Why my Father can’t go on a Picnic and other Issues

The father is in mourning. Why? Because he can’t go on a picnic if he wants to. That’s why.

You see, the parents moved to a new home and an unnamed fear gripped me – that would mean that all the junk stored in the lofts of the current home would just move to the new home. That has been the modus operandi for years. This is also the reason the house looks like this:


Obviously, the siblings had been harboring the same misgivings for they swooped in and convinced them that they would help out with the move.

The parents’ home has clutter mostly of the educational variety. There is enough material for anyone wanting to give a speech on any topic. Do you want to refer to a newspaper article that appeared in 1983 where the education minister’s credentials were questioned? No problem. The Father has it cut and stored somewhere. Do you want to know the speech that Jawaharlal Nehru gave in 1952? No problem, the cuttings are there in one of the 53 boxes with boxed clippings on the loft behind the typewriter somewhere. When questioned, he claims that that is the secret behind his stellar speeches, and also why schools still come to him to deliver speeches long after he has retired. That is also how the clutter built up over the years.

The problem during the shifting arose due to the differences in philosophy between the children and the parents. If the Father’s mantra was ‘When in doubt, store it in the loft’, ours was When in doubt, throw it away!’

I called a few days later and the father moaned into the phone. I asked him what the matter was, and he said, “What is the point? Everything is gone ma! Your brother and sister threw everything away!”

We had expected a certain heartache for his missing collectables.”Yes appa I know! Enjoy a clutter free house!” I said with a trifle too much optimism.

“You don’t know ma! I can’t even go on a picnic.”

I had no idea that de-cluttering could derail picnicking plans like this.

“They threw away a fantastic tiffin carrier. A stainless steel one. It had 7 compartments and could hold sambhar, rasam, curry, kootu, appalam, rice and payasam!”

Why one would carry a full fledged South Indian meal full of diluted curries that run all over your plate on a picnic was beyond me, but I shelved the q for a moment and asked him to tell me more. I remember the ghastly thing – it was the height of a small tree and had 7 boxes placed one on top of the other.

“When was the last time you took the tiffin carrier on a picnic appa?”

“That is the not the point, I could have.”

“Yes appa – are you planning on going on a picnic?”

“That is not the point! And why would I go for a picnic with your mother now?”


“But the tiffin carrier was a solid one.”

I felt sorry for the man. We had, after all, thrown out all but a few of his shirts and pants. So, I told him, “You know what? If you really need a tiffin carrier, go and buy yourself one and go on a picnic.”

“That is not the point!”

When a phrase like that pops up 3 times in 4 sentences, one questions the point.
“Okay – what is the point then?”

“The point is, if I had that tiffin carrier, I could have gone on a picnic with a splendid meal! And now, I can’t.”

I had to agree with his impeccable logic.

“Yes appa and you could have sat by the shade of a tree and listened to that old Gramaphone record while reading ‘Discovery of India’ by Jawaharlal Nehru”

“Discovery of India -ooooh!” and he went off to moan about the loss of the splendid book.

23 thoughts on “Why my Father can’t go on a Picnic and other Issues”

  1. Dear All, The plunderers of Temples & our valuable ancient articles that reflect our culture , traditions & practices will never grieve the loss as we the losers do. In an attempt to leave behind a house , compact & clean , my Jeyeshta Puthri & ” Kulam vilanga vaikka vandha Komahan, came all the way from Dubai & London, and eminently succeeded in their mission of depriving me of my proud possessions, in the form of books, HMV Gramaphone Player, VCP-R ( National Panasonic ) Godrej Electronic Typewriter & innumerable valuables. There were no takers of their father & hence I was allowed to be shifted to the New House. I appeal to the old parents of my age , never to seek or accept help from their offsprings , if they are to shift residences , & to grieve for years therafter as I am destined to do at this age ! Engage ‘ Packers & Movers’ , they may charge a fortune , but our wealth is safe till we finally leave ! “We get all your stuff in Internet, these days , Appa ” is the stock reply these younsters give whenever we want to keep a book . From a 2-bed flat , I planned to move into a 3-bed flat , only to preserve my valuables. But now I have three big rooms with gliitering woodwork , but at the cost of losing my ‘ Value-added loft-articles ‘. But , it is life, I reconcile myself , to proceed with renewed confidence to rebuild my treasures in the new abode, as all my offsprings will visit me only after a year from their countries. Luckily , USA is far away where the author of ‘ Nourish & Cherish ‘ & one of the members of the Triumphrate who planned this ‘ Operation Flushout’ lives, successfully carried out by her siblings, unmindful of the trip-cost from UAE & UK , for this Mission ! : The Author’s Appa(vi). K. Balasubramanian.( I don’t know to what extent my wife , ‘Saha(a)dharmini’ Mahaalakshmi by name ,has played her role in this ‘Operation Sunami on Thasami ‘.).

