I couldn’t believe I had to stand here and watch another heated discussion over cardboard.
Our security guard and the man from our moving company were going ten rounds over which of them got to keep the boxes after all of our belongings had been removed. I watched, bemused, but nothing could keep me from the happiness of seeing my own items slowly emerge from their lucrative cardboard containers.
We have been in our apartment since June 30th. We had been told our shipment (clothes, kitchenware, some furniture – everything) would arrive the next day, on July 1st. Of course, as with most things here, it took quite a bit longer. Our shipment couldn’t be scheduled to come into India because the monsoon and overbooking had backed up flights. The monsoon?! As though they didn’t know a monsoon was coming and couldn’t have planned for it. Then the airline left half our shipment behind on the layover in Qatar. Then it had to get through customs.
But here it was, 15 days late, and I still couldn’t get unpacked because somehow cardboard needs to be a recurring theme in my life. Daniel finally stepped in.
“What is the problem?”
“Sir, your security guard says he helped unload so he should get boxes in return.”
“So… again, what’s the problem?”
“Well sir, these boxes belong to our company.”
“No, they belong to me. Don’t they?”
“Well… yes sir. I guess sir.”
“Ok. So lets give him some boxes and you take the rest of the boxes.”
There he was, my mediating hero, solving the second great cardboard dilemma of 2010. Our security guard went downstairs, triumphant at his (partial) victory, while the movers continued to unpack.
As each item came out, our apartment felt more like home. But I was also struck by how many items we’d brought that we wouldn’t need. Every cotton polo shirt or light spring cardigan now appears to me as heavy as winter clothing. I’ve gotten so used to wearing light kurtas and thin cotton leggings or flimsy nylon t-shirts and linen capris.
While we packed most of our winter clothes, we were still foolish to think that we could just fully pack up our old apartment and transfer it uniformly to the opposite side of the world. A good percentage of our stuff is going to be shoved to the backs of closets, never to see the Indian light of day and only re-emerging into the New York air.
But it’s ok because we’ve already been preparing ourselves for some of these replacements. Nisha has bought pans for roti’s and a pressure cooker for rice – our wok will probably just get a year off. I’ve already stocked up on free-flowing lightweight clothing and so the out-of-place elements in my closet will just seem new again in a year. Even our kettle will get a breather, since Indian chai needs a pot to boil both water and milk (used in the same proportion).
But while some items are replaced, for the most part it’s a merging of the two worlds – our kitchenware sits in a cupboard next to one of the ubiquitous gas cylinders everyone has here. Photos of family and friends now intermingle with our new bar and rocking chair. We can watch our DVDs while looking out the window to see huge Indian crows staring back. It’s a new kind of home — but with our belongings arriving late on Indian time, we’d at least been given a couple weeks to prepare.