Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dream homes and lonely hearths

Two weeks back I was in Kochi for a day for my cousin’s engagement. His parents are government servants and they have built a dream house, just like other middle class people before them, through years of saving, scrimping, penny pinching and loans. Aunty has done up the house so tastefully that I asked her to seriously consider Interior Designing after retirement. I was the last to leave the house by the late evening flight. After everyone had left, I wandered around the house, marveling at the tastefully done up rooms, thoughtfully designed spaces and the peaceful ambiance.

My aunt explained that she would now close all the rooms except the master bedroom till the next family get together. Their three kids are grown up and two of them are working, while the third is pursuing an MBA in the North.

This couple is one amongst the scores of couples I know in a similar predicament. People who dreamt of a home of their own and worked long and hard towards it till the twilight days of their life. And when they had it all, the dream home with rooms for all the kids, the garden and the feeling of living in ones own home after years of rented accommodation...they realize that they are alone in the house and finding it difficult to maintain it in their advanced age.

My uncle curses himself for building this house. He wishes he had invested in a small home where he and his wife could stay and saved the rest of the money. The years of toil and turmoil to own a home had fruitioned only to come to a naught.

My Uncle fondly remembers the good old days in their rented accommodation. He has no happy memories of this house. He misses his old neighbors. Aunty on the other hand feels relieved that they don’t have to live in a rented house in their old age. But she admits that making such a large house wasn’t such a good idea after all.

There are many such lonely dream homes in Kerala. Expensive monuments to shortsightedness. Most of them have only one or two of the rooms occupied. The people for whom it was meant, will never return. The people they left behind are left with an empty new home, hearth and hearts.

There are many reasons why people blog. But here is a reason why some people like to
read blogs.

27 comments:

Abhilash said...

Reminds me of my grandparents home in Kottayam. They built a huge two story house back in the day when single story was more common. Then all their children eventually moved to the USA. Now they only use the lower floor and can't climb the stairs.House is deteriorating fast due to the maintenance required which is impractical for them alone for such a large house which is not being used.

Anonymous said...

Very true!

Anphy said...

speaking from the odr side - when i was a kid my idea of being successful was "havng a gud job,building my own house n kerala n dn taking out my parents for trips every weeknd etc etc".and now dt i am n delhi n spend my money on flight tckts n McDs instead of on my family, i do wonder at tiimes:is this what i wanted?

Deepti said...

sad but true!!

mathew said...

i think it is perfect example of middle class dreams going awry..People itch until they dont manage to acheive that dream..it is not the usability that matters..it is whether you achieved what your peers have done..that motivates more than anything..unfortunately it is too late to realise the futility of it..

I must admit that I do have similar ambitions of owning a home asap which come automatically in my scheme of thoughts...

coz sometimes the satisfaction of just acheiving something is more gratifying than anything else..

Ann said...

Beautiful post Silverine...

Thankfully for us, my parents decided to build our dream home while we were little itself..so all the sweet memories of our childhood lie nestled in that ''home'' of ours though we do not live there now.

It is really an ironic situation, when we left our home in Cochin , we children wouldn't even think about giving the house on rent as all our beautiful days were there.But we couldn't take a decision to stay back there either...sigh!Life sure is wierd...!

Divs said...

True.
I have seen my parents struggle thru my growing up years with loans and construction and increasing prices to finally own their place.

And now I am in an other city, my sister will soon be moving to another and God alone knows whether either of us would choose to come back and live where we grew up.

My parents are slightly more lucky I guess as we did share quite a few wonderful memories in our house inspite of the struggles. Even when me and sis move on, we will still know 'OUR' house.... :)

Though the housing loan still stands.... :-<

silverine said...

abhilash: Such a sad state of affairs :(

Anon: For a State that knows the fate of its kids, people seem very oblivious when it comes to building a home.

anphy: Thats because of the sudden turnaround in our fortunes compared to our parents I guess due to the economic liberalization.

deepti: Sad indeed.What a waste of hard earned money!

mathew: For this generation,owning a home and living in it is a reality, compared to our folks gen. Which is why I am surprised that they built houses knowing full well that kids will migrate out of the State. But I guess as you said, it has a keeping up with the Joneses factor and a sense of achievement woven in it. But in the end it is a sheer waste for many.

