A Mumbai-based daily recently reported a sale of a Bandra apartment. Rs.97,000 per square foot is what the new owner paid to acquire the said flat. Realty has nothing to do with reality, is what I thought. And yet the reality was staring me in the face, in black ink.
I’ve lived most of my life in my parents’ home. Whether a one bedroom flat in the chaotic and vibrant Naigaum or the heritage flat in Dadar, it was always home. It was never a piece of real estate, it never will be. For every passage holds memories of how I hid from my mother during a game of hide and seek or how I caught my sister tucked behind the door in our game of pakda pakdi. The dining table was where stories were shared and the kitchen was where I merrily played as the mustard crackled and onions sizzled. My grandmother’s next door kitchen was my playroom, where she’d tell me stories from her childhood while grinding coconut on her precious pata or while making hot, soft chapattis and rolling them into a delightful snack slathered with ghee and sprinkled with sugar.
My grandparents’ bedroom would be full of my grandfather’s sandalwood scent mixed with fragrances of ghee, camphor, agarbatti and dhoop and it was far, far away from homework. And their living room was where we played ball, merrily disturbing the 7pm news bulletin of Doordarshan. All this was long before Mumbai realty became dear. It was a time when no one measured living in terms of square feet, and a time when I hadn’t yet learnt the fact that four walls and a roof were a luxury.
And then I grew up. I started working, feeling extremely rich with a Rs5000 paycheck that showed up once in a while, spending lavishly on a movie with my sister. And I grew up a little more, feeling mighty pleased to buy my mother a salwar kameez and my dad his first iPod. And I grew up a little more. I wanted to own a home of my own. Rents in my parents’ area were a good ten grand more than my salary. If I decided to buy a flat, I could only afford a square foot every month, that too if I put each and every paisa into the home. (I was earning about Rs 22,000 at the time). That would mean a good 500 months before I owned a decent sized apartment of my own (not counting the interest and all that).
I now live in a rented flat, with my husband and my little dog. A bookshelf, some lights, some posters make it look like my space. But what makes it a home, even if a temporary one? The kitchen where I made my first meal as a bride, my husband and his friend deciphering the art of making phulkas? The coffee table where they devoured the said phulkas (as kadak as a khakhra, mind you)? The corner where the landlord’s dining table is converted into a computer desk for my husband to play his video games on? Or the corner in the bedroom where my dog merrily snores at any time of the day?
Precious as these memories are, they’ll be left behind when the lease expires — to be wiped clean by the new tenant to make space for their own memories. It is our dream to find a home where we can make permanent memories. What can we afford though? Rs 5000 per square feet, Rs 20,000 per square feet or Rs 50,000? I don’t know. Where is my dream home? A six bedroom flat on Pali Hill doesn’t really cut it neither does a sea-facing four-bedroom duplex at Worli.
A neighbourhood, a complex, the number of rooms? Those details don’t matter. My dream home is what my parents gave me as a child. A home filled with corners for memories to live. A home filled with walls that have drawings etched on it. A home filled with passages that lead to dreams. A home filled with aromas of our favourite food, with tunes of our favourite songs. A home that isn’t measured in terms of how many square feet it covers, but in terms of how much love it holds. I want the living room to be big enough to hold all our friends, a kitchen big enough to hold our family. A bedroom big enough for the two of us and our books. I want a home big enough to hold our life in.
The world is buying its X,Y,Z Rupees a square foot homes, but this Mumbai girl hopes that someday, the city that she loves will afford her this luxurious dream home. Someday.