in December and signed the papers, we didn’t know where we were going to be shifting to, so we gave our current address, which is now our old address. Then we decided that a 75-90 minute commute back home each evening was simply unacceptable, so, contrary to our lawyer’s advice, we decided we would shift home anyway. But, a social worker has to visit us at some unspecified date in the near future and this person will only visit the address given on the papers filed in court. And not only must we have physical possession of the premises, we must also actually be living there. It is not enough to show them an empty apartment with our nameplate at the door and say that it belongs to us. Actually, I’m not finding fault with this process – I guess it is done to check that adopted children have actually gone into a loving family with a proper home and are not being kept in terrible conditions or subjected to any kind of visible cruelty or abuse. As far as that goes, it is a good thing. Of course, people who really want to do child-trafficking of any kind would not be caught out so easily, but at least the authorities have to make this effort – it would be tragic if people could, for instance, adopt a child and then keep them locked up or tied up, and nobody ever even came to check.

So I’m not complaining about the process. Only, the timing is so terribly off. I suppose I should have waited a couple of months (or six) to start working and then we would not have been in such a tearing hurry to move. But then, you have to grab the opportunity when it comes, so… Whatever.

On Thursday evening we returned from Calcutta and greeted the new year with a bottle of rum and several bottles of Coke (ThumsUp, actually, but Rum and Coke just sounds so much better). On Friday, we went and investigated our new home once more and didn’t manage to achieve much of anything, really. Reluctantly, late on Friday night, we started packing clothes into suitcases and soon ran out of suitcases… and backpacks… and plastic carry bags. So we did what any sane person would do – we drank some more rum and coke and crashed.

On Saturday morning, the packers arrived. They were supposed to come at 9.30 a.m. and the showed up – ten minutes early! We started directing them – pack this, leave that, don’t touch any of the books, nor the paintings, and we won’t need that dining table either. Our plan was to take just the bare minimum stuff with us to the new home so that we still had a semblance of a home at our old home. Then, after the social worker’s visit, we’d cart the rest of our stuff away. How we’d manage for several weeks without all our stuff I don’t know… but we’d signed the lease, paid the advance and got the keys in our hands, so we were definitely moving.

Half an hour into packing, we suddenly reversed our decision and decided to pack everything; moving half our stuff just wasn’t tenable, nobody can live like that, not with two kids to manage and a full-fledged household to run. What would we do about the gas stove, the washing machine, the curtains, the fridge and TV? We decided to move lock, stock, and barrel. The confused packers threw things into cartons absolutely at random and chaos ensued. Shaba-Aunty arrived with two children in tow.

Our two were mercifully busy. In Calcutta, they had been exposed to “party” meals. That means, plates are laid out in a long line, along with bowls, spoons and glasses. Then food is served on each plate in a row, by serving men. It is a prolonged affair, course following upon course, beginning with salt and rice and ending with three kinds of sweet. When all is done, the guests rise, and the servers pick up all the used plates and bowls etc. to lay out the whole process for the next round of guests. While unpacking, Amit came across a carton full of paper plates, spoons and bowls left over from the twins’ second birthday (which, if he had uncovered this treasure trove several months ago, would have been put to good use for their third birthday). This carton he handed over to the delighted kids, who proceeded to diligently spread out rows of paper plates on our huge mattress, add all the accessories, meticulously for each place setting, serve an imaginary party meal to an imaginary throng of guests, and then, carefully, pick up and neatly stack up all the “used” plates. It was a spectacle of a lifetime – I wish there were some better way of preserving those moments than these completely inadequate words which will probably get lost in the sands of time.

