Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Alone: Episode 1 - Mums are magicians, Dads supermen

Trying my best not to make the house look like this
For the past couple of years, I have been in a strange position, home-wise. My parents generally stay in another city, since my father is on a project site, leaving me alone at home. Ideally, in a city like Mumbai, people would kill to have a fully-furnished house of their own, without having to pay any rent. But when it's your parents' house, it's a double-edged sword. You can't mess around in the house. 

If you've ever been a hostel-dweller, you know a lot of handy tips and tricks to make life easier for yourself - flip the bedsheet over and use it for at least another month, sweep the dust under the bed, ignore everything else till it bothers you or intrudes into your life.

But do that in your parents' house and you're done for. Mothers, I think, have a dust sensor in their noses. My mum can actually walk into my room and tell me how long it has been since I changed the bedsheet (usually in months). 

One glance at the ceiling fans and she tells me it's time to clean them (a concept that was alien to me). She knows I am not the only one living in the house - there are spiders giving me company, with their little webs in the corners of every room. Apparently, it's my duty now, to evacuate them out of their dwellings ('Just because we're not here, doesn't mean you live like you're in a hostel').

In short - I am in-charge of the house that my father built with his sweat and blood. No pressure, of course. To be fair, I do try to be as responsible as possible, but things do get out of hand. 

I once got up in the morning and happily read the 3 newspapers front to back, analysing every article I could. Then I walked into the kitchen, and remembered that I had kept the milk on the stove to boil. It had charred to a rich, black colour. In advertising terms, it was a perfect RGB (0, 0, 0). You could actually use the flakes as carbon paper. That was how black it had turned. 

I've left out a fresh packet  of bread on the table, only to throw it away 2 days later, because
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the humid Mumbai climate caused a growth of fungus on it ('You should've kept it in the fridge', mom said). 
My father's old flip flops caught fungus due to the same reason. 

Bananas have gone black on me. I once almost ate a worm along with a pomegranate ('You ALWAYS check pomegranates for worms'). Nowadays, I follow a simple rule. Keep everything in the fridge. Even the chapati.

That's when you actually realise how much mums do. Remember getting angry at your mom because you didn't get breakfast on time, because she was preparing lunch for your father and making tea for grandma, while forgetting herself completely? Or maybe you remember the time you came home, tired from work, and a cup of tea or a cool glass of water was placed before you.

Bills were taken care of, and grocery was bought on time, without fail. Lift a month's worth of grocery and vegetables and you won't feel the need to go to the gym. Most of us have gone to sleep after dinner, never even thinking of the mess we leave behind on the table. 

It takes a lot of patience to clear the table, clean up everything, fill the water bottles, and then go to sleep. Only to remember that you forgot to keep the food inside. You've got to do that, otherwise it will rot and you'll wake up to a stinking hall. I've done that too.

Not that dads do any less. My gas cylinder started leaking (the regulator wouldn't stay put), and I had to call up my dad, who told me something about a ring in the valve. Somehow, he managed to fix it 'telephonically'.

One fine day, the pipe for the assjet (the little shower to clean your ass) decided to come off and the whole bathroom started filling with water. I panicked and called dad. He calmly told me to stop shouting, open the bathroom window, turn a knob outside the window and turn off the water supply to the bathroom. He would take care of the rest with the plumber.

I've learnt a lot, staying alone in my parents' house. If I had stayed in a rented apartment, I probably wouldn't have bothered much. It would just have been like hostel life - only a few notches better in terms of quality of life. 

But, this was the very house for which I saw my father toil away alone in a far-flung town in godforsaken Nigeria for three years. He narrowly escaped being robbed and murdered twice. It's the same house, for which my mum decided to toss her wishlist away in a remote corner of her mind, only so that the EMIs could be paid. One would be an ungrateful wretch not to make every effort to take care of such a house. 

Which reminds me, I forgot to clean up. 

On the next episode of Home Alone: I have some serious animal trouble, and a lot of running around to do.

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