Our new home, Moving in…


And so, finally, after some 30 years of travelling, we moved into what we can now call our own home. That was the reason for my silence the last three weeks as it was back breaking work, literally and physically, getting all the stuff into the new house, with no time to spare. The garage is still littered with boxes, some containing stuff that we held on to and which had remained unopened for many years now. As we moved from continent to continent, country to country, they followed, in silent tow, filled with items that triggered memories, but not much else. Now the task of finding them resting places or disposing them is yet another arduous one.

It was fun actually, locating the place to live and finding a home that we liked. The construction phase in this lagging market took a while, and as we eagerly waited for the building to take shape, frequently checking up on the progress, we learnt some of the nuances in the American way of building a home as opposed to the Indian one which is mortar and concrete and tiles. Here it is hardboard, drywall and frames. New terminologies like sidings, shingles and drywall were quickly learned and absorbed and we watched the contractors come and do their stuff, efficiently. Some of the Mexicans who were around doing the work agreed that the brick and mortar way is what they were used to too, but well, they had by now mastered the gringo technology, and it well, good or bad, paid them daily wages. An desi pal at our office, one of the others who had recently purchased his pad gave me valuable tips of what’s and what not’s as the construction period chugged along merrily through the winter and snow. Finally the home was ready and we quickly completed the various financial and legal formalities to arrive at the closing event, a legal ceremony of sorts. The lawyer made sure we had our signatures in the right places on the many documents and with a final flourish the copies and a gleaming set of keys were handed over.

And with that we were the owners of a new home in Raleigh.

The next step proved to be the most interesting part. We had decided to do a Ganapathi homam as is traditional in South India. The neighborhood Desi grocery shop gave us references to the right Pujari, who was contacted and an appointment set up. The Poojari or Acharya as he was termed, quickly set an auspicious date and time, a Poornima day it was and on that appointed day we were to come with a long list of items for the Pooja and Homam. Now we in Kerala usually subcontracted these and had little idea of the various items involved, but here we had to go about collecting it, which we managed with some difficulty. The list that was provided for example listed twigs, sugarcane and so on. Now I wondered if that meant I pick up a few twigs & sticks from the yard, but the Poojarai was quick to correct me on the phone. I had to go and get a pooja bunch imported from India for the very purpose and he explained where I could find it. Turned out there was another desi shop and here the Ambi Pattar who assisted in the shop came to our rescue and provided us all the tricky things like some special thread, the kalasam and so on ( things we had no clue about until then). Armed with all the paraphernalia, we were in our apartment mulling over the next step during the penultimate day. Panchamritham, Modakam and some similar items were to be made. The better half fretted a bit but made all the required things early in the morning and we moved on to the new house, awaiting the Acharya.

His arrival was in regal style, dressed in traditional Poojari garb. I watched him as he parked his car. He was bare bodied behind the wheel, and I wondered what the state trooper who may have passed him or others on the street in other cars would have thought. With a big mu-gopi on his forehead and a smart tuft or Kudumi, he was exactly like any other poojari outside Kerala. As he parked, the effects of technolgy came to view. The GPS was switched off, the Iphone was taken off the docket and the blue tooth removed from his ears. With that he stepped out in regal fashion much to the amazement of the Mexican crew working next doors. I could see their eyes literally pop seeing the priest in his red and green bordered dhothi worn the traditional Telugu Iyengar fashion, and the poonool across his chest. He walked in cheerily waving to the gaping Mexicans with a distinct Carolinian twang ‘ hey guys, how’re ya doing??

I could only smile, seeing all this and thinking about the life of an Indian abroad. Most of you may not be able to visualize all this and I am not really doing justice to telling the story, but well, I hope I gave you at least a hazy picture of the events taking place.

Soon our man set about his task, keeping the vigraham at the right place, as we conversed in Tamil, dressing the idol & did the cleaning up of the area. The pooja and homam went on for all of 3 hours, the priest turned out to be very competent & knowledgeable, occasionally checking up on the stanzas with the e reader on his iphone and explaining some meanings to us. The smoke wafted by, and I had based on a friendly tip from the desi friend I previously mentioned, removed all the smoke detectors off their mounting well before the event to avoid a police visit, and finally the home smelt right. Gone were the chemical fumes, replaced by the smell of burnt coconut and ghee and incense sticks. The interesting thing was that we had to do most of the pooja based on running instructions from the Pandit, which was again was a big difference from Kerala.

The next day was tough and back breaking; but fortunately my elder son had arrived and then came the movers, who got the stuff across from one place to the other. Cable TV, dish and all the other things were quickly connected and the home was ready for the living in.

With that the various landlords I dealt with in our nomadic existence thus far became fond memories. I still recall the Mysore clerk who owned the home in Bangalore where we first lived, then the KEB executive engineer, whose basement area we inhabited, the Arab businessman who owned our apartment in Riyadh, the multi-millionaire shipping magnate at Istanbul who would personally come to collect his rent or follow up for it with phone calls, the Sardar who operated through his home manager in California and so on…and the many well managed apartment complexes along the way, not to forget of course the Ambika Nivas at Madras which I have written about.

