During the months of December 2018 and January 2019, we spent about 5 weeks getting several long-overdue renovation and repair projects completed around the home. The projects involved all sorts of works including masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and some basic landscape designing — pretty much everything. There still remains some major painting work, but that will have to wait till we find ourselves ready to once again share our home for at least 8 to 10 hours everyday with a group of 4 to 5 workers for at least 3 to 4 weeks!
So for now, the workers are out of the home, the dust from the tiniest nooks and corners is slowly getting cleared out, curtains are hung in their places once again, and favourite knick-knacks that were stored away have once again found their original places or new places around the home.
But this extended duration of being in a somewhat chaotic living space has been a learning experience in its own way. Let me share some of the lessons I learned or was reminded of while being involved in these home improvement and renovation projects.
Lesson # 1
First lesson is the most obvious. It is actually more of an important reminder, which came in a very concrete way, literally. That is — all new construction is preceded by destruction. Unless we are ready to destroy that which is no longer serving us, which is actually hindering our path, working as a roadblock and preventing us from being and performing at our best, we are not able to make space for the new formation that is yet to take shape. Just as the old tiles have to be painstakingly taken out one by one and the floor has to be reduced to its core, the old and rotten patterns of our minds have to be broken — sometimes carefully, sometimes with strong hammer-blows.
Lesson # 2
My second lesson was about self-awareness.
While selecting the new floor tiles for the kitchen, new slab of granite and fixtures for the bathroom or new electrical fittings I was confronted with so many choices. Some of the products were highly stylish because of their modern and contemporary appeal, some others stood out because of their traditional designs, and some others because of their quirky or artistic styles. What to choose? What do I like? What would suit my home and fit in my budget? Do I have a particular style or preference? Is it modern? Do I like traditional? Do I like quirky? Do I like a little bit of all? Such questions filled my mind for several days, and numbers of visits to the various shops kept increasing because selection process took its own sweet time. Finally, am I happy with the choices we made? Yes, I am. But what did I learn about myself in this process?
I learned that I am after all an Indian.
So what’s new about this, you ask? Am I not an Indian?
India is traditional, modern, artistic, practical, quirky, all at the same time. India is deeply rooted in her rich traditions and is yet keeping pace in her own style and method with all that modernity has to offer — sometimes even resulting in a bit of chaos. Indian mind highly values the practical considerations of implementation and execution; perhaps that is why each idea and ideal — no matter how high the ideal and how great the idea — has to pass through the test of feasibility and effectiveness in fundamentally uplifting the life before it gets fully assimilated and accepted in the quintessential Indian way of life. Indian mind equally values the aesthetic aspect of life — is it any wonder that even in today’s age dedicated and talented craftsmen continue to craft some of the most mundane daily use products with so much care and artistry, despite the onslaught of cheaply available, mass-manufactured, plastic products.
An Indian carries all of this in herself. I carried all of this in myself when I was going through the selection process, when I was struggling with whether to go for a more modern sleek floor tile to match the modern style of rest of the kitchen or opt for a more traditional slate look? Or is a blending possible? In what way? While I wanted to choose a product that would enhance the beauty of the space, I also wanted to keep practicality in consideration — will it be easier to keep clean, will it require more maintenance, will it last for some reasonable time, etc.
These are the types of choices everyone and anyone who is building a home or is going through some home renovation project has to make. So what’s new about it? Only this, that going through this process this time around made me more keenly aware of the Indian-ness of my mind, if I can put it this way.
Lesson # 3
Another key lesson I was reminded of during this 5-week duration was about rethinking the old in a new way, and carving a new path where none existed. As the kitchen floor tiles came out one after another, it became obvious that many of these were still in usable conditions and could be definitely repurposed in some way. The idea dawned that these would be used to make a walking pathway in my humble little garden with some creative designing. And that is exactly what ended up happening.
Old was not merely discarded, it has been given a new life. The spirit of the old is still intact, the form is new — the flooring that duly supported my feet for many years in the kitchen will now serve a new purpose when I stroll in my garden. Several other small recycling or upcycling projects involving leftover or old materials were designed and implemented as the bigger works were going on. Thinking through such ideas and then seeing the repurposed items come to life also emphasised for me, once again, the significance of making mindful lifestyle choices for a sustainable future of the Mother Earth.
Lesson # 4
Finally, as a way to prepare for the home renovation projects, I made some conscious choices to let go of a big chunk of the ‘stuff’ from my home and slowly work toward a more minimalistic lifestyle. I am still not ready to let go of many things — books, art and decor pieces that I have carefully collected over the years, my saris, etc etc….though I have managed to reduce the number of items in all these categories. But I have made some good progress as I have let go of lots of stuff from the home (gifted, donated or disposed of as properly as possible), and am becoming more conscious of what I want to keep and why. And I must say that it is a joy to see empty cupboards and drawers and appreciate the simple beauty of simply space!
This conscious decision to work toward a more minimalistic lifestyle — but one that also appeals to my aesthetic sense and brings me joy is an important reminder of the hidden divinity in all matter, in every object that I keep in my home. As I have put back the newly renovated spaces in my home, this reminder has been a great source of inspiration. And hopefully it will continue to guide me as I carefully take care of all the objects in and around my home. Because as the Mother once said —
“The Divine is in things also and that is why they must be treated with care.*“Not to take care of material things which one uses is a sign of inconscience and ignorance.“You have no right to use any material object whatsoever if you do not take care of it.“You must take care of it not because you are attached to it, but because it manifests something of the Divine Consciousness.” (CWM, Vol. 14, p. 323)