Mon | Aug 3, 2020

Tony Deyal | Moving violations

Published:Saturday | September 21, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Moving is one of the most moving experiences you can ever have. It is not the same for members of the legal profession. Anytime you see their lips moving, you know they’re lying. But for the rest of us, moving, especially from one house, neighbourhood or country to another, is among the top five most stressful life events you can ever experience.

To give you a sense of how traumatic it is, moving is third on the list of nerve-wracking and harrowing occurrences in life. It is not as bad as the death of a loved one or a divorce, but is worse than losing your job or suffering from a major illness or injury.

This is why the word ‘moving’, in addition to the physical act of changing from one place to another, also means ‘to have deep feelings of sadness or sympathy’. I, for one, can attest to the stress and the depth of emotions that accompany each change of domicile, residence and location, not just from one country to another, but even within the same community.

As a little boy, I heard the word ‘move’ often. My cousin Charles was always ‘pushing a move’ on some young lady taken in by his looks, charm and chat, or jumping on his bicycle, he would announce he was ‘making a move’ to return to his home in a nearby village.

People moved on with their lives or got a move on with their work. My mother, seeing me heading for the ravine at the back of the house, would shout, “Move from there, right now!” and my father would add the threat of licks to hasten my heeding the warning. But then, when I was 11, we moved abruptly from the village in Central Trinidad, which I knew as home, to a town in the deep south of the country where I was very much alone, especially with my questions, thoughts and fears. It was the first of many moving experiences over the next 63 years.

One day we had a home and the next we were in the small, wooden house of an elderly aunt who charitably had allowed us to live with her. Interestingly, the event itself is a blur, but the pain of losing my friends, family and comfort zone is unforgettable and lives in some deep recess of memory which I am still loath to explore.

It is not the same as the story of a man, walking in the woods, who found a suitcase that his curiosity made him open and, to his surprise, he found three little puppies in it. He called the emergency services and told them what had happened. “Well,” the operator asked, “Are they moving?” “I don’t know,” the man replied, “but that would certainly explain the suitcase.” In my case, it is always the case.

I estimate that after that traumatic first move as an 11-year-old, I have moved about 21 times and am now on my 22nd at an average of three years per major move. In fact, I’ve made more moves than Gary Kasparov and Bobby Fischer put together. If I were an Australian magnate, I would be Kerry Packer, and if I drove a vintage car it would be a Packard. You could call me a Paki, but that would be racist and insulting. Like Clint Eastwood, I’m always packing and instead of being lackadaisical, I’m packadaisical.

But why is moving so bad? You would think that changes of scenery and environment, as well as the anticipation of new worlds to conquer, would bring out the adventurers in all of us. Not really. Wherever we live, even in the most humble of houses, we become attached to these places.

Each becomes an important part of us, and when we move, we always leave elements of ourselves behind. Worse, the pressure of time, the stress of looking, the financial costs and the settling in, all combine into a painful memory. Sometimes I think I should tell my wife, Indranie, we should forget about buildings and move into a tree-house, but then I ask myself, “What if we fall out?”


There are some people, though, who actually thrive on the moving around. Throughout his life, Albert Einstein shifted back and forth in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and the United States, and yet instead of being worn sick by the agony of displacement, he said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Mine seems to be a bicycle built for four.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, the comic, I keep on the go, but for a different reason. He joked, “When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.” In my case, my parents moved once but my kids and I have moved around a lot more than Dangerfield. My two youngest, Zubin and Jasmine, had lived in four different Caribbean countries by the time they were nine – Barbados, where they were born, Trinidad, Belize and Antigua.

As I get older and face another move, I feel like Professor Thompson in this story. One day, when he was leaving for the university where he taught, his wife, knowing how absent-minded he had become, warned, “Don’t forget we are moving today. If you come to this house this afternoon, it will be empty.”

Predictably, he didn’t remember until he found the house vacated that afternoon. He mumbled to himself, “And where was it we were moving to?” He went out in front of the house and asked a little girl, “Did you see a moving van here today, little girl?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Can you tell me which way it went?”

She looked up at him and said, “Yes, Daddy, I’ll show you.”


Tony Deyal was last seen saying home is where the heart is – even though you can’t remember what box you packed it in.