During the course of our visit to New Delhi recently, my husband’s childhood friend, Mohan and his wife Sita, invited us to their home — a spacious, sprawling, picture perfect bungalow with a lush, well manicured garden. After the usual pleasantries, the conversation centred around their dream house built a few years earlier. It was obvious that a great deal of money and effort had been expended on it and its garden.
Although impressed, I could not help wondering about the wisdom of building such a huge house at the tail end of their working life, especially at a time when both their children were well settled abroad. No doubt, their children and grandchildren would visit them, but gradually these visits would lessen, as they became increasingly busy and involved in their lives.
Hardly had three summers passed, when our friends realised their folly. “A self-contained flat would have been more practical at our age,” said Mohan. “Sita has developed arthritis, and finds it difficult to negotiate the stairs. It has become a nightmare to take care of the house and the garden, as a reliable domestic help is expensive and not easily available. We have moved to the guest room on the ground floor, and the first floor is generally lying vacant for most parts of the year. Quite frankly, our dream house has become a white elephant.”
Mohan and Sita are not alone in this dilemma. There are several others who thoughtlessly procure a palatial home in their twilight years, ignoring the fact that the decision is most likely irreversible, and that old age is invariably accompanied by decreasing exuberance and health issues. Safety, security and availability of prompt maintenance services become a priority. In an apartment, one enjoys these as in-house conveniences. Moreover, it is relatively simple to lock a flat and visit children. Undoubtedly, a compact flat scores heavily over a sprawling bungalow.
Wouldn’t life be more peaceful and comfortable if one did not have to spend his/her leisure time in checking locks and latches, when you would rather be tucked in your cozy bed? And I dread to think of the time when only one of the partners is left to live a solitary existence. Can you imagine a lonelier situation?
This does not imply that everyone living in flats experience perfect bliss, and that all couples living in huge bungalows are unsafe and miserable. It is possible that in their heart of hearts, some of them pine for space and open air, and secretly yearn to be the proud owner of a beautiful bungalow with an ornamental garden. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side, but sometimes you might have to pay a heavy price to feel lush, green grass beneath your feet.