I am one of those rare lucky ones who have access to two houses in Mumbai. One I rent (let’s call it A) and the other, I take care of for a friend (let’s call it B). While I spend most of my time around A, I often go back to B. This is a collection of notes and thoughts about living in these two houses in the same city.
Lemme talk of A first. The one at DN Nagar
A is a 1BHK, on the 4th floor in a building that is older than my parents. The building is more precarious than a flaky croissant and if you look at it, you’d peg it to crumble down like those Digestive biscuits do when you bite into those. And since this is an old standalone building, there is no fancy razzmatazz, no security, needlessly nosy neighbours. Plus it’s bang on top of a busy road and the Metro line and thus noisy at all hours.
The good part is that the house was newly renovated and I am the first occupant. So, it’s super clean – the way I like it. The owners are nice people and they gave me flowers and paintings when I moved in. I’ve been here 3-4 months now and I have yet to hear them complain or interfere. One time there was some leakage and the owners were so apologetic that I felt bad!
The best part is the location. The metro station is 100 steps away (I have counted). Starbucks is 600 meters (and I still take a rick to get there). And all the other paraphernalia that you seek from a “location” (like a hospital, grocery stores, schools, gyms etc etc). A lot of people from the film fraternity are around and thus I can meet more people. So it’s nice.
To make the good and best better, I’ve done it the way I’ve wanted to. You know, minimal. In the bedroom, apart from an eclectic collection of almirahs that I inherited from the owner, I have just a mattress and a rented AC. In the hall, I have some assorted pieces of furniture (including a sewing machine!) that came with the house. So, it’s one of the emptiest houses (not the emptiest though – at Chilralekha, all I had was a mattress, almirah, writing table and nothing else) that I’ve lived in and I love it! And whatever little I have here, I am not emotionally attached to any of that and I am ok to discard or acquire as and when they come. So that.
I have built a nice pad for myself. Just that it’s not good or big or nice enough to host anyone. You know how people are ashamed of their poverty? That!
Coming to B. The one at Ghatkopar
This is as fancy as they come. The rent of this house is more than what I make in a month. The average car in this complex is a luxury sedan and people have a couple of spare cars for grocery shopping. The complex is nice and there are rules that are funny to me – you can’t get repairs done that would make noise (but they would play Garba songs are deafening volume late in the night), the domestic help “staff” can only use service elevator (but once they are in your house, they have unfettered access to even your kitchen and bedroom). And to top, there is three-layer security, neighbours are a mix of old money and nouveau riche, and things are as pretentious as they come in such a place.
There is no way I can afford to live here. I mean I have lived in this complex in the past but that was when the rents were manageable and I had predictable income. B, the house in question is a close friend’s. He lives abroad and he has entrusted me with his house as a caretaker. And to be honest, I do more than just take care – I live here, I host dinners here, I work from here and I get guests to chill and talk and all that. Something that I would never do at A. Each person who comes here says good things about the place. They are fascinated by the grandeur and space and how well it’s been done. The interiors are a sight to behold. The view from out of the house is full of nice things. See this, this and this.
The house is full of modern, top-of-the-line gadgets and they’re maintained by official servicing setups (read expensive) and all the cables and wires and plumbing and even dustbins are hidden from plain sight. You can mistake the place for a hotel room where all you see is nice things and all the ugliness is buried deep under multiple layers of shiny walnut panels, satin, thick carpets and white gloves.
There are good things only (apart from the obnoxious things I mentioned above). A shopping mall is across the road, the hospital is about 10 mins away (in Powai) and there is easy access to trains et al. Just that LBS Marg could get choked at office hours and for me, most days I can avoid that. So, all is well.
And I use it as my own house. And I am grateful that I have that!
The trouble is, I am unable to relate to people that live here. All of them are in a bubble, an echochamber that they refuse to get out of. They are in a cocoon (ironically, their clubhouse is called that :D) where they are blind to things happening in and around them. Conversations are tone-deaf and the privilege reeks through in each morsel of chatter that comes out of there. And which is fine, to be honest. I am like that at some level myself (this piece itself is tone-deaf and I have been a judgy bitch). But people here have their heads up their backsides to a point that it’s weird. I remember one of the people here once said that they should get a skywalk made to the mall so that they don’t have to cross the road. And if there was no Metro getting made across the road, they would’ve got it!
Ok, wait. The point is not people here or my inability to relate to conversations of fancy rich people.
The point is, yesterday, I came to B after more than a month and I have to say, I loved it!
The quiet luxury, the abundant personal space, the muted lights of the house, and the “service” of the staff were something that I could get used to! Just that I don’t have the money or resources to do so. Each time I am here, I want to keep coming back to this place (there’s a LOT of pseudo-niceness around) and I want to work harder to belong and create opportunities for myself and others so that my entire village can live here (if not at better places).
Chalo, over and out.
PS: After I published this, I realised that this reads like a rant and I know better than to publish such things. But then I had written and I didn’t want it to go waste 😀