Monday, September 30, 2013

WHEN TO BUY A HOUSE – Contrarian Wisdom – NEVER BUY A HOUSE TOO EARLY IN LIFE

NEVER BUY A HOUSE TOO EARLY IN LIFE
  
WHEN TO BUY A HOUSE – Contrarian Wisdom

THE STORY OF THE ARMY OFFICER WHO BOUGHT A HOUSE TOO EARLY IN LIFE
Short Fiction
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer and NB:
1. Please read this story only if you have a sense of humour.
2. This story is a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
3. No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved


WHEN TO BUY A HOUSE – A Story By VIKRAM KARVE

There is a saying in Hindi:

जब जब जो जो होना है तब तब सो सो होता है 

Jab Jab Jo Jo Hona Hai Tab Tab So So Hota Hai

(Things will happen as and when the time comes

As a corollary, you may say that everything has a right time, and you must wait for the right time to do that particular thing.

You must not do things prematurely, too early in life, before their right time has come.

I have read a Chinese saying:

It is a misfortune to read a good book too early in life  

On similar lines, I have coined an axiom:
It may be counterproductive to buy a house too early in life

Yes, sometimes buying a house too early in life may turn out to be detrimental.

Sounds like contrarian wisdom, doesn’t it?

How did I coin this axiom, this adage?

Let me tell you a story.


THE STORY OF THE ARMY OFFICER WHO BOUGHT A HOUSE TOO EARLY IN LIFE

There was this happily married young army officer.

It was an ideal happy family – husband, wife, and two children, a boy (7) and a girl (5).

This young army officer got posted to Pune.

Those were the days of the real estate boom with lots of attractive residential housing schemes sprouting all over Pune.

There was a lot of competition and builders were leaving no stone unturned to attract home buyers. 

The officer and his wife saw one such “presentation” of a housing scheme arranged in their club in the evening.

This attractive ad blitz was specifically designed to entice gullible faujis to book apartments in a residential project being built “exclusively” for defence services officers of the army navy and air force.

Construction was on full swing and there were just a few vacant flats remaining, the marketing executives said, while exhorting everyone to book immediately lest they lose the golden opportunity (In fact, they had asked everyone to come with their cheque-books for the presentation).

“We must not miss this chance to have a house of our own,” the army wife said to her husband.

Everyone else also convinced the officer that it would be a wise decision to book a house.

“I am really not sure. Isn’t it too early in life to buy a house?” the officer asked.

“Early? What do you mean by ‘too early’ in life”?

“I am only 33 and it is more than 20 years till my retirement and I am going to be posted all over India. I may never be posted to Pune again. And I am not even sure whether I want a house in Pune.”

“Why?”

“We don’t belong to Pune – both me and my wife are from up-north. We belong to the up-country. Our parents live in our hometowns and we have both got big ancestral homes over there,” the officer argued.

“Don’t be foolish. This is a chance in a lifetime. The way property prices are going up in Pune and this is the best investment opportunity. There are just a few vacant flats left. The way the property prices are shooting up in Pune, if you don’t book a flat now, you will never be able to afford a house in Pune with your meager army pay,” everyone said.

And all of them – his wife, the marketing executives, his fellow army officers – they all convinced the army officer to book a flat in the residential housing scheme.

The builder helped arrange everything – a housing loan, the paperwork – and one year later the army officer and his family vacated their rather drab army quarters and shifted into their own brand new house.

The army officer and his wife felt proud – they were only in their early 30s and they already owned their own flat in a modern city like Pune.

They were all delighted at staying in their very own house.

There was another advantage – vacating army accommodation would enable the army officer to claim HRA which would offset the high EMI towards the Housing Loan.

The house was located in a posh locality in a modern cosmopolitan part of Pune.

The children were put in the best school which was nearby – this elite school just walking distance from their home.

Both the children were very happy to study in this classy school as compared to the rather humdrum KVs they had studied in earlier.

The army officer’s wife was a qualified interior designer.

She had worked as an interior designer before her marriage to the army officer.

