Notes from the suburbs

In no particular order…

  1. To me, the suburbs have come to be defined by lack of option (and I’ve been here all of three days so I really shouldn’t be commenting just yet!). Lack of option about moving there, lack of housing options – yes I know you can get from 1 bhk penthouses to sprawling mansions – but there are 14 others just like yours. Nothing unique about it (Another brick in the wall now plays in the back of my head like the soundtrack to my life) except maybe the different colour curtains peeking through your windows. It means taking Amul Milk instead of Mother Dairy because that is what your local guy supplies. It means buying Vim instead of Odopic because that would mean trekking to the next market.
  2. It means bowing to monopoly. The cook servicing my building isn’t the best and is quite a nasty creature, but I can’t get another from the neighbouring building, whose cooking I might prefer, who knows how to make idlis, because they wont cut in on each other’s turf. The third time it happened I was tempted to push her over my 13th floor balcony and watch her go floating down screaming. To say nothing of pricing. The last one told me she won’t wash up the cooker and wok she’d used because it wasn’t the building policy. I told her that building policy could kiss my ass. This is my house, I am paying, so things are done my way  – so she could like it or lump it. She agreed. I think a little firmness is required. They are used to yuppies who don’t have time or the courage to argue with them.
  3. There is a uniform. Within 12 hours of hiring the cook she mistook me for a maid. I was down at the swimming pool with the kids and she entered the lift with me. I smiled at her, and continued to instruct my maid in Bengali on lift usage for days when I am not around. The cook began to get rather chatty with me and I replied politely. It was only after I walked into the house and began to talk to my mother in English that she asked me – are you the person I met yesterday, the one that hired me? Hmm… my simple work wear cotton salwar kameez obviously didn’t pass muster. Or else I shouldn’t have been at the pool, minding my own kids. When I met her the day before I had been in my home uniform of little faded cotton Sarojini Nagar sundress – which was probably more madam-like than my expensive pure cotton patiala set! From now on, it has to be shorts or capris if I plan to be recognised as mother and not maid!
  4. Men in elbow length ladies gloves. Yes, I get that the harsh sun burns your skin but it still looks bloody weird! I can still handle it on the bikers. But on the man sitting inside an AC car, I can only imagine that its vanity!
  5. The foliage. Somehow, nobody seems to be planting anything other than frangipani and palms. I know they are fast growing and hardy, but almost all buildings have only those and nothing else. No mango, leechi, guava, jackfruit, neem, nothing! It is truly fast food culture. Plant something that will grow fast and cover up the dry red countryside.
  6. Distance. I am going nuts having to plan my day. I am not a planner by nature and its not like me to work my day out well in advance. I know I will have to do it now, but it goes against my haphazard, easy going temperament. I am actually down to making lists these days and then staring at them in horror and wanting to burn them.
  7. The last one is something I can’t define. There is something very self indulgent about the way I live now. Within a gated community, with 100% power backup and water too (trust me, I don’t miss the lack of them!). But it seems as though my life has shrunk to fit into 10 acres or so and will stay that way. Walk within the compound, befriend those in the building, swim right there, play a game of basketball within the boundary walls, call the local store to deliver your goods, take a lift to go down (well, with my knees I shouldn’t be complaining!) and more. It’s almost as though I’ve got the world to stop and just focus on making things convenient for me. It’s taken the struggle out of my daily life and being the contrary person I am, I am complaining! It just somehow reminds me of those fake snow and ocean amusement parks where for a while you leave the real world out. No doubt my two hour commute each way, is enough to make up for any other lack of struggle but I feel stupid looking around the complex and getting excited over the presence of a doctor. It reminds me of living in a real organic city and having doctors, grocery stores and dry cleaners all living cheek by jowl with you. Not this orderly way of rows and rows of residences and a neat little pocket of 5 shops.
  8. I now get nostalgic each time I hear someone mention the word Delhi. Because really, I don’t live there anymore. Yesterday I went to drop the keys off with the old landlord and I noticed the repairs have already begun. And the first thing to go were my Warli figures; wiped out, along with all other traces of us having spent five years there. A man was filling sacks with the mud and plants from my tub and dumping them on the road. Blank walls stared back at me. This wasn’t really home. Home was the place where my babies were squealing in a swimming pool, threatening to jump off the 13th floor and running up and down the stairs of the duplex. I shut the door on the corridor and slowly came down the stairs one last time.  Funnily, my knees don’t ache anymore.
  9. Oh – and I had to add a new tag to my list. Gurgaon.
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89 thoughts on “Notes from the suburbs

  1. I empathize with you, but just like every other thing in life, you’ll get used to this and may be sometime start enjoying it too. And you’ll pack a picnic and be off to ‘Delhi’ on weekends. Hope you start liking the suburbs soon..

