Home is where the cardboard box is 1

“Can I pack the fridge items now madam?”, one of the packers asked. He proceeded to wrap our pickle jars, sauce bottles and sundry other items from the fridge. He then took out a bowl with an open, half-used milk packet nestling delicately inside. As he lifted the wobbly plastic packet out with one hand and picked up a sheaf of newspaper with the other, I realised his true intentions. “No, don’t pack that!” I shouted. He froze and considered the situation for a few seconds before conceding defeat.

Considering how often we’ve moved house, it should get easier but it hasn’t happened yet. There is something very disturbing about inviting a dozen strangers into your house to go through your things. In the book, “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about how someone’s house and possessions can tell you a lot about them. Studies show that when strangers are invited to look through your house, their assessments of you turn out to pretty accurate, and close to what your friends know about you. This confirms my worst fears. “You really want to pack this madam?”, the packers ask, when they find my decade-old collection of seashells, pebbles and pigeon feathers. I can hear the sarcasm dripping from their voices. They open a drawer and discover that I still haven’t finished the cross-stitch panel that I started in 9th standard. With every cupboard they open, the fact that I could be clinically insane appears to them as a distinct possibility.

Our poor housekeeping skills are also brought to everyone’s notice. You know those American crime shows where investigators are always flashing little torches around the house (despite the broad daylight)? At the crime scene, they always draw a red outline to show how the body was found. Our house looks a lot like that when the packers are done with the furniture, except that the outlines are made of dust. One can almost image a keen-eyed cop cocking his cap and saying, “The victim, a large study table, was found sprawling at a 20-degree angle to the wall. A few broken drawers but no sign of a struggle. Now, from the coffee-splatter pattern, it appears that the perp or unsub’s modus operandi was to leave the empty coffee cup around for days. Time of death? I put it around 1983.”

We finally found ourselves in the new house, with 100-odd cardboard boxes, all carefully labelled and organised–or so it appeared. I saw this magic show the other day on TV. In one particular trick, the magician hangs a series of giant playing cards on the stage, and hides his scantily-clad assistant and a fluffy puppy behind the cards. He then mutters some mumbo-jumbo, and then moves the cards, only to find that both of them have vanished. In fact, the assistant is now sitting in the audience with a cup of tea, and the puppy is now a carrot. Now the movers might actually pack the house in an organised manner, room by room, cupboard by cupboard. But somehow, by the time the truck arrives at your new place, some black magic has taken place. A box labelled Kitchen Items will now contain your electricity bills, a ghastly mask you bought on a holiday, and several single socks with holes in them. If you want to find your kitchen items, you should look in the box labelled Files, or, better yet, Toilet Items. On the other hand, boxes labelled Miscellaneous always have the things you’re looking for.

It’s now been two weeks since we moved and we are still getting through the boxes. Occasionally, we unpack a box and find that the overzealous packers have used an entire day’s worth of newspaper to wrap a sliver of Pears soap. We have also lost our good car keys. The ones we’re left with look like they’ve been chewed up by the pet dog we don’t have. Today, when we went to get something from the car at 5am, the alarm started beeping loudly. Neighbours peered out from all sides and started at us standing there in our shabby t-shirts and pyjamas, covered in dust from all the work going on in the house. We didn’t look like we owned the house, much less the car. As the car happily blared away, I explained the situation to our nearest and friendliest neighbour, also adding sheepishly that we hadn’t yet found the suitcase with our good clothes. “Don’t worry”, he said, “I moved last year and I’m still looking.”


[This is the unedited version of my column that appeared in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle on 26 April, 2015. ]

One comment on “Home is where the cardboard box is

  1. Reply Anonymous Oct 27,2015 10:16 am

    Hahaha xD WE just moved and I can totally relate to this! 😀 The last part is hilarious. We didn’t look like we owned the car, let alone the house! xD

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