Monday, May 9, 2011


My mother is 65 years old and she's building a house. Mian and I visited in Jan and the house is gloriously beautiful. Red laterite, warm brown wood, terracotta tiles, red coba floors- it is a little jewel.

When I was 25, my first job was building a house. Only, I did not do it alone. I was assisting a site engineer, who was assisting his boss. We had back-up in the office to work out finances and ensure that the right cheque reached the right person in time. The office staff would help us do the inevitable follow-up with suppliers and the whole army of craftsmen. As we were regular customers, these agencies had great motivation to cooperate with us above their other jobs. I never knew of the mechanism for various permissions required, someone else did that for us. Despite that, I was stressed and over-worked.

My mother is doing it all alone. No admin-backup, no big, influential boss to scold errant sub-contractors, no promise of future work to lure them in, no strange person who would come in the dark of the night  and then get the required permits for us. (btw..he was legit, he only came in after office hours because this was his moonlighting job).

Two years ago, she decided that she wants to live in our childhood town. She went there, and started work. This meant getting the land in her name, getting a promise of a water line, getting building permission, the whole works. And it meant living as a tenant in a little place after 4 decades of being a house-owner. It meant dealing with often-untrustworthy, sometimes aggressive workmen. It meant staying there, managing a thousand different things. She is still doing it, though now she is in the finishing stages (always the difficult part).

For her, it has also meant a new lease of life. The woman who could not walk around the house now routinely walks everywhere. She is having a whale of a time being the boss again- 10 years after she sold her hospital and embraced the retired life. She wakes in the morning, laces up her shoes, wears her hat, takes her packed lunch and takes the bus to 'the site'.

But I know that I would not be able to do what she is doing. I would not be able to navigate the decision-making, the management, the planning, the execution all by myself.  With no experience and very little support, she has created a lovely home for herself and for us.

She is sometimes in tears when workmen don't show up despite promises. She gets frustrated when one of them damages the work of the other. She experiences self-doubt when confronted by a bewildering array of tiles. She calls me up to describe a butterfly she saw. She feeds birds at our new house. The pineapples and roses and medicinal herbs she has planted are all thriving under her care. She sits on the verandah and watches the sunset. I am so amazingly proud of her.


Unmana said...

Now I know where you get your courage from! May you and your Mian be happy visiting the lovely new house, and your mother be even happier living in it than she has been building it.

Mabel said...

And so am I :) Hugs to aunty!

Anonymous said...

What Unmana said! And what a lovely tribute to your mother.

Hugs to you all!


Ranjoo said...

Great stuff - Chicu. Regards to Aunty - please tell her that i'm completely proud of her...