When Your Home Is Alone

Last week, I returned home after five long months. All this time, my home had been alone and locked up. Though HarpiyTravel‘s post on returning home after five months kind of reassured me that things won’t be that bad, I was still on tenterhooks till the time I actually stepped into my house. After all, his house is somewhere in USA; mine was in dusty, gritty Delhi NCR.

To make matters worse, there had been ants around for some time before we left. We had been planning to call pest control but hadn’t got around to it. I had visions of an army of ants taking over my house. There was plenty of packed food and tuppeware canisters full of pulses, rice, and flour. And I have witnessed that plastic is no match for determined Indian ants. They have a way of somehow getting into sealed bags and tins.

I was quite nervous when I opened the main door. But no, I didn’t get instantly swallowed up by swarms of ants and rodents. Relieved, we spent the next 15 minutes taking stock before deciding on our battle plan for cleaning up the house.

Rooms – All the rooms looked more or less the way we had left them, albeit with a coating of dust. I had worried, I might have left the balcony doors slightly ajar, letting in rain water that damaged the floorboards. It had happened once earlier, before we had moved in last year and we had recently got the damaged floorboards replaced. But all the windows and doors were tightly closed so the rooms were more or less okay. Still all bed linen would need to be changed and the floors needed to be swept and mopped to make the house clean enough to sleep in.

Balconies – The balconies, unfortunately, were a completely different story. Stagnant rainwater, grime and mud from flower pots had accumulated in the corners. Everything in the balconies was coated with layers of dust. They needed immediate attention.

Plants – I had placed some of my plants outside in the corridor. As our cleaning lady also works in the house next door, I had requested her to water my plants in my absence. Unfortunately, the same day that we had left, our society barred entry of all domestic help in a bid to keep corona virus at bay. So all my outside plants, except Aloe Vera and the hardy Mother-in-law’s Tongue, had withered and died.

I had kept some of my plants inside. I had either double-potted them, with the outer pot filled with water or placed them in trays filled with water. I had then covered the lot with a plastic sheet with some holes punched in and drawn the curtains to let in ample sunlight. I had hoped that this sort of a greenhouse would keep the plants going for the 10 days that I had originally planned to be away. Of course, except for Aloe Vera and a couple of Adina (Adenium) plants, the rest didn’t make it. I especially mourned for the tomatoes, which seemed to have made a valiant effort to survive.

Refrigerator – A quick look ensured that there was no nasty smells emanating from the refrigerator. I had left the fridge on and had kept recharging the electricity meter online while we were away. We decided to tackle the fridge the next day. We had reached in the evening and had to focus on things that required immediate attention.

RO Water filter – Apparently, all the ants in the house had decided to drown themselves en masse in the water filter. A thorough cleaning was required the same day.

The Battle Plan and Follow Through

Day 1 – It was clear that the rooms and the balconies needed a thorough cleaning. The water filter too demanded attention. Finer cleaning, the fridge, and the laundry (all the stripped linen) could wait.

My husband and I spent almost three hours cleaning up the house. He thoroughly washed the balconies and everything in them (my son and I kept fetching buckets of water as he would have made the house dirtier if he stepped back in from the dirty balconies) while I swept and mopped the rest of the house. Meanwhile, my son changed the linen on the beds and dumped the dirty ones in the washing machine. He also emptied the water filter, cleaned it up thoroughly and refilled it. We took a break in between to have pizzas from OvenStory. My son had been dreaming of them all the time we were away. It was a little after 8 pm by the time we finished the cleaning up for the day. I went for coffee and gossip to my friend’s house downstairs before calling it a day.

Day 2 – After starting the laundry, I turned my attention to the refrigerator. I had left a lot of stuff in the fridge as our trip had been kind of sudden. We had planned our trip, then cancelled because of uncertainty on whether the borders would be closed so I had ordered milk and veggies for the weekend. Then suddenly our plan was back on and we had left within two hours. I barely had time to pack so I stuffed what I could in the freezer and left the rest as is in the fridge.

Well, obviously the veggies in the vegetable tray didn’t make it. A cauliflower that had been the size of a football had shrunk to the size of a cricket ball. A big, healthy bottle gourd had shriveled to the size of a long brinjal. The sweet potatoes had died and gone to a rotting hell. The onions and potatoes that I’d left in a basket next to the refrigerator had sprouted and then died. I threw all of these away. Next there were some kind of curries and cooked veggies in bowls and dabbas, which I had cooked the day before we left. I emptied these and washed them up. The assorted masalas like Sambhar powder, Chole powder in the side shelfs looked and smelled okay so I let them be.

Finally I moved on to the freezer. Surprise, surprise, almost all the stuff in the freezer had preserved well. Packets of frozen corn and peas looked completely okay. As did a sealed bowl of meat for our dog. I had preserved methi leaves (which are abundantly available in winter here) in three different ways – ground and frozen into ice cubes; washed, air-dried and placed in sealed bags; and microwave-dried and placed in tupperware box. All three preservation methods had worked successfully. Surprisingly, even the milk packs that I had hastily thrust into the freezer hadn’t gone bad. I boiled the milk to test and it seemed fine. We didn’t consume it as it was after all dairy but it did seem fine. I must say I am favorably impressed with my Samsung fridge.

The next few days – Over the next few days, we did some finer cleaning. My cleaning lady was back so that was a big help. I also planted new seeds in my empty pots. For now, I planted tomatoes, beans, rai (a type of mustard), cheera (red spinach), methi and mooli (radish). I am happy to say most of these have sprouted. I plan to get some new flowering plants in the coming weeks.

New Bean Plants

It’s been a little over a week since we are back, and my home is back to normal and feeling blessed!

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Published by Leena T Pandey

I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure. In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on. As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more. Write to me at leenatpandey@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “When Your Home Is Alone

  1. congratulations for achieving this 😊, cleaning after this much gap needs too much work. Almost everything matched with my experience, yes frozen items were in perfect taste. Need to think something about plants for next such adventures 😂

    1. Yes, my brother-in-law had developed a timer-triggered watering system for his plants. Tiny plastic pipes lead to each pot and at an appointed time the pots are watered. He leaves a tap open for this and sets the speed such that appropriate amount of water comes in the specified time. The water supply then turns off after the specified time. I have requested him to mass produce his invention and that I would be his first customer. But he is too busy.

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