When you’ve moved several homes and countries, you don’t have the clutter that people who’ve never shifted end up accumulating over years. You end up spring cleaning each time you move and what finally remains are the things that have earned their place to stay, over all the other things you possessed. Because, you had no choice but to let go of those other things in the name of decluttering, weight restrictions and container space ( if you’re moving countries). And mostly because, each time you move, you get a chance to relook at your stuff- how many of those baby clothes will you keep as a memory of your one-year-old?, how many of those tickets will you keep as a memory of your holiday to Italy when you have photographs, Murano glass pendants, papier mache masks?
Despite the lack of what I would term, ‘clutter’ and despite being a veteran in moving, I have been struggling with packing over the last two weeks. Unlike our previous moves, where I would simply get everything that mattered packed and moved, or shipped, this time’s different. We are not shipping anything because apparently, it’s not viable- it’ll take 2-3 months to reach and will take any length of time to be cleared from the port and the demurrage charges will have to be borne by us. So, this time, I need to sift through it all and see what’s absolutely essential and can be carried by flight when we go and what needs to be boxed and stored in India because it’s too precious (not materially but in emotional terms). Of those that need to be discarded, I need to sort out what goes to charity and what needs to be sold. It’s not as easy as it seems because letting go is tough and getting a good price for stuff that you know is good, is tougher.
So, I have been occupied all of last week with selling furniture we bought four years ago or lesser when we moved here. The selling was actually fun- at least for the first two days- you know getting calls, clinching deals and seeing the credit come into my account. The best thing was that we found good buyers – those who bought the stuff and were willing to let us use it until we needed to, so, we wouldn’t have to stay in an empty home. It was all good until a few days ago when reality struck me- I was leaving! Since last evening, I’ve been feeling my heart sink.
It’s hard to let it all go- even if the furniture is only four years old- it made a beautiful home. For instance, our 8-seater dining table- it’s seen so many celebrations with family and friends, or the sofa-set- the seat of all our photograph sessions during birthdays, festivals and everything else, or the centre table that we bought at an exotic showroom in Sobo ( South Mumbai – considered to be the elite side of Mumbai). Every time I returned home after a holiday or even a visit to someone else’s home (no matter how grand), I loved how my home looked. It wasn’t the house I loved but just how our home came together with all our things.
I never thought I’d feel this way but, It’s hard to move away from this city. I’ve always said, Mumbai is literally and metaphorically an island- everybody lets you be and nobody gets in your way because everyone’s too busy. I came here telling myself that I shouldn’t get attached to people or life here as I would eventually move. I viewed the place as a tourist would, appreciating everything it provided and being amazed by every new experience, flitting as a butterfly would- I made just enough acquaintances so I could survive the loneliness of having left my life in Dubai. And yet, with just 23 days more to go before we leave, I can’t imagine how it would be not to return to this city again. I’ve managed to make some very good friends here, albeit few – who understood enough to give me space when I needed it, and who were there for me when I needed them; whether I needed to let my hair down or just let out steam- these people were there to celebrate my success- when my first (and only) book got published and pamper me when I needed it.
It’s here I got my first piece of writing published and this is where I found art. I chanced upon a teacher, not too far away from home, with whom I learnt for 6 months in 2019, three days a week, one and a half hours per day – the one who introduced me to pointillism, watercolours, acrylic painting, knife painting and Phad art- the same teacher who asked me not to be afraid of going wrong and pick up the brush when Covid struck; I had not painted for nine months.
It is in this city that I have some of my best and worst memories with dad before he passed. I now know that the bad memories had nothing to do with dad or my relationship with him but old age which can be mean and unforgiving, fear of impending death that makes a person nervous, so focused on themselves, that they fail to see or appreciate anything else going on around them, and my own circumstances. I realized that I probably was my dad’s favourite child (my sister though might not agree) and that he loved us beyond debate.
This city helped me heal and survive. I don’t know if I could have done it as well, anywhere else.
Four years here, and both my girls completed their high school and completed the IB program. When we move, in addition to everything else, my husband and I will have to learn for the first time, how to live as empty-nesters. I’m aware it’s going to be a challenge.
So, you see, there’s actually a lot I’ll be letting go of when I leave Mumbai. It’s going to be a new chapter in our lives and I was excited (as I’d mentioned in my earlier post). But, as the days pass, I feel a sense of dread- of letting go.
Maybe, I have grown old and that’s why I’m finding change difficult. Maybe, it’s because, earlier, when I moved, it was in the country I had grown up in or in the country I was born in. It was never to a country that was alien to me and a way of life that’s different from the one I have lived so far.
I never thought I’d say this but maybe, I’m a little terrified of living in a place that would need me to learn all the things that I have been vehemently against learning all my life, blaming it on my inability to do so. I will have to learn- a) not to leave things lying around as it is not uncommon in the new place, for domestic help to take for oneself anything lying unattended. I’ve always said, ‘it’s too stressful to doubt, so I trust,’ – I’ve been guilty of leaving valuables in the open, but, I’ve been blessed until now, to have been surrounded by honest, hard-working people (save one).
b) to make small talk and socialize (as there are very limited things you can do in the place- there are no malls and not many places worth visiting. I’ve lived my life under the cloak of an introvert and I’ve been happy. The new place will need me to shed the cloak.
c) to learn the language there or how else will I ever communicate with the driver or the domestic help? I have struggled with picking up languages; I cannot speak my own fluently.
It’s not going to be easy; I know. But, I also know that if I can learn all of these three things, then I will have grown as an individual. I would have rid myself of debilitating identities that I’ve grown comfortable with. The transition and the letting go of old habits and ways of living pose a challenge, but when you’re thrown into the deep end, you have no option but to swim if you must survive. So, wish me luck, friends, for the new move, and wish me strength so I keep myself afloat.
Until next time,