Meanwhile, the packers were quickly turning our lifetime’s acquisitions into a jumble of cardboard cartons. Since we hadn’t done anything by way of preparation, Amit and I were scrambling to get the more personal of our possessions packed away ourselves. This included a whole host of things – clothes, jewellery, documents, computers and their bits and pieces like printer, scanner, monitor, whatnot, and of course… food! At least I’d had the cook do some work the previous evening, so we had lunch ready for the kids. At last, around 12 noon, I took the four kids and Shaba Aunty and a lot of assorted items in my car and drove to our new home. Shaba-Aunty got to work scrubbing and cleaning, while I went out with the kids to buy brown paper to line the cupboards with. By around 3.30, the packers arrived with a truckload of stuff. By 4.30, everything had been unloaded and was lying around in an advance state of disarray. Our rocking chair, which we had put away when the kids came home and had decided that was now safe enough to put back in use, had had its back broken. Additionally, the glass on one picture had been cracked. Apart from that, nothing that I’ve discovered so far seems to have suffered much damage, which, considering the manner in which they packed and moved, is nothing short of a miracle. I managed to put a fresh sheet on the kids’ mattress (which was a bit of a waste, considering they themselves were nothing short of filthy) and they went to sleep reluctantly around 4.30. Meanwhile, I left for the long drive back to our old home, where I had promised Shaba Aunty I would drop her.

On arriving back at our old home, I was shocked to find that Amit seemed to have left about half our worldly possessions behind! None of the cupboards was completely empty, and some of the lofts were as full of stuff as they had ever been! Additionally, our packers had mysteriously neglected to pack sundry essentials like one gas cylinder and the kitchen trash can. It looked like we’d need another truck to get everything shifted out of there. I loaded a few items into my small car, then gave it up as a lost cause and drove all the way back to the new home again. Naturally, we went out for dinner.

On Sunday, we managed to unpack 90% of the things that we needed to keep our household going from day to day. The kitchen became largely functional, and most of our clothes were located. Certain vital gaps, however, were indisputable. We couldn’t find our regular coffee cups. In fact, we couldn’t find any cups at all. We tried drinking coffee out of some plastic mugs that were gifted to the kids in some remote era, but the coffee just didn’t taste the same. Then, our table mats were missing. It shouldn’t have been very important, but it was quite irritating to have to keep food directly on our wooden table and have stuff spill all over it. Strangely enough, our microwave was up and running right away, but, crucially, the round glass plate that fits into the bottom and rotates was missing – so, the microwave just couldn’t be used. All our toiletries made it and have been found, but of the hand towels, there is no trace. Even worse, the gas stove and one cylinder had made it and we had them connected up and ready to go, but… we couldn’t find the gas lighter! Matches? We don’t smoke – who keeps matches other than smokers?

Several days later, the coffee cups and the microwave’s bottom are still missing. And cardboard cartons – mostly full of books – litter the living room and the study. Our computers and associated paraphernalia are still stranded in our old home. Our bookshelves are empty and all our framed pictures are straddling two dining table chairs, waiting to find their places on the walls. Thankfully, our new home has a puja room into which we have haphazardly shoved an assortment of cardboard cartons, some of which, no doubt, contain the vital implements that we are missing. Only the kitchen, the kids’ bedroom, and our bedroom have some semblance of sanity. Which is saying a lot, because I think I’ve completely lost any semblance of sanity and I’m not sure how much my better half has left either.

My immediate problem is that we now have no household help whatsoever. Not only is there nobody to clean this beautiful and spacious new home of ours, there’s nobody to cook food for us either. Even worse – if anything could possibly be worse – is that we don’t even seem to have a dhobi nearby. I’ve been diligently working my way through a monstrous stack of laundry (including some backlog from the trip to Calcutta!) and the thought of now working my way through the ever-increasing stack of clothes to be ironed is driving me to the brink of a nervous breakdown! Plus, of course, the house has not had even the whisper of a cleaning since Shaba-Aunty did her magic last Saturday, and it is much the worse for it. Amit and I haven’t had a square meal at home till date – it’s all I can do to ensure that there is sufficient food of a sufficient standard so that the kids don’t starve.

Then, of course, there are the little things: no broadband, no TV, and no newspapers. But that hardly matters – what with just trying to keep us going from day to day (not to mention feeble efforts to find my precious coffee cup), who has time for all of that?

Oh, yeah, our commute back from work now is about 30 minutes. Yesterday I did it in 20. We’ve taken the kids to the park every day this week. So I know this was a good decision, but how am I going to survive another week without Shaba-Aunty?

And WHERE’S my coffee cup???