21 November 2016

Renovation 2016

I had been struggling with the clutter in my home for 12.5 years. It was causing a lot of depression to me as I am a tidiness freak by nature. It was causing a lot of stress in our family life too. From what seemed to be a lonely battle to me I finally figured that I needed some expert help in this matter. Though we had had some furniture done over the years, the interior was of an inorganic nature. The fact that I'm a compulsive shopper, and hubby is a hoarder, did not help. After the advent of my daughter, the clutter seemed to multiply exponentially! Not only did one tend to go crazy while shopping for little girls, the gifts she received and the various project work she accomplished in school, that we proudly displayed, the various toys, sports paraphernalia and cosmetic jewelry/accessories that had piled up, was mind blowing.

So we decided to at least do our daughter's room such that there would be a place for everything and her things would stop encroaching precious space in all the rooms. We also wanted to redo the bathrooms as they had become really tacky. Thus began a very logical and down-scaled renovation project- not because of budget constraint but because we were not planning to move out of our home while it was ongoing. Ambitious indeed! As it took off, we realized that there is so much more that can be done to the interior in a much more organic way. According to our decorator, the design of our apartment was faultless, but the space management (storage) left a lot to be desired. Add to that hubby's caveat that there should be no tod-phod and breaking of society rules in our quest for utopia. What followed was an exercise in superb execution of a renovation disguised as a major re-haul of our apartment, and lives :-)

What started off as a tiny project soon snowballed into a tornado. Though we decided to retain most of the current furniture and furnishings, we redid the tiles in the living room, kitchen and one bedroom. This was because the tiles provided by the builder had started to swell and break in some places. The tiles in the bathroom were literally glued on top of older ones after polishing them. This saved us the labor and cost of prying the older tiles off and risking water leakage into the flat below. We revisited the awning in the terrace and installed ones for windows too - to provide better protection against rains and counter the pigeon menace. Thus, fabrication work piled up. We got rid of some space-hogging furniture and got foldable sofa-cum-beds. The terrace underwent the most transformation - its now a lounge for guests over tea or drinks or reading lounge for us. Just a swap of the 2 sofas in the living room has given a transformative effect to the living room. White color on all walls has considerably increased the space and light in each room making the entire house look bigger and brighter. Lofts in the kitchen and one bedroom made a lot of clutter disappear. Better use of window ledges has added more room and storage. Better lighting and improved design of plug points, switch boards etc. has made life so much more enlightened.

As to the clutter, we have given away so much stuff that was not serving any purpose except to add to our cleaning and maintenance efforts. An old bed and almirah, TONs of clothes, utensils, bedsheets, blankets, bathroom stuff, mirrors, and about 25 kgs of books! No wonder the house feels lighter too :-)

Here, I'd like to add a few words complimenting our decorator. She is a gem and so different from other interior decorators in the market. For one, she is not out to make a quick buck, she is plenty loaded herself. She is in the business only to satisfy her creative urges. And boy, is she good at her job?! She has a highly efficient and eccentric team for more than 10 years. Despite this, she haggles over every little screw with carpenter, cost of paint and labor of tiling with the painter and mason respectively and got me hefty discounts on furnishings(curtains, upholstery, wallpaper) through her contacts. She ensures that every bit of ply, laminate, granite and cement is used judiciously. And coordinating the time and efforts of the carpenter, mason, painter, fabricator, electrician, and us,  so no one's time is wasted and work finishes at a fast pace, is an art she has got down pat. She is a whirlwind in action.

The cleanup after all the major work was a royal pain. No amount of wiping, scrubbing, dusting seemed to get the grime off the cupboards, furniture and the air we breathed. After multiple cleanings and vacuuming over weeks, now the house sparkles like a diamond.

Needless to say, even with a few things such as adding a good artwork to our living room and a suitable wallpaper to my daughter's room pending - everyone who visits the home is super-impressed. She has taught us that interior is not about throwing money on false ceilings, wood, marble or imported vases, paintings. It is a whole new way of organizing, make things more functional as well as being aesthetic. Other takeways for us were of course, buy/hoard less - donate more, do your bit to cleaning and tidying everyday so giant pile-ups can be avoided in future. And the biggest one is that I now know someone whom I can contact in the event of any future home-related emergency!

18 November 2016

The fault in our stars

I read the book by this name recently. The story is about young (teenage) survivors of cancer who live constantly in fear of a relapse and with a reduced quality of life. The protagonist is a 16-year old girl and its about her life, love, friendship, obsession.

The book brings home the bitter truth of how many cancer sufferers there are in the world and how they are forced to "exist" because their loved ones do not want them to die. They become fertile grounds for experimental drugs and newfangled treatments in futile attempts to extend their lives. And these lives go unaccounted for, and unmourned. Being cancer patients is what their life was all about. No one remembers what they were really like; that they too are intelligent, passionate human beings capable of having a sense of humor.

If the patients are young people, then they have similar wants as a teenager - want to go on dates, fall in love, hang out with friends, dress up, travel etc. Not being able to enjoy all this is tragic;  death is preferable. Instead they are forced to live a "meaningful" life in the short time they have, plan which clothes they will be buried in and worry about what their folks will write in their eulogies (which most people worry about only after sixty).

Some hard-hitting excerpts from the book that left a lasting impact-

1) She seemed to be mostly a professionally sick person, like me, which made me worry that when I died, they'd have nothing to say about me except that I fought heroically, as if the only thing I'd ever done was  Have Cancer.

2) ...because I guess her brain cancer was of the variety that makes you not you before it makes you not alive.

3) People talk about the courage of cancer patients, and I do not deny that courage. I had been poked and stabbed and poisoned for years, and still I trod on. But make no mistake, in that moment, I would have been very, very happy to die.

4) Never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves" Easy enough to say when you are a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of faults to be found in our stars.

5) Sleeping with the BiPAP all night made my lungs feel almost normal, although, then again, I did not really remember lung normality.

6) You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.

7) That was the worst part about having cancer, sometimes: The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people.

8) ...would there be enough living people to remember all the dead people? Sure, anyone can name fourteen dead people. But we are disorganized mourners, so a lot of people end up remembering Shakespeare, and no one ends up remembering the person he wrote the Fifty-fifth sonnet about.

9) The real heroes anyway aren't the people DOING things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn't actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn't get smallpox.

10) You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

Decision making - an underrated skill

Today, there is an article in Sunday TOI about maids and the rising class divide in the Indian context. Yet another context is the manager ...