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One look at the cardboard cartons jammed into my wife’s apartment in Gurugram, north India, raised my BP as we had to sort out each of their contents.

“Did you get a box cutter,” I asked my wife, and she hadn’t. “I will go down to the corner grocery and get knives,” she said.

I shivered in my goose feather jacket while I waited for her to return. It was colder than in Mississauga, Canada, with night temperature dipping down to 3.7 degree Celsius in this newly-rich IT hub of the north that borders the desert state of Rajasthan, and New Delhi, where pollution has reached alarming levels.

Our Airbnb landlady, who fed us huge, heart-warming breakfasts every morning at her gorgeous villa built by Emaar, remarked that she feels happy on days when she can see blue skies. Someone else said it was ages since they saw twinkling stars in the night. I stepped out onto the balcony of the flat somewhere in Sector 67 and it was like being in a sci-fi future where water is scarce, and it never rains, and the earth is dry and dusty. A pall of grey hung in the air.

Tall, ugly, residential towers were being built as far as the eye could see. A neighbour had earlier said a mall is being constructed just next door where exotic-looking birds with long beaks were feeding in the marsh and cows with loud bells around their necks, were grazing in the dust-coloured grass.

After cutting open a few cartons and unravelling the contents that were wrapped in tons of paper, we realised that this was like cleaning the legendary Augean Stables. The packers had fortunately not used the polluting plastic bubble wrap. but the amount of paper around us nearly came up to the ceiling, and we decided to quit the game. My ma-in-law had bought the flat off-plan. She had expressed concern over the rampant lawlessness in the state where modern-day thugs robbed motorists on the highways, but never thought of returning to her ancestral home in Kerala. “I will buy you a gun,” I told her jokingly. But it was a good thing that I didn’t, because during this recent visit we saw a warning sign outside a mall saying, “Guns and Ammunition not allowed.”

Ma-in-law’s love for travel

“Why would anybody need a gun to window shop”, I wondered? Imagine this scenario. Woman to boyfriend: “Look here (an Indian term of endearment like ‘darling’) Prada has a 70 per cent sale at Sun City Mall.” Boyfriend’s unusual reaction: “OK, wait, let me get my gun.”

Some parts of this city which was named after a mythological figure called ‘Drona’, teacher of martial arts to the princes of the epic Mahabharata, are slick like Dubai, but unfortunately are dotted with speakeasies and waterholes in every nook and corner for the IT and financial crowd that has a surplus of spending cash. When I saw a sign saying ‘Dog Saloon’, I thought things are going a bit too far, until my wife said it is a misspelling for ‘salon’. Back to the flat and I realised my ma-in-law’s love for travel and unlike us who only collect fridge magnets, she had stuff like Russian Dolls, tons of tea cups made in England, and a ceramic cow from Switzerland.

Unlike Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global, who believes that decluttering our lives leads to happiness and less stress, my ma-in-law had no such concept of getting rid of junk.

We gave up after day two, called a mover and shipped everything to Bengaluru. Now I am spending sleepless nights wondering how to get rid of a tusk, that belonged to my ma-in-law’s great grandmother’s elephant.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.