It has been over 2 years our tiny Mahavir Enclave (ME) house is lying vacant.
My father retired from Central Government in 2005, after a service of 40 years. To everybody’s contempt, for which he has to always face all kinds of taunts and accusations and reprimands, at the time of retirement he failed to secure enough savings to buy a 3 bed room apartment anywhere in Delhi. I don’t know what we deserved, but we surely needed at least a 1200 sq feet 3 bed room apartment in a multi-storied complex with 24 hours water, lifts, power backup, gyms and a few more frills. Instead, what we have is a 630 sq ft 2 bedroom builder’s floor in a ‘congested’ area in ME.
Perhaps no government employee bought the apartments they live in on the day of their retirement by cash down. They all got there by paying 20-30 years of EMIs. My father wasn’t smart enough to crack this nut. “Ghar bana liya? Retirement plan kar liya?” Whenever people asked this, he said, “No no after retirement I will go back to Jalpaiguri, we have a B I G house there. He also purchased 3 kathas of land in one of Asia’s biggest residential colony with the cleanest air, water bodies, and beautiful greens, Panchasayar (5 Lakes). So he thought if not Jalpaiguri, we will move to Kolkata, with the money he will have in hand at time of retirement he will build a house there, a big beautiful house. That was my dad’s only dream and it remains unfulfilled because we never wanted to move out of Delhi.
Even he realized that it wasn’t possible to move after living in Delhi for 25 years. In 2005 Dwarka was the hot new destination, flats here at that time were still cheap and rents were cheaper. So he rented the Dwarka house for four of us to move in and with the small savings he had in hand, he bought the ME house. We put the ME house on rent, and by adding a bit on that we paid rent for this house which wasn’t very high. But over time our landlord jacked up the rent as Dwarka became more and more costly. The house have not been painted in 10 years, it has damped walls, horribly out of fashion kitchen and toilets. Still, it is big and with increase in Dwarka prices, ME prices also rose, so the gap between the amount we got and paid as rent was easy.
Two years back however our last tenant evacuated and since then we have not been able to find a new tenant. Dad is still working. So he has always been too busy to go tenant hunting. I have put it on makaan dot com and other places several times but never found a tenant. While ME has been a developing area with Delhi Jal Board connection to all homes now, the upcoming metro station and the colony getting regularized, house rent in Dwarka continues to be cheap. This is perhaps one of the reason why we can’t find a tenant.
Finally, mid 2016 I decided that we cannot keep paying rent to our landlord when our own house lies vacant. Moreover with my bohemian life, I am never gonna be in a proper job, never be able to pay the rent of this big house and dad can’t possibly keep working all his life to pay the bills. So we started the process of renovating the ME house so that even though small, it becomes a modern artistic house with proper fittings and furnishing. Small but pretty rather than big and ugly.
Today, mom and I spent the whole day at Asian Paints showroom selecting the colours. Before this we installed modular kitchen, smoke chimney. Wood work has been done in the rooms. I am cancelling my travel plans to supervise the final painting process, the textured walls are particularly tricky and dad is jittery that something will go wrong and when I come back and see, I will yell. I yell a lot at both of them. So I am gonna stay and help pack and move and decorate the new house.
This is a big moment. I wish I could take a selfie with dad in front of the AP showroom. This is the first time in our lives we’d have a house where the kitchen won’t always be sticky and smelly, where the paint on the walls won’t always fall or stick to your black coat, no more “chuna chuna”, where the bathrooms will have clean modern commodes, curtains, tissue paper holder, aroma oils diffuser, mirror and wall cabinet, first time in our lives we have Asian Paints Royale Play textured walls. Dad have been protesting at every extra thing we want to buy for the renovation but we snub him, and he reluctantly pays the bill.
Yet my father would perhaps go down in history as a failed man. A man who wasn’t meticulous enough to secure a home loan. Who couldn’t plan for the future, who didn’t foresee how our lives would be post-retirement. I myself sometime taunt him that you said you’d buy a car after retirement, you didn’t. I bought the family’s first car. A man who is now forcing his wife to go and live in the smallest home she has ever lived. My mom grew up in big houses, was married to a bigger house, our Kolkata house before coming here though rented, was huge, and then in Delhi we always lived in big government houses. Perhaps it is not fair that at this age, mom have to discard a lot of our furniture and stuff to adjust to the small house. People move from small to big as they grow old, she is moving from big to small. Not fair perhaps.
Yet I know my father couldn’t have done more. Yes he made mistakes. Many opportunities came our way when he could have bought a good house at cheap rate, but he didn’t take them seriously. He lived in fear of getting cheated, never trusted anybody who came with some housing plans, cooperatives etc. But he is also the man who hasn’t spent a penny on himself in his entire life. He never hired a taxi or auto for himself if he was solo. Says, if three people can sit in the auto, why should I take it alone? That’s bad economics. He has no addiction, no social circle, no entertainment, no hobby, no recreational activity. Not that he doesn’t have talents, men in his Kolkata office won’t play Carrom with him, “Basu’s game has no science in it. The bugger would put 6-7 pieces in pocket in single strike, what kind of unscientific game is that.” Then there was his gymnastics, badminton, his art of story telling which I have picked, and his recitations. But he just didn’t have the time for anything else beyond work and home. I have never seen him doing anything else. And if he had no money to buy a bigger house, it was because
A) He didn’t plan well
B) He didn’t listen to my mom’s planning at many occasion
C) Because he spent all his money on educating his daughters and giving us the best childhood.
I am abruptly ending it here. I don’t know why I suddenly wrote about this. I guess I am feeling very grateful to dad, I cannot ask for anything more, but I also feel bad for mom. This transition is not easy for her.