17 June, 2012

Different worlds.

All of this week I have been in Chapra. My father and I came here on Sunday, 22nd April. That gave us one week to my grandfather's first death anniversary. We will spend this week in the house built by him. During this time, we will spruce up the house a bit.  My grandparents were living in it till 2003 after which this house has been locked most of the time.

When we go on holiday today, we try to go to different countries and regions to gain new experiences. We want to see and feel and become a part of different experiences - historical, cultural or just to escape what is mundane. This current week was the holiday to beat all holidays.

I get to see faded glimpses of my grandparents life. I have found letters and bills and track the various bureaucratic battles my grandfather fought with a flourish. There are letters complaining about fluctuations in the electricity bills, multiple letters to the pension department for release of funds, a careful record of all electricity and phone bills paid over a period of time. There is a savings account passbook which shows a regular deposits over several years and a few withdrawals that can be matched to weddings in the family. I also get to see a picture of my grand father as a young man - so young that even my father or his brothers do not remember him like that. The photo is part of an ID card, which designates him as a Wireless Inspector. About 45 years before I moved into London and got to pay for the TV license, my Baba was collecting Wireless license fees.

I have been clearing a lot of old household junk - books and calendars, ropes, wood, old sacks, bedsheets and so on. The workers keep an eye on all the junk I am taking out. They often ask me  to allow them to keep some of the things. Old books are a hot favourite. All of them have their children in school and think that these books might be of help to them. Similarly, any old furniture is in high demand and so are fans. With every such demand, I am also told a small story about how this will be useful to them. I learn a little bit about some of these people. They also remind me of Baba in some way. He was very careful with his belongings. He was well organised and methodical. He never wasted anything. He recycled paper. He used to write his letters in such a way that there was no empty space in the blue inland letters that he used to fire off with alarming regularity. If he was around, I would not have been able to remove 10% of what I am able to do now.

My father and I had a routine. We used to get ready and have breakfast by 9. The workers would start the work at 9 and finish at 5. We would take a bath and get ready to go out by 6. We would walk around Chapra town, with my father telling me stories about different places and people. We would reach a restaurant (Restaurant Zaika) and then have dinner (Slightly oily, but clean vegetarian food). We would walk back home and be ready to go to bed by 9. We would be asleep by 9.30, only to be woken a few times when we needed to changover to a generator (during power cuts).

We were in Chapra in the middle of the wedding season.  We were awakened by some very loud live music almost every night. As far as live gigs are concerned, Chapra would come quite close to a city like London or New York. I am not exagerrating. Agreed that the quality and training and equipment of the gigs here in Chapra are rather rudimentary, they make it up by the sheer amount of sound they generate. In the warm summer nights, with little or no power, we would often live music till 2am.
There were such concerts every night - with very bad vocals, repetitive film songs and worse sound. These performances were part of the the entertainment being organised for the numerous weddings which were happening. Baraats always have live music and song and dance. But this was definitely a step further. By the sound of it, these baraats were not going anywhere. I think we got used to it by night number 3 and it never bothered us after that.

We had arranged for a contractor to meet us on Sunday, the day we reached. There was a function we had organised on the following Sunday. The rest of the family would begin to arrive by Friday evening. We had 5 days to get this house into shape.
Before the work started.

What all we finished in this period -
- Painting of all the external walls
- Generator connection and changeover
- Electrical overhaul of all switchboards inside the house
- Mosquito net on all windows
- Filling up of all the cracks in the walls with cement
- Minor plumbing work
- Installation of a new door
- Repair of the kitchen roof
- Repair of all broken window panes

By the end of it all, the house was looking much better.

After the painting...

The house looks quite ready
By Friday, the family began to arrive. My uncle reached on Thursday, mother and sister and aunt on Friday and wife plus nephews and wife's parents on Saturday. We had a whale of a time - some pics to follow soon.

Papa and chote papa on the puja