Ann: You are very lucky! It is indeed a blessing to have lived in a home that you built. And very sad that you had to give it up for rent.

divs: Its not just loans, but the entire process of building a house was so tedious back then. And thank god that you have good memories of the place :)

Ann said...

Silverine, the best part is we din't allow that to happen too...our poor parents had a tough time arguing with us about giving the house on rent...

But we were firm enough with very reasonable reasons like 'Pappa I don't want anybody else sleeping on my bed,or sitting at my table and studying or using our bathtub or leaning on our house walls or looking at our mirrors...'..guess they couldn't take more than this...So now we keep travelling Cochin-Chennai-B'lore sectors..guess Kallada or Indian railways will soon award us some ''frequent traveller family'' award or something :-D !

Freespirit said...

It's indeed a sorry situation when you've built up that dream house with years of hardwork and stingy living, only to realize that its gonna be a lonely haven.
If one thinks practically, something like this is totally unavoidable in the kind of world we live in today, where there are scores of ppl who live out of a suitcase or shift bases frequently. But I would think it is still worthwhile to go for the dream house thingie, so u have someplace to get back to, a place where you sit down and feel you are home!

Anonymous said...

I lived with my grandparents all through my childhood, in what was their dream house.'Lived with'is actually an understatement as my grandparents brought me up. I have a maternal home which is ages old and with a temple, 'kaavu', ponds etc. I used to spend my weekends there with my great grandmother.

I sadly have no such dreams of building or owning a house. I do want to rennovate my maternal home. I heard from my great grandmother that it was last renovated about 3 centuries ago. Although,I was brought up in my father's house, we still follow the matriachal system:).I feel a sense of belonging to that place rather than any other.Now that I think about it, I feel that it is to inculcate this sense of belonging that people strive so hard to make houses/homes. I could never understand why people have such dreams. Now I relaize that its mostly to help the future generation have or identify their 'roots'. Which might not mean anything to most people.


[Just some random thoughts I had after my previous comment.]

...Jive Talker said...

I live in Bombay and I'm so obsessed with making my own home. I also want it be exactly the way I imagined it in my head. Given the real estate prices here, chances are that by the time I achieve it there will be a sense of acute loss more than anything else...

Jiby said...

my parents built their dream home after years of saving and scrimping...thanfully we were small then...i am amazingly proud of my parents for building it. what most parents think is that their kids will return one day and will then have a house to live in. i am 27 and i am irritated that my parents still keep investing their earnings for me...maybe its because they know i have plans of coming back or its because they know i am carefree. on the other hand, i guess all this gives me a cushion to follow my own priorities in life without having to bother to go through the same struggles they went through!

the sad reality is that most kids might never get to live in these fancy homes their parents have built, we see peep out all over kerala's green landscape. the colony i live in is now like a retirement community...no kidding!

Karthik said...

I echo the same opinions as that of Jiby. Even the colony where my house is in Trivandrum is like an asylum for the retired people since all their children have migrated either to overseas or different corners of India. But like Jiby said I too am proud that my parents build their own home when i was about 5 years old.

My brother who is 10 years elder to me was with my parents in a rented house before i was born. But even that had its share of good memories and sometimes my parents say that they miss that too!! Great post Anjali!!

ap said...

great post.....

Very similar to our situation...

We had a house in kannur...later on we moved to Cochin...Now the search for the 2nd dream house continues.....

ur aunt and uncles view are very similar to that of my parents :)

philip said...

This is so devastatingly true!

Preetha Nair said...

.....I had a knot in my throat reading this post.....
not a single day passes by when I dont think of home and the next thing I see is the picture of two lonely souls watching Asianet and Surya in an empty house...
sighh...if only I could discard everything and just go home....

Dhanush said...

Its just not our parents. In search of employement whenever ppl has left their homes, the same thing has happened. My Grandmother was staying alone at our tharavad with a servant, when we were just 5kms away from her. She just couldn't leave that house. And now when she is leaving wiht us, always complain about not being in her house.

