At Home

It has been a while now, and the experience of living in our own home has hit some 100 days and glad to report that we are enjoying it immensely. Finally, many of the small trinkets and stuff that had been lying in cartons and going back & forth across continents the last few years have at long last seen light and been arranged. My book collection or whatever is remaining have all been arranged and stacked and I sometimes stand in front of them and enjoy the sight, marveling at the art of writing and the results which are the pains of labor of the writer, the messages he tries to convey subtle or direct, resulting in books that survive generations.

The mind is slowly relaxing now that things are in their rightful place, sometimes I wake up a little early and I come down to make coffee and holding the mug ( In the US it is never a cup but a mug – pretty huge at that) of strong stuff (but nowhere near the taste of our filter coffee from down south) and look at some of the items in the showcase, each connected with an event bringing on a flood of memories, fondly thinking of the events and places and people.
The bed is still not right, it does not face the right direction, but I have given up on that for realigning it would be a disaster to the aesthetics the room. My sleep pattern is still disturbed and a friend from Switzerland has given me some ideas which involve a kind of deep blowing out exercise before bedtime. Whether it is effective or not, I cannot say as yet, but so far so good. The music system that has accompanied us to so many countries has been set up again and the CD’s, cassettes, VHS tapes and LP’s (Yes, I still have a collection of 45’s and 78’s) all stacked up. It is nice to sit and listen to all that in peace in a corner of the house.

But the rains are not to be seen and it distresses me a lot. The front and rear lawn are a disaster, and the grass looks like it has been napalmed. It is all brown, dead as dead with no chance of revival and the possibility of a huge lawn repair bill looming in my eyes and dreams. I have built up a lot of knowledge on draught and fescue grass and Bermuda grass and all that stuff, as well as arcane stuff related to aeration, watering and fertilizing, the amount of nitrogen needed etc, but it is useless for when I go out and look at the immensity of work ahead, I chicken out. The missus tells me I should find a gardener, but well, oh! Gardener where art thee? I called a few and none have responded to my wails.

Every alternate day ( we are allowed to water lawns only on ‘every other day’ – the usage for alternate in US) I stand with a sheepish face and the hose and do manual watering, trying to coax the grass out of their sleepy abode, but seem to be waking up only the weeds for they come out with gusto. I even know their names now!! Crab grass, and many grass like and un-grass like weeds. As I stand there with that stupid hose pipe in hand, I look across and see my ‘across the road’ neighbor’s lush lawns. Sometimes they come out at that very moment (which I dread) and you see the semblance of a smirk in their faces (look at that moron and his stupid weed garden - kind of smirk) and I turn away.

We have interesting neighbors, some who are glum like a cloudy day and really serious and some who are cheery and jocular. The former types are the ones who have the worst dogs; these dogs growl and bark even after seeing me for so many days. I think they are told to do so, really, by their owners who perhaps hate life and this world. As I see them in tandem marching along the street, I see the remarkable similarity in their faces, the dog’s and owner’s that is. Then comes the baby owners, for there are many, with prams in front. I see many new contraptions, heavy duty, light duty, chic and practical machines to carry babies, at work. And when you look and them and the owner, you can come to the natural conclusion of how they match. The slim and trim mom would never push a big squeaky practical pram, whereas the big moma would. But then seriously, I have never seen such obedient children, none of them bawl and cry like our kids, they seem to be at peace with the world and their surroundings, i.e. till they become teenagers.

We have lots of the home staying breed here, pops working from home, pops who are retired and pops who are house husbands. The pops working from home seem prosperous and are seen on most days mowing the lawn and the such, looking very calm and contended but then vanish on a trip somewhere for some days and are soon back to profess much delight at being reunited with the family as they get back. The retired pops are mostly at their barbecue sets burning up all kinds of meat and pottering around being generally useless or useful – depends on what the wifey says.

The last lot is the interesting one, they can be seen pushing prams or hanging kids by their neck (they have an interesting contraption these days to suspend them around your neck and making the hanger, not the hangee look positively foolish) religiously every day at appointed times (and explaining the various steps and stages the kid has moved through in the last 24 hours to helpless passers by) and walking around and usually stopping for long durations near or at houses which have cute moms, to gossip.