    • oh i will 🙂 I am the kind who either loves or hates places. and if i dont have a choice, i go out of my way to see the bright side. and if i still cant, i move instead of staying on and bitching about it!

  2. 😦
    I guess you really don’t like apartments. I somehow love them for their convenience.
    pss..I have another card up my sleeve to make you like GGN…There’s an Anokhi here 😀

  3. I somehow knew you were going to post today.. I was refreshing the page so furiously I actually beat Reader to it 😀

    And come here, let me give you a smack! In case you haven’t guessed what for, it’s for your contrarian waali streak… which I am, well, VERY familiar with (the husband says I play that when I want to screw with his head). 2 ghante commute karna padega and that’s not enough struggle? Aur resenting the lift, despite your knees?

    It’s not self-indulgence, sweetie. It’s creasing out the little troubles in your life to make way for bigger ones like a 2-hour commute.. keep repeating that after me! (see my focus on the commute. also see how I counter contrarian thoughts successfully. i’m a bloody superstar)

    PS: Don’t kill me but I *think* that elbow-length glove thing travelled from Delhi to Gurgaon, not vice versa. *Horror of horrors*: The brother once owned those. A supertar in the company of dehatis I am. 😦

  4. Good to know you have begun to put down roots in your new home. Yes, home is where your babies are. So are the Brat and Bean back from their nainihal?
    And was LOL when I read about you making lists and then looking at them in horror! Now why does that seem so familiar to me?
    All the best, MM, for your new home. Do post some photos soon.

  5. hey painted over the warlis? when they could have charged more for all the interesting art work? no account for decent taste.
    I have never known anyone with their own pool (like not anyone who was not on my TV screen) will you become a vamp now? will you swim laps and get out of the pool oh so slowly while OA makes suspicious deals on the phone? Will there be gold taps?

    • those darn brats i gave birth to. got into a very good school that side so it made more sense to save them the commute and take it on like a good self sacrificing bhartiya ma.

      • LOL 🙂 I am just imagining you in a Nirupa Roy type getup…

        My brother-in-law lives in Gurgaon. You are SO right abt the cookie cutter homes. You might as well have described the complex he lives in!

  6. aya why? why ? you tell all this :(.i am goign to move into a gated community soon and i am already dreading the thought of saying “namaskaram” to colony president,who already asked my hubby if his wife bakes????? I am not the baking,kitty partying kind and the gated gives me creeps like i am going to live in jail 😦

  7. Hey MM ! Congrats on the Move and hope you will settle in Soon Well enough !
    I dint know you were moving to Gurgaon ! I had a nasty couple of years there so You Dont want to know my opinion on that place… But I guess it made me all the tougher ! 🙂 I stayed in sector 22 A on route to Palam.. Ur Building Society suggests ur closer to one of the DLF sectors or may be Sushant Lok… 🙂 Either ways hope you will have Fun !
    Congrats to the Little ones on their school admission! Hope they shine like their Momma n OA ! 🙂

    P.S: While ur in Gurgaon, get an INVERTER NOW! PLS… if not for ur sake – for Bean n Brat ! 😛

  8. I so empathise with you on this – the gated community, the cook, the almost claustrophobia, the odd feeling when your home is revamped for another tenant… Anyway, good luck!

  9. Which portion of the town are you in? I can give you some tidbits on where “life” still exists in Gurgaon near your place.

    Unless ofcourse, you are on Sohna. Because then ofcourse life is pretty much within the boundry walls of your aptt complex. Outside there’s nothing.

  10. Good to see your settled to your new home and blogging 🙂
    I have been doing the long commute for about two years now. It is listening to podcasts especially books and having made some good friends on my Company bus that has kept me going.

  11. I had a cook like that too. Yes, the firmness worked. I mean who washes up after their cook? This one wanted me to get the maid to come after her so she could clean up after her.

    Look what you did…made me start on maid matters!

    I totally get what you mean by point 7…I have a hang-up about being so provided for in one self-sufficient space…feels very unnatural and oh-so-cut-off-from-reality. But that’s my reverse snobbery speaking 😦

  12. Oh sounds terribly like Stepford Wives like to me! But if someone can be true to themselves and not get lost in suburbia I’d bet my money on you 🙂 Your building has a maid policy? Whoa!!! That’s strange and why can’t you get someone else? Silly really. The two hour commute seems horrid, but I look at my local train commute as time to read, people watch shamlessly and enjoy my music. But then again I don’t come back home to children. Chin up MM 🙂 Warm thoughts being sent your way 🙂

  13. I so agree bout the Palm and Frangipani all around. This is what I saw when in Mumbai. For any new apartment complex, these are all that there was. No shady Gulmohar or Neem which are so much a part of Delhi.