And thus we sit these days, when time permits, in the porch to listen to crickets and birds, the train that goes by infrequently with the typical horn, not the whistle, taking in the white noise of the road hum from the nearby highway….as we inhale the smell of the grass and become one among the many happy home owners of America…

I promise to be more regular from now on and look forward to your interaction with pithy comments for they are what keep it all going. I know there are many readers, but those comments from a few always tell you if you are in the right direction or not and if you are addressing the matter right or wrong. I hope for more...

Comments

Lovely house, Maddy. I wish you many years of happiness here.

The post is as interestingly narrated as ever, and contrary to your apprehension, one can visualise the scene when the poojari arrived, and the various reactions of your neighbours and others!
Happy Kitten said…
Wish you and your family the very best Maddy... many many happy days in your new home.

Checked up Raleigh to find out why you may have chosen this city and the following possible one came up..

Raleigh experiences a humid subtropical climate, with generally moderate temperatures during spring and autumn..

Let me assume that Raleigh comes closer to your home back in India..
Bernard said…
Congratulations!. Congratulations for your new home! Ganapathi homam is in otherwords known as Pura-Vaasthu-bali? I guess so. The main ritual, among other prayers is to boil the milk in a preferably earthen ware and allow it to be spilled over to Agni, or allow the milk to be swallowed by agni first, or quench the thirst of Agni first, so that your house is protected! I really love that ritual. Another beautiful, but un-related ritual is Vidyarambham, about which you can write later. Anyway, hearty congratulations from all of us here in Kentucky.
Bernard
I am happy that you have finally found a home. It looks beautiful. I am surprised it took such a long time for you to own a house in the States. My niece is in Phoenix and could own a home in less than 7/8 years. She tells me that they have an apple tree (I wonder whether we could import that variety which could grow at our places. They have muringa (drum sticks) as well. She has brought the seeds. May be I could come down to Raleigh.
sundar said…
Congratulations !!

Though I am a regular reader of your posts, think this is the first time commenting.

Really interesting to read your step by step narrative of becoming a proud house owner in America...

Your Poojari seems to be more high tech prone than millions of indian youth here...LOL

Hope to catch up with more of your writings....
Maddy said…
Thanks Raji and HK..

Raleigh is certainly cold in the winter, but summers are hot & humid.
Maddy said…
Thanks Bernard...
Yes, I guess so..I did not know about the earthenware pot though...
Many of those old rituals are so interesting in concept, come to think of it!!
Maddy said…
PNS - Thanks as well.. I am not really a long timer in the US, I have been shuttling around the world all these years. though i spent 4 years in Florida some years ago, this time around, it has only been 4 years...You are all welcome - do come and visit us...

I was reminded of Muringa dosa - muringa kaya is available so that goes into the sambar, but the leaves are not seen in shops...
Maddy said…
Thanks Sundar - and I will surely speed on and catch up soon...
sridevi.R said…
Congratulations!
I see that your muse has moved in with you when you sketch a vivid picture about your new home in Raleigh.
Nice house!! Enjoy!!!
I chuckle with glee thinking about all the lawn mowing sessions to come. I'm sure you have a large backyard too.
SUNIL said…
Hi
Interesting read. As always.
I have been around for long time and late to comment. Your language has always taken me to that places you write about.
Keep going. Best wishes.

BTW a request. Have you ever thought about the the band companies who performs during local festivals in Malabar such as Nercha's at mosques. There were a lot at Tirur, my home town. Remembers an article in Mathrubhumi long time ago about them particularly from Calicut,Tirur,Ponnani area. Hope you have something to say as i have enjoyed such posts of yours always.
Regards
Maddy said…
Thanks Sridevi - I am still struggling with the watering. Have to get the grass growing, then it will be ok. next comes the mowing...aarrgh..
Maddy said…
Thanks Sunil...I will try & get to the bandwallahs..They are a forlorn lot these days...
Ashvin said…
Congrats Mads, and wish you and family a lot of fond memories ....
Maddy said…
Thanks a lot Ashvin...
harimohan said…
dear maddy
missed reading some of ur posts because busy busy
this one was wonderful reminded me of washingtannil thirumanam a tamil novel and later play ,where for a south indian ayyar kalyanam in the US narikoravas are imported for carrying lights on thier heads for the jambavasam
( mapillazayppu ) and narikuravas needs indian dogs to bark at them to get into form so they too are imported !
ur priest is a real charachter !
i like him
and ur house is lovely
GOD BLESS
kallu said…
Congratulations Maddy. The house looks lovely. I know how the first house of your own feels after a nomadic existence.. nothing like yours across continents.
Your own bit of land and walls!
Nice description of your ganapthy homam, more your pujari :-)
may you have lots of happy times here.

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