She could not pursue a career in interior design as her husband had been posted to remote locations where there was no scope for her vocation.

Like they say, there are only two things a peripatetic army wife can do – you can be a homemaker or you can become a teacher.

She did not want to become a teacher, so she became a homemaker. She tried her best to be good army wife and give a fillip to her husband’s career by participating in AWWA activities, hobnobbing with “senior ladies” and actively taking part in social functions. 

That is why the army officer’s wife was especially delighted because she would now get an opportunity to use her interior design skills in her own house.

She decorated and beautified the interiors of the house very tastefully with great passion.

They had a housewarming party.

The army officer’s boss was mighty impressed by the elegant décor.

When he learnt that the house had been decorated the army officer’s wife and that she was an interior designer, he desired that she do the interiors of the officers’ mess.

The army officer readily agreed as this would help boost his ACR.

Of course, all this interior design work in the officers’ mess was gratis and she wouldn’t be paid for her efforts.

Egged on by her husband, the army officer’s wife agreed to do this for free and started off her work.

But she quit in disgust after a haughty “senior wife” who was clueless about interior design started interfering to the point of ruining her work.
However, since they lived in a civilian area, their neighbours and other visitors saw and appreciated their well-designed apartment.

One day, a parent of her son’s classmate came over to pick up her son.

She was an architect.

When the she saw their tastefully decorated apartment and learned that the wife was an interior designer, the architect offered the army officer’s interior designer wife an assignment.

She took up the assignment and did it so well that everyone was impressed.

Soon, word spread and the army officer’s wife started getting interior design assignments.

Soon she was doing quite well and was making a name for herself in Pune as an accomplished interior designer.

It was sheer bliss – husband doing well in the army, wife flourishing in her career as an interior designer, and both their children studying in an excellent school.

When you are happy, time flies very fast.

They were so happy and time flew so fast that they did not even realize that two years had passed, till suddenly, one day, the posting order of the officer arrived.

The army officer had been posted to a remote place.

He tried his best to get the posting order cancelled, but there was no chance – he had spent 3 years in Pune and he had to go.

Resigned to the fact that he would have to move, he asked his wife to start packing.

“You go alone. We are staying here in Pune,” his wife said firmly.

The army officer was shocked to hear this.

“What do you mean? How can you are stay here? You have to come with me,” the army officer said to his wife.

“See. Try to understand. We are all very well settled here in Pune. The children are doing so well in school and my career is also taking off.”

“There will be a school there …”

“School? Which school? In that godforsaken place there will be only a KV. Do you want to shift our kids from this excellent school to a KV?”

“But KV’s are quite good.”

“Maybe some KVs are good out here in Pune, or in big places like Delhi and Mumbai, but I am not quite sure about the KV in that remote place where you have been posted. In any case, I am not going to shift the children now – they have settled down so well and this school is so good. It will be traumatic for them if you shift them down to an ordinary KV after they have got used to this top-notch elite school,” the wife said.

The husband looked at her in silence. She also remained silent. For a minute there was silence.

Then the army officer’s wife said firmly to her husband: “What about me? My career has taken off so well. I have so many ongoing assignments. How can I abandon everything? And what will I do in that desolate place? Sit at home doing nothing and mope? Or waste my time attending those boring AWWA meetings? If I give up my career in interior design now, I will become useless for the rest of my life. There is no way I am giving up all this and coming to that horrible place with you.”

“So you want me to go alone?” the army officer asked his wife.

“I don’t know. You do something. Pull strings. Get your posting cancelled. But we have to stay in Pune – for my sake and for our children’s sake.”

“You know I too want to stay in Pune with you. I tried so hard to get my transfer cancelled but there was no luck.”

“Why don’t you quit? I am sure you’ll get a good job here in Pune.”

“You know I cannot quit. They won’t even accept my papers. My promotion board is years away. You know how difficult it is to leave the army, don’t you? They say that there is a shortage of officers in the army. They don’t even let superseded officers quit easily.”

