My father had forwarded a beautiful message and it was thought provoking. This being my garden of thoughts, I feel this needs to be here. I’ve refined it with some modifications and I’m posting it here.
The Permanent Address
I was 9 years old when my father received orders of transfer to a small village in Rajasthan. We were living in Ahmedabad at the time, and my father was in the process of building a new house next to our ancestral home.
I had witnessed him grapple with countless numbers, managing loan accounts of his staff, assessing fixed deposits, and leaving question marks scattered over blank spaces in the total.
Building a house is a once-in-a-lifetime effort for most people, so everyone goes Building a home is often a singular endeavor, a once-in-a-lifetime investment that pushes one to the limit. Despite all efforts, one always finds their dream home one room short. Renowned poet Javed Akhtar, captures this sentiment eloquently, “In Bombay, there’s but one sorrow, everyone’s home lacks one more room.”
The joint family home that I grew up in housed 14 people, from the ages of 5 to 95. Now, I observe both houses standing deserted, with nature reclaiming the garden that my mother once lovingly nurtured. The Plum, the Moringa, a few Sorrowless trees, Neem and Bodhi, persist. Yet, all aesthetic pleasures are ephemeral and delicate, succumbing to the relentless law of entropy. The vibrant blooms have all vanished. I often ponder about the fate of the peacock family that used to feed from my mother’s hand. Where are the nightingales, sparrows, parrots, pied flycatchers, cuckoos, and the large group of monkeys that would periodically disrupt the tranquility?
Once people leave, a home becomes a house. I didn’t feel like selling the house at first, but now I don’t feel like going back either. Time has taken away ten of the fourteen people who once lived here. Wandering through our neighborhood, I observe a similar destiny befalling numerous homes, once teeming with life, now lying dormant or replaced.
Why do we stretch and stress to build houses? In most cases our kids won’t need it or worse fight over it. What is this human folly of attempting permanent ownership in a leased life with an uncertain tenure given by a landlord whose terms are non-negotiable and there is no court of appeal. One day, all we have built with love and EMIs will either be demolished, fought over, sold, or lie in ruins. Every time I fill out a form that asks for my “permanent address,” I smile at the human folly.
There is a Zen story about an old monk who walked into a king’s palace and demanded to spend the night. The guards told him that this was a palace, not an inn. But the monk replied, “I came here a few decades ago, and someone was staying here then. A few years later, someone else took the throne. And so it has continued. Any place where the occupant keeps changing is an inn.“
George Carlin once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.“
As houses get bigger, families get smaller. When the house is full of people, we crave privacy. And when the nest empties, we crave company.
Birds and Animals must be laughing at us humans that give up living in order to build their dream home and in the end depart the Inn they mistook as a PERMANENT RESIDENCE.