Does your house speak to you?

Friends telling me something is not quite right about the places they called “home”


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 20 Oct 2022, 8:05 PM

Over the course of a couple of months, I had this tossed at me twice over. Friends telling me something is not quite right about the places they called “home”. One of them moved into a studio apartment, and shot out of it in a week’s time. “There was something off about it,” she said. “On the surface, there was nothing you could fault, very well-appointed, in fact… but there was this negative vibe about it, I can’t really explain…,” she threw up her hands.

I would have dismissed her as being overly imaginative, but a few weeks later, another friend moved out of a carefully-curated one-bedroom apartment: she had gone to great lengths to do it up, and had been, initially (the first couple of months that is), annoyingly ‘house-proud’. In her case, she had to pay a two-month penalty when she decided to move out — and it was a hit she wasn’t very happy with, but her apartment was clearly making her unhappier. Her next place — located in a way more inconvenient part of town — is ‘perfect’ she says, because she feels good each time she walks through its portals.

These two ‘incidents’ made me think. And I decided that houses — those spatial spaces that may take the form of a tiny apartment or a sprawling villa — blink out a message: you are welcome… or you are not.

A house probably talks to you more if you live alone. The ‘home’ company gets way more accentuated because it’s only you and the four walls. So, maybe, unwittingly, we cohabit with our homes, and they become friends.

In more conventional phases of our lives, we lived in ancestral properties. Or at least properties that came with an abiding sense of permanence. You grew into a house, instead of the other way around.

My family house — the one I grew up in — had personal history; I knew the people who had lived there earlier… or at least, I knew of them. I was already set, and had to make no effort.

But today, we inhabit times — and houses — that are always in transit. I may love the place I call home, but I know it’s temporary. Till the landlord increases the rent and I find it untenable to stay on. Or till the time one decides to move cities. It’s a relationship that cannot be taken for granted, and therefore we are more sentient of our surroundings, more eager to make it work for as long as the limited tenancy lasts.

The reality of the starkness of ‘temporary digs’ has somehow come home to roost. These days, whenever I walk into someone’s place, I immediately feel a vibe… or I make myself feel it. It strikes me immediately. There’s either a sense of wellbeing — or there’s something off-putting about it.

My favourite story about a house talking back to me in endearing terms is about the time when I was looking for a place in Dubai circa 2011. I was keen to move out of Mankhool since I’d been living there for the past three years, and everyone was telling me I need to broaden my horizons and stop being so button-holed. The broker insisted on showing me this place in the same area, while I tried to explain to him I wasn’t interested in setting up home there. “Just see it once,” he insisted. I was super irritated, but gave in.

Then this weird thing happened. He opened the door of the apartment, and as I stepped in, I heard myself say, “I’ll take it.” There was something about the place that bowled me over with a giddy feeling of wanting to take ownership — and I’d not even seen the apartment, I’d just stepped into it.

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