“Okay, I will ask you one question, just for the sake of argument,” the wife said.

“Go ahead, ask me.”

“Suppose, hypothetically, we all come with you to wherever you are going. It is such a small place that we will surely get quarters there. You won’t get any HRA. I won’t be working. So how are you going to pay the home loan EMI?”

“We’ll give this house on rent,” the husband said.

On hearing this, the wife stood up.

Her rising anger was visible on her face.

She was furious as she shouted: “Rent? You want to give my house on rent? How can you even think of giving my beautiful home on rent? I have decorated it so lovingly. Just look at the interiors – have you seen a home more exquisite than ours? People liked my superb interior design so much that they gave me assignments and my career took off. Look at each and every little detail – I have put my heart into it and designed it with so much care.  And you want to give our marvelous apartment on rent? Tenants are not bothered. They will ruin everything. This house will never be worth living in again if you give it on rent. Now listen to me. It is final – I love my home and I am staying right here.”

“So you don’t want to leave your comfort zone?”

“You can think whatever you like, but my decision is final. You can go wherever the army sends you, but we are staying right here in our own home in Pune. The children are so well settled in the best school in town and I am not going to disturb them. I told you before – just imagine the trauma they will suffer shifting from this elite cosmopolitan school to some vague KV at some remote upcountry place in the back of beyond? And what happens when you get posted to another remote place after two years? Shift them again? And again and again every two years as you keep getting transferred all over the place? I can’t let their schooling suffer. And I want to do my interior design career. I am used to working now and I can’t sit at home, waste my time and do nothing.”

They, the army officer and his wife, argued and argued the whole night, but the wife refused to relocate.

So, the army officer left for his place of posting all alone, leaving his family behind in Pune.

He became a “married bachelor”.

For the army officer, it was terrible.

Once you have tasted and savoured the fruits of family life, it is difficult and painful to live alone.

But as days passed, he got used to living alone.

For company he had other “married bachelors”.

In the army, you will find many such “married bachelors”.

Yes, nowadays you will find many such “grass widower” type forced married bachelors living in officers’ messes – sometimes their number is larger than the unmarried bachelors.

If you go the bar of an officers’ mess, you can see these married bachelors drowning the sorrows in drink, thinking that alcohol will dissolve the pain which comes from loneliness – their connubial conjugal loneliness.

The lonely army officer too missed his wife and children and yearned for the joys of family life, and he too thought that alcohol was the panacea for his misery.

So, like all other “married bachelors”, he too started hitting the bar every evening to drown his sorrows in the company of his fellow “comrades in loneliness”.

Years passed.

The army officer moved on a number of postings.

Though he tried his best, he could not manage a posting to Pune, which was a highly sought after station, so he had to make do with sporadic visits, once or twice an year, whenever he got leave.

The more he stayed away from his family; the army officer was gradually transformed into an archetypical “chronic married bachelor”.

That was okay.

What was not okay was that due to his daily heavy drinking to drown his sorrows, the army officer had developed what they call “alcohol dependence syndrome”.

His boss could have filled up a form and put him in the psychiatric ward of Military Hospital for psychiatric treatment of his alcohol addiction.

But that would have put an end to the army officer’s future career prospects as he would have got branded as a “psycho” case for the rest of his army life.

The boss was a kindly man and did not want to ruin the career of the promising army officer.

So the boss gave the army officer one month’s leave, told him to get his life on track and put him on the first flight home.

The boss thought that some time with his wife and family would get the officer back to normal and wean him off alcohol.

It was almost midnight when the army officer pressed the doorbell of his home in Pune.

Those days, Pune was not directly connected, so the army officer, who was posted to the north-east, travelled to Mumbai by a series of connecting flights, and then took a cab from Mumbai airport to his home in Pune.

The army officer kept pressing the bell for a long time.

Finally, the door opened.

His wife stood in front of him.

She was wearing a flimsy nightie.

The army officer looked past his wife, over her shoulder.

There was a man standing behind his wife.

