Nov 18, 2012

Living out of a suitcase

Most people who have a house to live in, I think, take it for granted. Before I went to US, I too took it for granted that I always had a space to store my quilts in summer, and they would be right there when I needed them in winter. I was rudely jolted awake of this grantedness in my very first summer in the US.

Suddenly, at the end of the  spring, we were faced with the American phenomenon called “summer” that we were completely unprepared for. Nobody had told us that every May, students pack their bags and go somewhere else to earn money for the rest of the year. So there we were, at the beginning of May with house lease expiring in a week, and nowhere to go. On the spur of the moment we decided on a location, but we knew it would not accommodate our three big suitcases each. Since we were going to a famous beach area, we decided to pack our winter clothes and leave them at a friend’s place. However, we did not realize that even beaches get cold in the night. Since we had left our thick Nepali siraks we had left behind with our friends, we spent the entire summer pretending that two bed sheets together were as warm as a blanket.

That was also the time when we shared an apartment with a disproportionate number of people, and had little space for our stuff. One of our suitcases had to be shoved on top of the shoe compartment. I did not think much of it, until a month later when the suitcase emerged smelling like several hundred shoes. Of course, we tried the Nepali remedy of hanging it out in the sun to dry, which worked perfectly, but we never again shoved it in the shoe compartment.

The next summer, we were better prepared. We looked for jobs in our own neighborhood, and stayed put for the summer. However, we forgot about the rest of our friends, many of whom were still unprepared. The result was that we became their “friends” who they left their stuff behind with. Piles of oddly shaped luggage sat in different corners of the living room for months. As a result, we were unable to maneuver in and out of our house without making the famous three fold pose of Lord Shiva. 

Besides, that was when bed bugs entered our house. Though we were unable to find out exactly where they came from, the pile of suitcases left more than one bad connotation!

I was really glad when the summer ended and we were able to dance in our living room again after everyone took away their stuffs. Well, except for one. One of our friends decided to transfer somewhere else, and did not come back for her stuff either. We kept trying to call her to find out when we could post her luggage, but she always said her apartment was too small. As a result, we periodically took out her cute happy birthday poster and used it for our own birthdays, periodically glanced through the dictionary she left behind, and more or less made her suitcase the part of our living room décor. Finally, we had no option but to throw them away when we ourselves decided to move from that apartment.

I guess we could never be prepared enough for moving. At home, we never give a thought to pots and pans, which are always lying around for us to use. Not so abroad. When we had already moved our stuff to a new apartment, but stayed back to clean the old apartment (our landlord would fine us if we left the apartment dirty), we were really famished after three hours of scrubbing and brushing. We had nothing left in the fridge but a lone packet of frozen fries, and and absolutely nothing to cook it in. Finally, we were forced to dig into the trash can and fish out a blackened and rusty baking tray that we had just thrown away. Rusty though it was, right then the fries baked in that pan tasted like manna from heaven to us.

We thought the situation would improve when we quit our student lives and starting working. But far from it! When a friend of mine had to change jobs every few months, she also had to move to a different location each time. In every new place she bought some clothes, some kitchen things, and some odds and ends. Consequently, with every job change, she ended up having to shed some old stuff (At first, I was happy because I got what she left behind. But the next time, when she donated to the thrift store someplace far away, I was not so happy). Since she was constantly moving, she took only one suitcase with her, and the other backup suitcase was often mailed to her from place to place at preposterous expenses.

I guess the pains of living in a suitcase can only be understood by those who have been through it. So many of my friends have had their stuff unceremoniously thrown out from where they had left them as backup. Several others end up buying the same generic plain tops and jeans at every place they go because they are too emotionally drained to choose clothes that they will have to throw away soon (you guessed right, these were girls.) I have met countless friends who prefer to sleep on blankets on the ground, because they cannot carry their mattresses, let alone beds, everywhere. In fact, apart from laptops and pictures of gods, there is very little that gets carried to two places in a row. When your favorite cup, curtain, or carpet doesn’t fit in the suitcase, you don’t just lose some items of convenience. The familiarity and reassurance of everything that you take for granted at home also gets left behind. That’s what made me realize that a house is not just a place to sleep in. A suitcase, though undoubtedly useful on many occasions, is no comparison for a place to live in!


Sumedh Sharma said...

I have been thinking of moving my bed away from the window, as winter has moved in, but laziness has got better of me. Maybe, I too would be the one to move with just a laptop and a photo of God. However, now at home I think of all my stuffs as something more than non living and find hard to discard off.

And, as far as two blankets compared to a single quilt the former is effective according to +2 Physics!!lol!

Anonymous said...

curly locks said...

that was fun to read sumedh keep sharing ur ideaa :)

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