27-Nov-2012

Home sweet home


I love the view from our house. In all the nitpicking about the inconveniences associated with the house, I had not realized one of the simple joys of life is waking up to a nice view. Our apartment faces a school and a bunch of short and beautifully built buildings and houses. These are set in a carpet of green. This is a bit unusual since most apartments we saw faced other tall condos and hence did not provide much of an incentive to stare out of the window.

Just outside the condo is a canal and a small, well-laid out park. Beyond that is a girl’s high school. Most people say that schools can be very noisy but being on the 16th floor we don’t really hear much. Except on that one Saturday morning, when we woke up to noises that sounded like an elephant in heat. I peeked out of the windows to see the school band, practicing bright and early. The sound was thanks to the trumpet player, whose skills still had some catching up to do. Clearly she realized it too since she diligently played (?) the trumpet the whole morning.

The girls also play a lot of sports, mostly soft ball. However, there was a particular day when I noticed two lines of girls practicing shaking hands with each other the way they do before important football matches. I watched fascinated as they did the same thing over and over again for almost an hour. Even if they turn out to be the least competent team when they play a match, no one can ever accuse them of not being able to give a firm handshake.

Despite these minor distractions, sleeping-in, however, has mostly been an easy exercise. The curtains that came with the house are made of some super-thick material that does not let light penetrate easily. So we are usually blissfully unaware of the fact that a bright morning lies outside. Bliss.

About a month into our stay, D made an interesting observation. We had not got any bills so far. This was a bit strange. In Bombay, the bills were normally slipped under our door and we had subconsciously assumed the same would happen here. Then D decided to check our mail box in the basement, and sure enough everything was there. Some dangerously overdue. The water bill (yes, the government charges for water. So the beautiful tub in our master bedroom will have to be used judiciously), the electricity bill, gas bill, cable TV bill, internet and phone bills. Whew.

The house is still work-in-progress while other priorities dominate. One disappointment has been the amount of dust. I had assumed that living in such a clean country, I would be able to display my books in the open bookshelf or put out our souvenirs in open shelves. Unfortunately, while dust does not gather in the prodigious amounts it used to in Bombay, it is still disappointing. However, as the mater pointed out, it is impossible not to have dust. So for now, everything that is purely decorative has been kept inside and will be hung up or displayed when the time is right.

We are also slowly beginning to use the condo facilities. D went to play a spirited round of tennis and then came home and panted and rolled in front of the fan in the manner of someone poisoned in Bollywood movies. Clearly, we can both get more exercise.

Our settling in is slowly turning into a much more stable phase. Things are growing more familiar on the house front. I have still not been able to explore the world outside our four walls. I guess slowly that should also come to pass…

13-Nov-2012

Happy Diwali


Last Saturday we went for the Diwali party at our condo

We met around 15 Indian families all in their Ekta-Kapoor serial finery

We ate the spread comprising of Indian food including the filmi gajjar ka halwa 

We watched various kids and some enthusiastic middle-aged ladies perform to Bollywood music

We had a blast.

Clearly, it is time to eat the humble pie. In my long ruminations about finding a condo, I had pondered upon the wisdom of finding a place run over by Indians. A few weeks later, I am wiser. While I still shudder at the thought of going for Satsangs every Saturday, I must admit that it is nice to go for a Diwali party.

The story begins when we moved into our house under the impression that the condo was mainly inhabited by Japanese and a few Europeans. A few days later, a friend told us about someone who lived in the condo and who had served time in the same organization as me several years earlier. Using this rather flimsy excuse of familiarity, D and I immediately went over and introduced ourselves and came back with a lot of practical info. Had we waited to get to know our neighbours better and then began to find out neighbourhood information, it would have taken us a really long time. A network does toss up information much faster

The same ex-colleague cum current-neighbour also told us about the Diwali party and we decided to sign up.

I have seldom attended functions organized by apartment complexes. Mostly because the older I got, the more boring they seemed. Children chasing each other in circles while the adults eyed each other politely and entered into the most boring conversations ever. Besides, does anyone in urban India actually take the effort to create a bond with neighbours anymore?

Over here, it is different. For one, there is the beneficial effect of knowing your neighbours, especially if you are new to the neighbourhood. For another, I have already come to realize why Indians overseas take such pains to congregate and celebrate festivals. In India, you could blissfully ignore festivals, happy in the knowledge that the whole city was anyway celebrating it. Over here unless you marked a particular day it no longer held any significance. It turns out I do like my life being punctuated by these few days even if it holds only cultural importance and not religious importance.

So off we went, dressed nicely too. As anticipated, it was nice to have a whole bunch of people for whom Diwali meant something (In reality of course, Singapore has a public holiday for Diwali and it is an important festival. So it is not like we are living in some strange European country where the day goes unmarked). Also, as anticipated we got tons of useful information. We now have a part-time maid and have located an Indian grocery store closer home thanks to the pearls of wisdom gleaned.

The nicest thing was that apart from all the practical benefits we anticipated, it also brought us the simple joy of spending an evening chatting with people whose conversation we actually enjoyed.

That really is a wonderful thing.