Feeling at home

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 14 July 2018

When staying away from familiar people and scenarios, you crave for something that makes you belong. You strive to make that dwelling, a place of your own. Ambika Shaligram speaks to a few people to know what helps them make a home 

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali carries a kettle around with him, pouring Kahwa chai for himself every now and then. It makes him feel at home, he said in an interview. For him, it’s a kettle with his favourite brew; for you, it could be your comfy sofa in the house; for some like me, it’s always going to be a tree house, inspired by several Enid Blyton stories that I have read as a kid.

Everyone has their own idea of what their home should be like and they spend a lifetime fulfilling that dream. And, why not? A home can be a brick and mortar expression of your dreams. Or it could be a state of feeling. A home tells us many stories, about the people who call it home. Their possessions and their memories of the time spent within the four walls, make the house have a soul of its own.

Here are a few such stories from people, who are on the move constantly, telling us what makes them feel at home, wherever they are...

Every object tells a story

When they are two years into their posting, and she sees her neighbours and compatriots packing stuff and heading to a new destination, Adhishree Wadodkar tells herself, “Soon it will be time for us to move.” 

Married to an Air Force personnel for two decades, Wadodkar has packed and unpacked stuff in 14 official quarters, accumulating paintings, crockery, table cloths and what not. “When your husband is of officer rank, you are allotted basic furniture like a sofa, dining table and a bed. As he grows in rank, and you add years to your marriage, you scrimp, save and buy something for the home. There is always a story behind every object you have in the house,” she says.

And, so when it’s time for the family to make a home in another part of the country, Wadodkar is happy to turn over her house and belongings to the packers and movers team. Except for her crockery and artefacts. 

“We have collected crockery and artefacts, putting a lot of thought and money, in investing them. Plus, they are fragile. So I personally pack them in the same cartons that I have used for years. Rest of our possessions are packed and unpacked by professionals,” she informs.

The theatre person also insists on staying in the same house, till the very last day. And, then she says ‘goodbye to the house’. “I go around each room, saying thank you, for making our stay in the house comfortable, happy and healthy. I say goodbye to the windows, walls, doors, taps and even switchboard. I also pray to the house that the new residents also have a happy stay here,” adds Wadodkar.

She then gives us a little peek into the rituals that the air force personnel follow, when they leave one station for another. “We send notes, exchange gifts. Some families leave behind new cleaning equipment for the next arrival — a new broom, a pocha (mop) and a jar of bathroom cleaner or a handwash. Others ensure that the newspaper service continues for next one month, after they leave. One of my friends puts a bowl full of water in the sitting room, when she bids adieu,” she concludes. 

Books maketh her home

A French teacher and a published poet, Sailee Brahme has always been attached to her possessions. “An old shawl, for instance, which I wrapped around me, when I slept. I also used to carry it on vacations, when I visited relatives or went for sleep-overs. Later it got torn, more old, but I used it till I was in Std VIII,” she says.

Newly married to an army personnel, Brahme has so far seen two postings, and is gearing up for more. When it comes to transfer, the first thing that has to be packed is furniture. “Once I have my old furniture set in a new place, it feels like my home. The same goes for my utensils too. I have been using the same ones for cooking everywhere,” she says.

A bookworm, Brahme confesses to having, “kilos of books.” “But I can’t carry them all around. So I have left lots behind, with my folks,” she adds. 

However, she does have a few books, in her house. “In general, I’ll always have a romance novel, a dictionary, French study books, and my Kindle with me. I also have two of my published poetry works, Solitary Reflections and Loving a Soldier, with me. I love reading them and also giving them to my friends and acquaintances,” points out Brahme.

Her constant companions

A communications head with an NGO, Sulbha Nipanikar Jadhav didn’t realise that she had a serious passion for gardening until she was presented with a bonsai of peepal tree in 2009. Soon after she discovered her green fingers. Today, their official quarters in Odisha’s district place, are blooming with flowers. 