But then.. aduthulla marangale makkalude perittu vilikkan ellavarum Padmarajan Sir menenjedutha kathaapatrangal allalloo.. Have you seen "Thinklacha Nalla Divasam"?

Once, in my teens when we had our own house, I asked my mom - Why dont we sell this house and go to Calicut (I love being in Calicut) and settle?. All she replied was - "Angane ellam angu itterinju pokaan pattumodo nammuku". I might not have realised the meaning of those words then, but today I know.

Great post Silverine!

Merin said...

100% genuine...another stark reality encountered by the middle class life..

Mind Curry said...

hmm..this is so true..sometimes i feel so sorry about people who have reached old age..its almost like infants left without parents..insecure, lost, worried, empty, uncertain.. its terribly sad.

silverine said...

Ann: I can relate to that! I cannot imagine strangers occupying my room and house!

Freespirit: Well, this sort of a predicament is confined to the generation before us.Our generation will definitely get to have someplace to go back to in their prime :)

Anon: Your story was so nice. I could almost imagine the place. And you make a lot of sense when you say that a home gives you roots. But for so many people a home is where they wait for their loved ones to walk in through the door.

jive talker: Your obsession is what drives millions others to make a home I guess. Hope you achieve that
soon :)

Jiby: You are lucky that you got to live in your own home and you parents accomplished what every parent wants for their family. I guess a home is also hope of loved ones coming back...something for those left behind to hold onto. It's not just colonies, but the
entire state that is slowly turning into an old age home.

Karthik: Thank you :) I remember reading as a kid a saying, that bricks and mortar do not make a home, but a family does. So your home was lucky that way :)

AP: Thank you :) I hope you get that dream home soon!

Philip: "Devastating" is the word for this phenomenon.

Preetha Nair: :(

Dhanush: I will try and get that movie. And I can understand your grandmoms angst. A tharavadu
is especially hard to let go.

Merin: True!

MC: I know! :(

nmouse said...

Thanks a lot not just for dropping by - really appreciate your encouragement, but also for the hours of reading and reminiscence reading your stories.

Reading that last post reminded me of the highs and lows we went through in our family house. Houses were built around us, houses built with a vision of having the whole family under a roof, houses where the grihanadhan had ensured rooms for all his children and grandchildren should they ever decide to return, only to leave the bereft spouse alone in the same houses which have turned silent...

eljo said...

a very valid post... Being an NRK, I don't understand the enthusiasm of Keralites in spending tonnes of money on building palatial homes. I also have loads of old uncles & aunts all alone in huge houses now that their children are studying / working elsewhere. The “house factor” is something so ingrained in a Malayalee’s psyche that most often people end up spending too much without actually thinking about practical utility of such huge houses.

silverine said...

nmouse: Thank you. It was a delight to stumble on your blog via Jiby's. We have the same set up as yours in my Dads place. Luckily all the houses are occupied and with IT coming into Kerala, hopefully will remain occupied :)

eljo: Precisely! I hope from now on our people will stop this obsession of building a house and chill. I have seen similar houses in Blr too of my aunts and uncles, all empty as the kids have flown the coup now. Some have sold the house and moved into apts. But the toil and turmoil of building that house is something they cannot wish away.

flaashgordon said...

Had visited a lot of relatives last time i was in Kerala , and the most unique thing which struck was the "Empty Nest syndrome" ..All these homes i visited were these huge 3-4 bedroom houses, but with just 2 people living in it .With pictures of grandchildren to show around; awaitin holidays- onam/ christmas whn they might be home...well, that includes my place too :-(

As someone put it, Kerala will soon be a huge "retirees-only" place in the lines of Florida..

I'd say our Empty Nest Syndrome is a byproduct of communism and the militant labour image of Kerala, due to which investors feared to tread, resulting in abysmally low job opportunities... Hope, as more opportunities come - things might change a bit.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Thanks! Just one more reason to make sure I never save up enough to have serious material ambitions! :D

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.