We have some interesting desis in the neighborhood as well, and I must say I am happy with those families we have come across. One is a jolly guy and the other somewhat upset with the world, but then we all get along well so far.

The kitchen is up and running at full steam, the pantry is stocked and smelling like a desi grocer. The smoke alarms are far away from the stove, so we do not have to worry too much about having the police and the fire engine coming by to investigate like it happened when we were living in Florida. Ah! I have to tell you about that.

The first was when we were making dosas and the damm alarm just went off. It howled for a while and stopped and we continued with our dosas till the front door bell rang and a massive police woman appeared in the door frame asking what was up. I was aghast wondering what to say and mumbled that we were cooking. She walked around and smelt the kitchen and stated it was an interesting smell and warned us that if we had another nuisance alarm, we would be fined.

Well, the second time was a little bit more serious, we decided to make Chicken tikka in the oven and ended up with a huge amount of smoke. Now you must realize that we were living in an apartment then and not cooking outdoors like they do barbecues here. This time the idiotic alarm went on and on and triggered the building alarm system as well, resulting in the fire engines arrival with all sirens and bells and whistles. As soon as that happened, the kids vanished to their respective rooms and the better half to the bedroom. In a panic, I opened out all possible windows and doors by the meantime to clear the air, as the firemen came rushing out waiting for the pilot to make the first checks.

The entire building, except us that is, had evacuated the building and were standing studiously motionless outside the building (we did not even know we had to do that). We were inside our home knowing exactly the nuisance we had created, but wondering what to do. OK, we can go out, but the alarm system would anyway show exactly where the alarm originated and we knew there was nothing to worry!! So we stayed…and soon enough came the strident knock – no, actually it was a thump on the door. It was the same police woman (but I could detect a quizzical smile on her face this time – I thought so at least) accompanied by the fire station pilot.

What else could I do but cast a very sheepish (now why is it called sheepish? Do we look like sheep with that face?) and forlorn look at her? Well, anyway I explained that we were cooking chicken this time hoping she remembered my short lecture on rice pancakes the previous time. She was shaking her head in exasperation as she left and I knew the bill was soon to come.

But that was a long time ago. After that second event and a $50 fine, we learnt enough to disconnect the alarm dome when heavy cooking was going on.

Boy – I am drifting, that was a story dating back 8 or 9 years, here we have no problems with nervous smoke alarms so far and have a nice 600cfm air sucker vent system over the stove… I am sure the backyard neighbors have started understanding the smells of Indian cooking, by now. They would be saying – ah! The curry factory is at work!!.

We are slowly making great friends and the music sessions are going fine. Life is looking up. The economy is tanking as they say, public mood is downbeat but well, I am sure it will all swing back soon, for this is an industrious society and people want to do well. In the meantime, I am wrestling with things like mortgage payments, utility bills etc - trying to explain to the city office that my horrendous water bill is not the result of a water leak as they assumed, but my forlorn attempt at getting dead grass to be reborn.

And I wonder, why is it that there is rebirth in Hindu minds only for people and not for grass? They are not inanimate objects, at least Dr Bose was clear and so many scientists say that plants have a mind or something like that. We had two Cyprus trees planted in the backyard, they are dead too and I stand next to them and look, but dare not talk to them as Dr Bose once did , for the backyard neighbor is out there and flipping burgers. He is an ex cop and would walk by to investigate and maybe call 911 if he saw me talking to trees.

Oops – I forgot to tell you about the lawn mower, now we were used to electric machines as it was in UK, but here they have real gas ( i.e. petrol) driven machines with clutches and accelerators and so on. They even have mini tractor like mowers. I ended up with one of those self propelled ones, with a lot of HP to get it up hills with ease and pull you along, in case you nod off. The only problem is the racket this stuff creates. The pre-purchase survey was equally interesting; I had to look at Honda engine, local engine, fuel consumption, power, real wheel or front wheel drive, mulching, side discharge, rear discharge, bagging and so on. Phew, pretty complex for the uninitiated!!