Married to an IAS officer, Jadhav explains the joys and pains of toiling in the mud and growing trees. “After I was presented with the bonsai, I set out to become a serious gardener. I found a potter, who made pots for Rs 15. So for one season, I got about 100 pots for plants made. Next season, the number went up. When it was time for next posting, the number of potted plants was 500. I definitely couldn’t move them along with all our bags and baggage. So I had to take the traumatic decision of giving away some of them. It’s just not enough to ‘give away the plants’. I ensure that the new owners love plants and will take good care of them,” she says. 

Some of the plants that have travelled with her through five postings are the peepal bonsai, which is now 17-years-old, bougainvillea creepers with some radiant colours, one creeper of jai-jui, and the grafted plant of apple. 

Explaining the choices that she made, Jadhav says, “The creeper of jai-jui is very special to me. Once I learn that the posting is due, I start my work on this creeper. It’s kept in a pot, which doesn’t have a base. So when it’s time to move, I cut off the roots and carry it with me. I also carry one leaf of Brahmakamal with me, wherever I go. Black pepper is grown widely in Odisha, so I carry that sapling with me. Unfortunately, my orchids suffered, when we were posted in the mining region of the state. Otherwise, I have been able to look after my plants.”

In fact, the pre and post transfer care of the plants is a priority for her. “I consider their needs when we set out for a new place — watering them, placing them in the right place so that they get sunlight etc. They become my priority, on par, with the duty of settling ailing, elderly family members in the new house, or getting kids admitted in a new school,” she adds. Also accompanying the plants are her rusty compost kit and gardening tools. “The flowers in the garden make my house a home,” says Jadhav on a concluding note.

God is everywhere

From her hometown in Jamshedpur to her brief stay in Pune and Bengaluru, and now living in Abu Dhabi, Anupama Prabhu has always had her gods with her. Born to religious and spiritual parents and now married into an equally religious family, Prabhu has always believed in and practised praying, meditating and chanting shlokas. 

“In India, we were lucky to have a room as a puja ghar. But in Abu Dhabi, we have converted a book shelf into a puja ghar and kept it in the drawing room. We worship Ganapati, our kuldev Lakshmi Narasimha, Hanuman, Dutta and Sai Baba are the deities. Lighting lamps twice a day, chanting mantras and meditating has been a part of my life,” says Prabhu.

However, after her son was born, she had to skip this routine, as he demanded attention. “In that period, I had become restless. However, once I started praying and meditating again, I found peace and calm. I also want my son to be involved in these rituals, so I pray to god every day,” she adds.

Another constant presence in her home was that of books. “When I was growing up in Jamshedpur, I read a lot. I preferred reading to watching TV. My son is three and he makes me happy when he gets a book, and asks me questions about the pictures he sees in it. I want him to develop a love for reading. With this in mind, we have disconnected our TV and his screen time is very less,” explains Prabhu. 

All the way from deutschland!

When Rajashree Marathe first travelled to Germany on work, it was a dream come true. A student of German in JNU, New Delhi, she always wanted to visit the country and imbibe a new culture. In November 2005, she travelled to Anasbach in German state of Bavaria, and stayed for about a year, making friends, visiting the countryside and collecting souvenirs. Most of these souvenirs and gifts she received from her friends there are displayed at her Bengaluru home. 

“I have moved couple of houses here in Bengaluru and the interiors are not deemed complete until I display a few pieces from Germany. I have got a big mug, gifted by a colleague’s wife, when I was returning home to India. Then, a friend had given me a bottle of homemade wine. It stayed uncorked for several years. There is a half curtain that I had bought there, which I now used to cover my refridgerator with. That curtain is typical of Europe. Every family, I visited in Anasbach, had a similar curtain, draped over their window,” says Marathe, who is an interpreter.

She has also got a book on Anasbach, filled with photos, and information about the town, gifted by her colleagues. They also thoughtfully wrote messages and signed their names for her, making her cherish the book all the more. She also bought silicon moulds to bake cakes during her stay. “They were not as easily available in India then as they are now. So when I got them, it was a matter of pride to me,” she quips. Marathe has kept up with all her German friends and every year on Christmas, she sends gifts to them. That’s the spirit of the season.

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