  14. Ah after all this sad black and white story, can we have the pics of the newly decorated home? I’m giddy with excitement to see how you’ve done this one!
    And you’ll survive MM, esp when its so closely related to the babies, you will 🙂
    Did the kids go to the new school? Did they like? What do they have to say for the new home and neibourhood?

  15. Oooooh, I can’t wait to see pics!

    And duplex, really? My brother and me wanted our parents to buy one when we were younger, but they decided they’d rather have their knees and with elderly relatives in and out. It wasn’t really the easiest option.

    How have the kids taken to the move? Do they still ask for ‘Delhi’?

    • actually a duplex is not too bad. the stairs are gentle. i take them 30 times a day and they still hurt less than the old house and the steep 4 flights. kids have forgotten the old house and dived into the pool

  16. If someone gave me a penny for every time I have mentioned these reasons to people who just don’t get why I live in the middle of the city in a building with no security/ swimming pool/ gym and all that jazz, I would have been millionaire by now. Then I would have bought one of those opulent villas and given it away on rent 😛

    But what the hell.. If you talk monopoly, lack of options, and people not agreeing to deliver food, Bangalore is ALL suburb and nothing more. Shiiish!

      • Who is this person who is telling you good things abt Bangalore? I live in a community, similar to how you describe yours, and while its in a lovely, tree- lined, far away from the main road, nice locality, I am not sure its good enough! 🙂
        And to think my Ex wanted to buy one of them houses in Sohna!!(I saw that area mentioned in a comment and it brought back some random memories!)
        Wanted to comment earlier but I could not begin to get the thought of the elbow length gloves (on men INSIDE cars??!!!??!!), out of my mind!

        • Come, come now! Bangalore has beautiful parts in the city – The shady lanes of Basavangudi with the sprawling old homes etc are to die for. Its like any other modern metro city – there are harsh suburbs, but they are on the circumference – not within the city!

          • Come on..it’s only one part of B’lore which is like the suburbs…the bigger part of it still has beautiful bunglows..tree lined roads. Check out the Canonment area, Basvangudi, sadashivnagar…

            I am the 4th generation in my family living in B’lore.and a good part of the city is NOT sunurban. 🙂

          • helloooo! I take offense to those statements. Step out and walk in Jayanagar (some parts at least), Basavanagudi, Malleswaram… I would kill to own a home there!

            • I agree! I live in Benson Town, and its un-suburban as it gets. My tiny little apartment with its 12 flats is one of the biggest buildings in this lane. And big trees all around

            • I hardly comment here. But I had to stand up for Bangalore.

              Suburbs are new in Bangalore and only yuppies live there 😀 Its a different thing that I’m coming back to that, but well.

            • whoa! i’ve never seen people defend any city the way they do bangalore 🙂
              and i’ve always heard newcomers complain about the traffic in bangalore.

            • Oh there is traffic! and what not. But then which city doesn’t have issues like this. Even if I wasn’t a Bangalorean, I’d say this. I’m kind of tired of people constantly citing Bangalore’s pollution or traffic. Every city has it and its an unfortunate reality. In fact, jingoists will point out that it is because of constant immigration into Bangalore, but I am not one, so I’m happy about the diversity in my city!

              And this is why we all jump up to defend Bangalore 🙂 Gets to me when all the newcomers walk around MG Road and Brigade road and say Bangalore has traffic, is expensive etc etc.

              😀 sorry for hogging comment space like this!

        • I meant no offence to anyone.
          I agree with all the nice things said about old Bangalore (Basavangudi/ Jaya Nagar/Cooke/Cox/Fraser/Benson Towns, Richmond/ Langford roads and surrounding areas) but I commute to E-city everyday and back – and somewhere in that hour long commute, I stop being able to like the city as much as I would like to! 🙂

  17. I recently moved homes .. to a far flung part of the city .. its been almost 4 months and I still havent got myself to like the place. Somedays I tear my hair out in frustration , other days I cry at the long commute. I exactly know how you feel .. hugsss
    I am sure it will get better .. for both your sake and mine!!

    • ah the resilience of youth. does my broken shell of a self not show how long its going to be before i set up home? waiting for new landlord to get everything done as promised, shall then put up pics

  18. I’m heartbroken. I am. I know I should be saying cheerful and encouraging things, but if there’s one person who hates the ‘burbs more than you do hon, it’s me. And this brings alive my latent fear at having to someday move. *puts an arm around MM to commiserate*

  19. Waiting to see pics of the new place once you turn it into a home! :o)

    Your place sounds nice, but yeah… slightly Stepford Wives types! ;P

    But I’m sure you’ll make it work! 😀

  20. I have stayed in Gurgaon for 9 months without a car and hated every minute of it. There is no bloody life… its a concrete jungle. Best of luck with it.