It looked like he had hurriedly put on his shirt – the buttons seemed to be in the wrong holes.

He was not wearing shoes, not even socks, and his hair was all haywire.

Even a blind man would have understood what hanky-panky they were upto – and the army officer was certainly not blind.

For a moment the army officer stood in a daze.

Then he abruptly turned around and went down the staircase.

He found that the taxi was still standing outside.

He got into the taxi and told the driver to take him to the army officers’ mess.

He managed a temporary room for the night.

Once inside, he took out a bottle of rum from his bag, and he proceeded to drink himself into stupor.

At 6 in the morning, the bearer came with morning tea, and found the army officer lying unconscious, dead drunk, the empty rum bottle lying by his side.

The ambulance was summoned and they took the dead-drunk unconscious army officer to the military hospital.

To cut a long story short, three things happened to the Army Officer:

1. He was thrown out the Army (the euphemistic expression used was “invalidated out of service on medical grounds”)

2. His wife threw him out of his house (the euphemism used here was “mutually agreed settlement as a prelude to amicable divorce by mutual consent”)

3. His wife’s “paramour”, an architect, her colleague during daytime and her lover at night, permanently moved into his house, right into his bed (euphemistically they called it “beginning a new life of caring and sharing”)


This was the story the haggard looking man drinking rum at the club bar told me.

He said that it was his life story.

Let me tell you how I met the old man.

I had gone to the club to attend an event sponsored by a famous builder to launch a “prestigious” and “exclusive” residential housing scheme.

Well, they were offering a “special discount” to army officers.

It was a well publicized event, and, in fact, many retired officers were heavily marketing the scheme.

After attending the event, I went to the bar to have a drink.

There I saw this man drinking alone and he asked me to join him.

“So, you booked a flat?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Married?”

“Yes, Sir – but I have just been posted to Pune. In fact, I reported only yesterday. So I have come alone. My wife and kids will join me in a few days, the moment I get some sort of married accommodation.”

“Oh, so you have kids too?”

“Yes, Sir – I have a boy who is 7 and a girl who is 5 years old.”

“Really? What a coincidence? Those were the exact ages of my children when I booked a house in Pune.”

“You booked a house? In Pune?”

The man looked at me and said, “It happened many years ago. Come – get another drink – let me tell you my story.”

And so, he told me his life story – which I have narrated to you above.

We drank, till closing time of the bar.

The barman asked for our last order.

The man ordered 3 Large Pegs of Rum.

I gestured to the barman not to give him any more drinks and said softly, “He is drunk.”

“He is drunk every night,” the barman said.

Then the barman poured three large pegs of rum and put them in front of the man.

The man quickly drank the three pegs of rum in quick succession, one after another – neat – down the hatch.

Then his eyes became glazed and sweat broke out on his face and he started swinging on the bar stool.

I quickly caught hold of the drunk man, and with the help of a waiter, laid him on a sofa.

“Sir – you go home now. Don’t worry about him. We will take him to his room,” the barman said to me.

“He lives here?” I asked.

“He was thrown out of an old age home for drunk and disorderly behaviour. He is a course-mate of the General – so the General Sahab has kept him here for a few days till they make arrangements for him to be admitted to some institution – maybe some mental asylum.”

“What?” I said in surprise.

“He must have been a good officer – the General pays for all his drinks, his food, his bills, everything. It’s sad – I have seen so many good officers become alcoholics and ruin their lives,” the wizened old barman said.


Next morning, I did two things.

First, I rang up the builder’s office and cancelled my booking of the 3 BHK flat in their exclusive residential project.

Second, I rang up my bank and told them to stop payment of the cheque I had given to the builder as advance booking amount.

After hearing the man’s story I am convinced that it can be detrimental to buy a house too early in life.

I am going to patiently wait for the right time to come.

जब जब जो जो होना है तब तब सो सो होता है 

Jab Jab Jo Jo Hona Hai Tab Tab So So Hota Hai

(Things will happen as and when the time comes

Do you agree?

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2006 all rights reserved

Did you like this story?
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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