The packers and movers arrived at 8 am to move my belongings across the 3 km from my earlier to the present flat in Gurgaon. And I sat there watching their efficient clinical dismembering of my belongings into numerous ‘cartoons’, I struck up a conversation, as is my wont, with the two young men doing the job. During the course of this chat, the more talkative one wanted to know what I did, where I came from etc…. and finally made a comment that struck me “Aap akele rahte ho!! Aapke paas bahut saman hai!” Then with a quick about turn, sensing that he may have made a judgemental comment added “Logon ke paas, isse bahut jyadaa samaan bhi hote hai”. But, the comments did prod a sense of guilt in me!
When Subhash and I first set up house after marriage in 1973, we started with a couple of boxes containing our clothes, another couple with our college books, notes and other sundry paraphanalia. We acquired 2 metal beds with ‘Neewar”, a few folding chairs and a stove. And my mother sent a set of cooking utensils to establish a kitchen. We had to use innumerable contacts to get a gas connection and we got a 165L Allwyn fridge (a brand that no longer exists) out of turn (the waiting list was 4-6 weeks) because my father was in Hyderabad and knew folks who worked in Allwyn.
A few months thereafter, Subhash was sent off on Bharat Darshan to acquire the elements of “Tropical Medicine” and I moved into the hostel. Our scanty possessions, occupied a small corner of a friend’s garage (another young doctor, whose garage was occupied only by his scooter) for a few months. Over the next few years, spent mostly in the married hostels and in temporary accomadation, we acquired a smattering of essential household items – a few chairs, a diwan, additional cots (again, metal frames with neewar), dining table and chairs and a baby cot, when Mukta arrived.Most of it was second hand, and the diwan cost us all of Rs 300 at the time.
Things went into cold storage again when we left Mukta with my parents and the luggage (minus most of the furniture) in another garage to go abroad for fellowships. When we returned to set up house in 1980, we had already made a decision to shift jobs to Mumbai. Hence, we were hesitant to acquire stuff. A dear friend stepped in and sent us his older furniture which was lying in his garage – they had changed the nice, cane strung sofa set and dining chairs for the fancier upholstered ones!! We never did get a cot and slept on the floor for all of the 2 years it took for the move to Mumbai to materialize. We were the object of great pity (and probably derision, behind our backs) of our Sardar neighbors, for not having the “sofa set’!!
But when the move to Mumbai did get finalized, we were advised to get furniture made in Chandigarh as it would be cheaper and better. So finally we did get a double box bed and other stuff made, some of these were not quite appropriate for the proportions of Mumbai housing. But they stood us in good stead, moved with us 5 years later to Lucknow and some of it is still around. When we made this move, all of our belongings fitted around the Maruti 800, for which the railway coach was hired.
Over the 20 odd years in Lucknow, additions occurred as it was a larger house, Mukta was growing up, my parents and others came to visit etc.. We finally acquired the upholstered sofa set and a TV!! I am not a kitchen gadget freak and so did well with the steel utensils my mother had sent me (most of it bought from the ‘bartan walis’ who roamed Delhi colonies in the early 60s) and some crockery etc I had brought back from the US. Of course, my book shelves kept growing…. and when i wound up the Lucknow establishment in 2009, there was enough stuff to populate 2 flats – the Gurgaon one and the smaller one in Goa.
Since then, of course I have acquired new cots, dining table and chairs, couple of paintings etc…But no new gadgets in the kitchen or crockery, or other sundry items. Of course, the books have outgrown the ample shelf space Mukta had created.
“Aapke paas bahut saman hai!” did hit hard!! Of course I have far more clothes that I need. And the wine glasses are for the once a year occasion, the whiskey glasses have never been used, and no one has dropped into drink tea in the special Japanese tea set! We seem to acquire so many things, and then we discard them with reluctance – even the non-acquisitive amongst us end up with far more than we need! But, I have to heed the words and remember them each time I buy something for the house – “Do I really need it?” I am sure most of the time the answer will be a no! I am hoping that my response will be appropriate.
PS – written 2 weeks ago – and o=not posted by oversight!