Hey you reader, don’t worry about all the above – I am just rambling on, and just being flippant. Know what? Last night I saw a nice little rabbit sitting on our lawn and looking around, wondering perhaps what its own world had come to. And just the other day I almost ran into a deer which darted across the road. This is all in the middle of a bustling set of tri cities, mind you. The trees are starting to turn yellow and soon I am told it will be a splash of glorious colors as only Carolina can exhibit. But color or no color I need some rain, then I have to cast fertilizer ( my late uncle would be smiling wherever he is – for we were so disinterested in all that when we visited our paddy fields in Pallavur) and over seed the lawn. The other day I tried spraying some stupid chemicals to get rid of a pesky weed growth but all that has done is get them yellow and inviting perhaps more guffaws (behind his curtain) from the opposite neighbor with the lush lawn.

Sometimes some of them (neighbors) come by and talk about football and golf and stuff like that and I try to counter that with soccer and cricket and tennis and this effectively terminates the conversation. I have discussed with my son about him teaching me the salient aspects of American football so that I have the required conversational skill. Here you have to know all that you see (and I still don’t), or you are some stupid foreigner fellow and they raise eyebrows. Sometimes I counter it cleverly by bringing in mentions about football and medieval history and then the jaws of that cocky chap goes slack and the jowls come out and I say, yeah man! to myself.

I found a great library at UNC, they have such a huge collection of books on Indian history. When I go there, I just marvel at the massive collections, the floors and floors of books and the opportunities available to these kids to study all that.

It is a bit different after the sun sets and dinner is eaten, we go for a walk meeting the others who dare to do such things and stay off the couch, and then we settle down and I pick up a moldy old history book and immerse myself into it while the TV shows Indian idol or some such thing. After a few hours I start nodding off and this results in some gentle but persistent persuasion to head back upstarts to start up the ‘huuuum’ breathing out exercises before hitting the sack…. And so goes life............

And that friends, is a commentary on life these days at home. Sorry for being a boring rambler, but I thought I will write a little something different this time, not dreary history related articles.


It was an interesting peep into your home and surroundings. Congratulations.
Happy Kitten said…
Let the lawn be damed.. one only needs to look at that library and out comes the envy :)

Thank you for that wonderful account.. never knew that even the watering of one's lawn was restricted.. makes me wonder how the Malayalee or for that matter an Indian ever got tamed out there!
Maddy said…
Hari mohan comments by mail

your bookshelf and its contents is lovely, nice post something different too, smoke alarm fiasco was good, couldn't find comment button on blog !

Jennifer said…
What a wonderful books display! Fantastic. Yes, nothing beats a filter coffee, and that too on a verandah. Do you have a verandah? Maybe I missed that! Wonderful diary. Your family will appreciate this to look again and read later.

Happy Kitten, I as an American even question why we use so much time, effort and money on our sometimes seems like such a waste.
Maddy said…
hi PNS - Thanks a lot
Maddy said…
Thanks HK - the hope is that we will get rains this week. Yup we have restrictions here when drought sets in. First comes the lawn watering restriction, then comes flushing restrictions (flush only when really necessary). we have rain barrels and grass changing rebates and all kinds of stuff like that..

the malayalees here - they take this all seriously i suppose, nattil mathramanu heroism..ivide poochayanu..
Maddy said…
Thanks Jennifer..
i love my books - and well, we have a covered porch, not the cool polished red floor verandhas like in kerala with the suns rays bouncing off it..

I am not sure about the lawn though - i have always liked one and i like living amidst some good greenery.. but something that requires excess care is a bore.
rama said…
Lovely post, and the collection of books also looks in the shelfs.
Yeah,I don't know why you people can't make tasting like our Indian coffee.
Here in Bangalore my husband puts restriction on water usage,how to conserve water , how not to water the plants with the slightest sign of drizzle, how we must not flush fully every time we use the toilet etc.
And where is the gardener I am also tired of asking everyone.
Seems the situation is same everywhere.
kallu said…
wonderful collection of books Maddy and arranged so colourfully. You must be so happy that things are out of boxes and have found a place after all these years. And great feel to have your own home. Nice post
Maddy said…
thanks Rama - universal problems I suppose..Thanks for visiting and come again..
Maddy said…
Thanks Kallu
Yes, of course - am happy everything is in its rightful place though it is taking a while to recall where that place is at times. Settling down well I must say!!
TVS said…
Hey, nice writing, crisp and fresh; for a homey type like me, and also having wandered a lot over the globe, makes it nostalgic. Enjoy your sweet home, which you chose, tolerate the neighbors, whom God choses!

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