Friday, October 31, 2008

The House that Akbar's Wapa Built

My father built two houses in his native village in Edava, Kerala. The village is situated very close to the sea and in fact you can see the sea from the house. This is how the story goes. Our ancestral home is called Maramblavuum (in India, you are identified by your house name rather than a surname). It seems there was a family quarrel and my grandfather, Kassim "Srang" moved out of the house and went to stay in the house called Chekavaluam (which incidentally my father purchased for grandfather (Upapa). Sometime in 1952-53, my father and Hussein Kochapa built two identical houses - one on the ancestral plot and the other on Chekavaluam. The houses are still there when i visited them in 2005. The house in Chekavaluam has since been upgraded by my cousin, Shafie "macha". Unfortunately, the house in Maramblavuum has been neglected.

This happens to many ancestral homes because no one is willing to spend money on a property which is not theirs. There was a family staying in the ancestral home when i visited in 2005. The interesting thing about the houses is that the wooden ceiling is still good after so many years. Got a picture of the ceiling. When i got there, there are our relatives who still talk about my father who passed away in 1985 - some 20+ years. They talk and remember my father with affection. Imagine for more than 50 years, families have lived and grew up in the houses that my father built. When i visited my mother's village, some of them remember me from my visit nearly 27 years ago. They remember me for the physical fights that happened. The difference in how we are remembered did not escape me and i am humbled by that thought.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My India Trip in 2005

They say, You really know a person when you go on a journey. After nearly 20 years of marriage, the wife and i went on on a trip abroad TOGETHER. In case if you are wondering

whether we were like the frogs under the coconut shell, let me dispel that notion. We both had travelled abroad but separately. Why India? The last time I was in India was in 1979 for about one and a half years. It was a life-changing experience for me then. There is a story there but i will keep it for another day. This time it was to get the wife to see the Indian side of my family. The entire trip to India took about 12 days.

During that time, we travelled through 3 of the southernmost states in India, namely, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala. We started our journey in Madras and ended our journey in Madras. We did all of our travels by land (bus, train, auto-rickshaw, taxi). I wanted to see India close up. Some scary moments, like the time we got into the train in Bangalore and had to stand all the way to our destination, Mysore - almost 5 hours. Since we were in the 3rd class, some of our fellow travellers (some really ruffian types) started drinking and then started eyeing the wife. Thankfully, i was not called on to defend the wife's honour. I hate the sight of blood - especially my own. I enjoyed the trip immensely. You don't really know how comfortable we become until we travel to a strange land. We had to walk... everywhere. No car. Unknown places where you have to go up to strangers and ask for directions. Starting conversations and making friends with virtual strangers.When was the last time i did that at home?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The House That Akbar Built - After

Ahh... now the house is ready. After nearly a year of renovating. The wife is happy as a clam..... for a couple of days at least. Got an sms message from her (thanking me for the house) which i am keeping to remind her in case she forgets. (remember the strategic memory loss?). I am learning, I am learning. I not stupid, just slow. Now since the house was ready, the next item on our agenda was moving our furniture from the Klang house to Shah Alam house. And let me tell you, i did it myself ... err, with a bit of help from the mice (6 of them) who are going to live in the house that Akbar built. Borrowed my brother's pick up truck and carted the stuff during weekends. That's when i really, really realised that i don't have much furniture. So the children were sleeping on mattresses on the floor for a couple of months before I caved in .... again. Parental love overcame financial prudence. So we went to IKEA to buy furniture. (PARENTAL WARNING: Proceed with real caution with children in IKEA who haven't really understood the concept of "no interest plans" and the seductive powers of an IKEA credit card. It is going to take about 2 years to stabilize the house before we can call it really comfortable. And me? I still smiling.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The House That Akbar Built - Before

Buying this house also had a story. One day, my good friend Ravi called and said he bought his second house. That got me thinking. Hey, it's a good idea to buy a second house too. (Ravi - thanks). So the house hunting started with the wife and me. What i liked, she didn't. But let me tell you something about my wife. I have great faith in her intuition. But putting aside the intuition bit, it can become frustrating sometimes when she can't explain why she doesn't like a particular house. Anyway, we come to this house in Shah Alam, the older part of section 8 and it is one of the few housing areas where the road is in a horse-shoe (with a small playground in the center). The great thing about houses in a horse-shoe is that when you open your back door, you don't see your neighbour's back door. (i think my behind looks great but that does not necessarily mean i like to see my neighbour's behind, heex3). The house was not good looking but you could see that the owner had renovated it in stages. I saw potential in the house and lo behold, my wife also liked the house. Looking back at the all the other houses which we viewed, i think we pretty much made the right decision. Sometimes, i wonder why i born so smart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The House That Akbar Built - Building Phase

My house in Shah Alam. It started when the wife said, "i never have anything nice. At least let me have a nice house". My wife, like most women, has a strategic short term memory. (you know lah, today nice house, tomorrow nice car ... ) I didn't want to renovate the house which was in a pretty bad condition. You know the usual -- bathrooms that leak, electrical wires running all over the walls etc etc. Hey, money does not grow on trees, I said.

I caved in after 3 days .... Self-preservation became more important than financial prudence.

Anyway it wasn't a decision i regretted. After renovating the house, the cost of materials have gone up like some 30%. (hey guys, it pays to listen to your wife). Now i smiling all the way to the bank.

Fire and Ice - Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.