Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On the move.....

These are strange times. You mention "Shift" , and folks look at their keyboard.  It has evolved from a verb to a proper name of a key. 

But I still hang on to the old school .  And "shift" generates lots of memories.

Shifting, per se, has evolved.  From being a  family event to a  managed event. In keeping with the times.

My earliest memories  are from my college days in Pune.  I stayed in the college hostel, and every vacation was spent at a new district place , since there were parental job transfers.  I never really participated in the packing , and loading , and intense discussions about what to discard and what to take. By the time i came home , everything was well set, and one set out to discover the joys of small town Maharashtra .

My earliest memories of shifting , per se, are from the mid seventies, when my folks shifted back post retirement from Mumbai.  There were many discussions, trips to internal areas of Mumbai to get good but cheap jute material in large quantities.  Aunts came to stay, and much time was spent sitting with tough looking huge needles , through which you threaded  jute rope , and stitched up the jute covering  around  sofas, teapoys , small tables  and so on. Newspapers were stuffed in places where a collapse was anticipated .  Big gunny sacks were filled with odd shaped vessels and metal kitchen implements , and put in another gunny sack and stitched up.  Folks would keep talking about how so and so shifted and three dining room chairs had their legs broken  due to bad loading practices, and once again we would rush around with big needles, ropes and jute coverings.  Old sarees were put to good use .

I came into my own on moving day, after the truck's arrival was excitedly announced. Those were not days of movers and packers. Neither did they come with a container type transport. Benevolent looking chaps in dhoties and kurtas came and lugged things into the truck, and it fell upon me , as the only offspring present, to ensure that heavy things were not loaded on , say, glass tops .  Much to the consternation of the hi fi ladies of the neighborhood, I climbed on to the back of the truck , holding on to a chain dangling on the right, and stood there directing the loading, almost till the truck was ready to leave.  The stress of the shifting , the finale to a career, and age, meant that  folks were happy to leave things to their child to manage,  and i joined them in a heavily loaded Ambassador car filled with stuff "you couldn't send in a truck" , with aunts/cousins who had come to help.  They dropped me off at my marital home and proceeded on a hugely rainy monsoon evening , to climb the ghats , behind the truck.

The next time i moved was when , in our institutional premises, i moved from a hostel room to a bigger flat.  The hostel room had its own furniture, there was almost nothing to move. Perhaps  just the fridge and the gas cylinder.  The fridge was under warranty,  the fridge company truck was mandatory, and the elderly fellows who came to shift on their own offered to also shift our gas stove and cylinder, once they noticed large red Kokan "chira" stones that we used with old metal abandoned Godrej metal shelves to store our books and create  tables. They hailed from Kokan and were only too pleased to transport the tables to a largely empty , fairly big flat.

Nature , or better still, we, cannot tolerate a vacuum, and so the flat got slowly filled up with simple furniture. A larger flat meant folks could come to stay with us. Slowly and surely, the size, variety and need for furniture increased.  Every subsequent move to a better flat (of the same size), and we shifted twice after that in 43 years, had us sorting and discarding stuff.  Much more after the children happened.

It was recently time for us to move out of our institutional premises after 43 years. We were not young any more.  Like when my folks moved,  the daughter was around to help.

But there was a difference.

We had movers and packers now.

Some smiling folks turned up that morning, checked if they had the correct address and proceeded to lug in reams of broad plastic, millions of large bags, rolls and rolls of some kind of corrugated cardboard, and innumerable tapes. One guy with a trained  eye would point to stuff, another would load the stuff, and wrap everything in plastic securing it with copious amounts tape.  Another fellow took over the machines , and the fridge, TV,  washing machine and other electronics were very quickly, carefully and comprehensively packed in corrugated coverings and taped around as if tape was going out of fashion. They even packed your photo frames carefully (and i have a lot of them) , and smiled approvingly when you mentioned that late Maaji's photo might get a scratch on the glass in all this hurried stuff, and to individually pack it. 

Some other guys kept lugging these things down the lift into the foyer, and two hours after they arrived,  4 rooms were emptied and were being loaded on to the truck. Another road trip in the afternoon, and we were shifted.  The nice thing was, they shifted stuff , into the new premises, where it was intended, unpacked stuff , and powered on the electric stuff to confirm that it was OK.  When i walked in, the refrigerator was in the kitchen , humming.

But luggage isn't the only thing you shift.  

In the old days, it was. 

Then as an after thought, you wrote post cards to everyone informing them of change of address. You went to your bank, where they accepted the letter, with small talk about schools , admissions, and how do you like the new place etc etc, and quickly changed the address in a ledger  with an outlandish body mass index.  Phones were not easy to get, and your request for a shift  got acted on suddenly after a bunch of weeks, there was overhead wiring , and the linesman would climb on the  old cotton tree or mango tree to position the phone wires and direct them .    

Today, no one believes anyone.  Your word is insufficient as address proof.  You need bills to show what your address is.  You cannot change your address for these bills unless you have some other address proof. And having spent much of your life as a programmer, "loop" comes to mind.  You show someone a legal registered , notarized rent agreement, and they ask you to get it  verified and so declared by the housing society authorities. I mean the society  would hardly allow a random entity to shift in with all kinds of luggage and people , if we did not have a  proper document vetted by them.

Everyone has their own levels of demanding address proof. Sometimes , it is unusually simple. Sometimes , it borders on the offensive. Sometimes, two people in the same organization, give diametrically opposite information and instructions.   In an age when everything is supposed to be electronic, reams of paper get exchanged in the process, and Xerox continues to prosper.

But life has a way of settling in.  My newspaper delivery boy , who has delivered over the years, asked me where i was shifting and when . Turns out he serviced that area too. So i casually mentioned  the date to him , and asked him to deliver there. and bill me at the end of the month as usual. All this in a very hurried way  a week before shifting.

On our first early morning in the new premises,  boxes strewn all across,  getting tea started on the stove , I walk across to the  front door , with its complicated latches, open it , and find a newspaper  stuck in through the grill of the outside safety door.

Some folks need no address proof.  They believe you.  They don't do KYC again and again. 

A new day has  begun.

I take a deep breath.   Life is not so bad after all. 

I sit down with a cuppa to read the paper amidst all the unpacking chaos.  



  1. I'm glad the move is over!! They're never fun!! My husband was in the military and we moved many times!! I do hope all goes well and that your new year is off to a great start!!

    1. Thank you, Sylvia ! Yes, I am so glad the move is done. Now for the sorting and storing .... :-)

  2. Moving after 43 years? Suranga, I have moved 44 times in 40 years, no kidding! Enjoyed imagining you on top of the truck calling out instructions. Priceless! The advantage of moving frequently is that you clear clutter regularly. And the flip side? Don't get me started!

    1. Zephyr ! 44 times in 40 years ! (Bows deeply!) Maybe you can be part of Make in India and start a National Institute of Shifting. And we can even introduce some confusing jargon to impress folks. :-) Having said that, I am just glad that this particular shifting is done.