  21. am sad…very very sad…how could he/she have the heart to take the warli art away?

    about the new place, am sure you will add your warmth to it and soon it will be a great home…with lovely pictures for all of us…

  22. I am with you on the look alike homes..some how they remind me of office cubicles..all the same.

    Some time ago i read a story about a crab losing it’s shell and growing a new one..and it goes thru the most vulnerable period until it grows a new shell..tossed in the waters..open to predators. But once it new shell grows..it comes out stronger. I am not doing any justice to the original story…but hang in there..things will get better.

  23. that’s interesting – the suburbs sounds exactly like suburbs here in the u.s. to be precise – the suburb-city divide sounds exactly like here in the u.s. suburbia is clean, ordered and completely lacking character 🙂

  24. Hey Baby, get busy decorating will ya! You need to let it all ago. Someday soon, you shall be back in Dilli again.

    I feel the same way about Bay Area where we live. In a utopian world I would live in a place like this where the weather is heavenly but the surroundings are less cookie cutter. Bah! Want it all!!

  25. oh just wait till you have to go pick up or drop someone at the station when they visit. Then you’ll really like it! 🙂

  26. MM,

    You are spoiling us so much. Writing big posts even in the middle of a move is just something I don’t understand how you manage. The more you write, the more we want. We are never satisfied. 🙂

    They assign a cook to each building? How does she manage to cook in so many houses? Beats me.

  27. MM – I feel for you!!

    Totally had no idea men wore long gloves…in a car?! Why?! Never seen anything like that…Pl to send some long shot photos!

  28. exactly… when I went to visit the old quarters in ranchi where I had lived my entire life- it just didn’t feel like home. just one visit and I had got it out of my system. and so also for any other house I hav “occupied” before now. home is so where the family currently is

  29. you had me at basketball!! i am so coming over wearing my nasty black air jordans. i am not kajol playing basketball with her hair all flowing behind her and wearing a chiffon sari…so i think i will do ok. chal. let me book tickets now.

    • you’re not playing in a flowing chiffon saree, generous bosom heaving? then i’m sorry, you’re not wanted. we really want to liven up the suburbs and youre not helping.

      • generous bosom? wtf is that? 🙂 oh dont worry, it will liven things up ’cause i will kick some sorry middle aged man’s ass and their wives will be furious!

    • the darn place is jinxed doosi nani.
      the moment i reached there the iPhone my brother gave me packed up and my mother lent me her blackberry which has disappeared this morning. there are unpacked cartons and a layer of dust over everything. and a job that i am struggling to fulfill along with the deadly 2 hr commute. my life is officially over.

  30. Welcome to Gurgaon! I am real sorry you had to move here but your kids seem to be happy and splashing in a swimming pool! So well.. 🙂

  31. Hey MM…the hardest part is over (moving) … now cant wait to get all those home decor, stories and snaps of the kids in the new place and all ur adventures…:)

    • LOl! I think I feel compelled to stand up for the place now that I live here! i realise what the issue is… like any other issue, people dont like others bitching about their home – they are the only ones allowed to do it.

  32. “Men in elbow length ladies gloves. “…
    In this day & age?
    wow..Gurgaon does sound special 🙂
    Please throw more light on this in your future posts.

  33. elbow length gloves, uh? well, atleast now you dont need to think too much about what to buy the OA for his next birthday. :p

    * ducks*

  34. congrats on the move MM!

    my reactions – in no particular order either..

    – my heart ached a little by the time I reached that bit about you missing Delhi and how your old place looks so barren now.. babe trust you to make this one as warm, home-y and inviting 🙂

    – the pool sounds fun! I’m thrilled for the kids 😀

    – men in long gloves.. OMG! are they for real.. cant get over that!

    – did i say I’m LOVING the pic in the header..sigh..gorgeous!

    – uff that two hour commute must be awful! you’ll survive *hugs*

    – phew for the knees 🙂

  35. Warli paintings gone? My heart’s breaking. You’ll get used to the place, MM. You’ll find a way to like it. Just like me. Now B’lore is home and I better shut up and get on with life.

  36. Hola from one gated community dweller to another! The husband keeps carping about it, but I’ve got so used to it now I think I’ll find it hard fitting in elsewhere 😦 Like the institutionalized guy in Shawshank.
    Still a duplex is way better than a less than 800 sq ft matchbox without a balcony which is where we used to live till we left Bombay. I was so not used to all the excess space, the first few days in my now 1800 sq ft flat used to make me dizzy in the early days!

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