“Heyy come check this out!”
I hear Sarath call out to me from our drawing room where he sits before his computer, with our 3yr old daughter on his lap, trawling the internet for ideas for our dream home.
My heart winces at the note of hope that brightens his voice.
I sigh, take a deep breath, rinse off the soap suds from the plate I am washing, place it on the black granite countertop, wash my hands, dry them on my black t-shirt and head over to take a look at what all the excitement is about.
Behind a plastered smile, my mind drifts away to a 5yr old girl from years ago.
It was a sultry afternoon many many summers ago.
A time from when life was still a clean slate full of excitement, hopes and big dreams.
My two brothers (one elder to me and the other younger) and I were sitting out in the verandah playing some game I no longer remember. Suddenly one of us heard the familiar honk of Dad’s white Contessa Classic and we rushed out to greet him.
Something was brewing and we could sense it for the twinkle in Mom’s eyes had been shining brighter all day long.
Dad parked his car, beamed at all of us and triumphantly held up a big rolled up blue chart paper.
We kids didn’t quite know what was going on but whatever it was, we knew it was something good.
Dad handed it over to mom and without wasting a moment she unrolled it and spread it out on the thinnai of the verandah.
I remember staring at what was inside and feeling disappointed. For all it had was lots of bland lines and boxes. Confused, I looked at mom.
She laughed and explained to me that what lay before me was the ‘plan’ of our dream home. And then she pointed out to me a small square which she said will be my room.
I remember being so so happy.
I remember demanding that my room be painted in pink (God knows why). We were all so excited and happy. Huddled over that blue chart paper chattering away till dusk settled around us and we could no longer make out the lines and boxes drawn on it.
A few years later, as we sat together at the dining table having breakfast Dad regaled us with grand plans of how he wanted our dream home to be.
Indoor gym, home library, well-manicured gardens, even a running track around the sprawling grounds. The only confusion seemed to be whether we wanted Alsatians or Dachshunds as pets. Dad even explained in fine detail as to how he wanted the entire house and grounds to be 100% self-sufficient with custom made solar panels, vegetable gardens and so on.
I felt happy as he sounded super confident. He had all the right to be for our family business was booming, growing steadily and to add to that apparently some astrologer had told him that it would happen for sure this time around.
A few years and rental houses later, while digging into Biriyani on a Sunday afternoon, Daddy looked at his daughter, now in 5th std, and told her that before she reached 10th std they would have a home of their own.
A few more years later as we stood unpacking our belongings and setting up ‘home’ in yet another rented house, Dad promised that the next shifting will definitely be to our own new house which we would build soon.
Years and years and years of in-numerous astrologers, predictions, pouring over ‘Veedu’ magazines, ‘Dream Home’ TV programmes, hopeful plans, discussions and shiftings later, one day 24 year old me, my kid brother, Mom and Dad stood together on an empty plot of land inspecting it, checking if it was the right one to bear the weight of our dream home.
For that was what it had become. A dream that sat heavy on the frail wings of hopeful hearts.
No miracle happened.
We went bankrupt. Lost everything including our factory, our only asset. Forced to sell out to avoid the bank seizing all our possessions. It’s weird how I haven’t come across an English word that encompasses that same sense of fear, dread and despair hidden in the bosom of the Malayalam word “Jepti”.
Today I am 28 and all that remains is the dream, battered and bleeding and the dreamers, heavy hearted and lost.
I have often wondered how people can take the concept of ‘home’ for granted…
To grow up and live each day in the awareness that you can get kicked out of the roof over your head any time, to have half your belongings perpetually packed in brown carton boxes, the constant tension and pressure of having to cough up the monthly rent, to have to deal with all types of landlords right from the kind considerate ones to the downright rude, bullying kind, to deal with the entire ‘house hunting, packing, shifting, unpacking’ cycle over and over and over again…
With every shifting, every time we leave behind a ‘home’ I have always felt that I leave behind a bit of my heart too. And every time we move into a new house, even as a child I remember how I used to constantly tell myself not to fall in love with the place, get too comfy or let my roots dig into the soil on which I stand for ‘shifting’ is the inevitable truth.
I have shifted homes and hostels over 21 times spread across 3 districts and 2 states in the last 28years. Or is the number 22? I don’t even know anymore.
I now stand where my parents once stood. A hopeful young couple with a little child, in a strange land with no assets to boast of but dreams.
I look at my husband, at the hope and excitement that glimmer in his eyes.
This is just his second rented house. He has a ‘home’ and ‘native place’, concepts that are strange to me. A home he had lived in for 30 long years before we united.
I look at my daughter and remember the 5yr old I once was. Our daughter is already onto her third house at the age of 3.
Do I believe in dreams and miracles anymore?
Has Hope died in me?
“Our house should have big open windows everywhere. That way we’ll have plenty of natural air and light indoors at all times. What do you think?” Sarath’s voice breaks into my thoughts.
I smile at the excitement rippling forth and retort :
“I don’t care how you design the house but the kitchen is my forte and I want it customized the way I want it to be! Wait, I saw this video the other day which had so many awesome ideas for neat discreet storage spaces and the like! We should definitely have stuff like that in our kitchen too. Plenty of storage spaces so that I can have clean, uncluttered countertops at all times.”
3yr old Vedhika looks on, happy to be a part of the excited discussions. Like the little girl I once was, she doesn’t understand what we are talking about but feels content in the knowledge that it is about something good.