To paint or not to paint…

All houses everywhere need to be repainted from time to time. But in India the problem is more acute because of our climatic conditions. Northern and central India have an excess of dust that turns the walls brown. Regions in southern, western and eastern India have an excess of humidity that turns the walls grey. And, of course, there is the ever present problem of seepage. Thanks to the occasional earthquake in North India, microscopic cracks develop in the corners and edges of the walls. Then all you need is three days of heavy rain before the walls start developing moisture patches. And woe betide anyone if this happens near a set of switches. You enter a room in the evening and press the light switch only to get the shock of your life. Literally. It’s happened to me a couple of times and believe me, it’s very unpleasant. Hence the need for periodic repainting or recolouring and filling of cracks.

For sheer nuisance value, there are few things that can beat this repainting business.  That’s why people tend to postpone the misery for as long as they can. Usually the gap between each repaint or recolouring job is 6–7 years. This is because it’s only after the third year that the walls begin to look really shabby and even grotty. If you are unlucky and the seepage happens earlier than three years, you either live with it or call in the painters for what is touchingly called a ‘touch up.’  This reduces the nuisance but leaves you with a two-tone wall. It all depends on how finicky you are.

For sheer nuisance value, there are few things that can beat this repainting business. That’s why people tend to postpone the misery for as long as they can.

There is now a new risk caused by people who buy an adjacent house or flat and start renovating their new acquisition. I have been singularly unlucky in this regard. About 10 years ago, the house to my right was bought and demolished by the new owner. The contractor brought it down with huge hammers and the breaking went on for almost four months. It was horrible and left many cracks in our walls. We had to spend a small fortune to get them repaired. Then, earlier this year, the house on my left was also bought by someone. Instead of hammers they used bulldozers and drills this time. The demolition job was over in two weeks and noise was only ­occasionally unbearable. But there were more cracks this time and thanks to some very heavy rains this monsoon,
we have seepage on the walls of all the rooms.

Coincidentally, it’s nearly five years since the last full repaint job and we are now wondering when to get it done. Thankfully my 96-year-old mother lives with us. The last time when the cracks had to be fixed and the house repainted my 88-year-old mother-
in-law was staying with us. So like now, then also we had a valid reason to postpone repainting. It was finally our son’s wedding that forced us to get it done. But thanks to the postponement, what could have been done in a month took two-and-a-half months. I cannot describe the utter misery of those weeks and days and hours and minutes. I am still shaking chalk dust out of my books even though they were inside closed shelves.

There is also the question of timing. The four monsoon months are ruled out. In North India you should rule out the three winter months also. During these seven months everything takes much longer to dry. That leaves just the five months from February to June. So I have a huge decision to take: should I do it next February or should I wait till 2024 by when my mother would have moved to my sister’s house? I think I will ask my mother. What else are mothers for than to take these hard decisions?

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