      1. Uncle – my mom certainly shares your sentiments! And to add fuel to the fire we have not provided any extra storage space in the new house.

  2. Pl. ‘Triumvirate’ in my reply. The new spelling, though wrong, is apt , as the three were victorious in their Operation. KBS.

  3. The recylcing chain of commerce is complex in India!!!

    -Firstly, people keep things in ‘lofts’ not because they need them but because they ‘may need’ them (at the picnic you never go to for instance)!!!
    -Secondly you keep them because they are valuable, solid, shiny, heavy , not damaged and ‘can’ be used by someone (I kept upsetting Appa by saying ‘who?’).
    -Thirdly every piece of trash you throw has a value(you get some money), so people keep them hoping for a better value!! Noone knows the real worth.

    At the cost of upsetting my dear father, I had to undertake this project to clear his house of everything he does not need. The old couple is now too old to deal with all this ‘wealth’ and don’t have any energy even to hoist it onto a loft!!

    It was a great experience, a journey back in time for me since I saw all the objects our family ever owned ( the blue egg box, the aluminium water pot, the old scooter seat, even the old geometry box of this blogger)…all our wealth has now been bequethed to Mr Manoharan , the trash dealer down the road. Bless him – I never understood why he was so happy to take all our rubbish and actually pay for it!!!

    1. Thanks to the likes of Manoharan though, nothing is ever truly trash. Everything is just accumulated for a good price. It is not like there is an auction house bidding on your junk!

      1. Bathri- I have made a note to visit you shortly!!! I should time it with Bogi in January!!!

        And Shanky, I am quite glad you were not around to lend your shoulder to Appa during my visit!!

        There was the electronic typewriter he could have used to write a letter to the District Collector, or sold to the typing institute in Gandhipuram or to a lawyer’s clerk outside Coimbatore Court…..there was a gramophone (which did not work BTW) which could have been a antique collectors’ dream…….I listened to a whole lot of ‘would have’ and ‘could have’ and ‘may have’ for 10 days!!! I realised this is what results in a lorry load of clutter in all our houses!!!

  4. I don’t know how well the tiffin was used by you people but part of that served its purpose to a “Sardar & a punjabi guy” when we were having “Picnic” with Mama :)J. I faintly remember some of the box which we used were roots of this small tree :).
    mama, I am with you. These people don’t know the worth of this beautiful small tree which you nurtured :). I’m also having a loft at my home πŸ™‚

  5. The line between hoarding and saving is blurry. Today’s junk, tomorrow’s antique and all that. My grandmother’s house is a storehouse of stuff – junk and valuables. The diamond nose ring nestles in the same box as a single, broken plastic pendent. Her legendary “shed” houses among other things, the plastic sheet I peed on as a baby, and I am in middle age now. She wouldn’t throw out a rusted safety pin. As she ages, her compulsion to hoard increases.

    I try not to interfere too much – her stuff, her memories – who am I to thwart them?

  6. I had commented earlier. Perhaps it got caught in the spam box. Or it was so bad that you didn’t approve it !
    What I had said is that my octogenarian grandmother is a phenomenal pack rat. Much as I feel like taking a big broomstick and sweeping everything – everything out of her house, I refrain from doing it because, who am I to mess with her memories. I had written about it here: http://babblogue.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/the-toy-basket/
    I hope this comments sees the light of day.

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