As I take a quick flashback look at the last twenty two years, it’s a confused and unfocussed vision, a blur of the flurry of events and people hurrying by; all that which has left an indelible mark on me, be it in the way of a lesson learnt or just a memory earned! Change is an inevitable part of growing up; a process longingly looked forward to in childhood and wistfully looked back at later. Not that all the changes are unwelcome but they make life unnervingly vague. Even my family has undergone a transformation especially in their opinions of the world around and of me. They previously thought I was a rebellious nuisance, now they think I am an uncontrollable one.
One part of my journey so far stands out, unmoved, unabashed, and magnificent as it looms large in my memory, with all the assurance of its constancy in a forever changing life and its patterns, and with all the sense of protection it has never failed to offer me against everything, even myself. My house. Going home spells going back to this 300 or so square feet area as much as it does going back to my family.
I have grown out of boycut and rasna cut hair, dividers and frilly frocks, lollipops and Parle G toffees. I have progressed from a tantrum throwing child and a tiresome adolescent to a (hopefully) mature girl. But more importantly, I have also grown from laying down a claim to a single compartment in the cupboards to possessing them completely, from sleeping with my parents I gradually started to sleep alone in a room. These were the small and hardly compensating benefits of elder sisters leaving the house. This room which I proudly call my own is something or rather the only thing now, about which I am dangerously possessive. The only traces it retains of my sisters are the medical science books of one in my ‘study’ cupboard and a painting by the eldest above it. I wonder how they felt about it when I meticulously transformed their erstwhile domain into my own bearing my unmistakable signatures, literally and figuratively, all over it taking little care when I destroyed theirs. I was furious, for being left alone but I was delighted for I could finally realize my dream of ‘my room’.
Going out into the world, as it is called, heralded an era of metamorphosis into something I had and still have little vision or idea about. It marked the end of childhood and a beginning of the realization that after all, being a kid was perhaps the best thing that could ever happen to me and I’d rather not grow up as I so wanted to. Amidst the uncertainty which forever shrouds me, a visit, however brief, to this haven never fails to rejuvenate me. Returning home to find my room exactly as I had left it gives me a happiness surpassed by few other things. I wonder how my sisters felt when I took this away from them in my naivety. I do regret it now. They never said anything, but then, I have always been a tad pampered and I am pretty glad about it.
It is only here, in this house, that I can be content with doing nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, not even thinking. I love its wide spaces. I love the fact that every wall is at least 1.5 feet thick and has a window or a gate in it. It was constructed way back in the 50s with little thought to privacy but a lot to cross ventilation and stuff. The fact that the passage to the interior of house, for anyone not content or distant enough to be restricted to the drawing room, goes through my room has always irked me but we have never had too many visitors whom I would not gladly invite in.
I refused to get the cupboards painted from inside, they are covered with my scribbling and postcards. Some I wrote for inspiration, some in desperation and some to vent out my anger. One I wrote when my eldest sister got married and left me thoroughly miserable. I can easily visualize my entire childhood in these scribbles. I can see how my hand writing changed over time. Once in a fit of I-don’t-know what, I decided to paste pistachio shells around a window in my room and then paint them. Quite predictably, my patience gave away before I could paste half of them and there they remained for over four years before Mum and Pa finally got them down for aesthetics sake.
The posters, sketch books, cards, collection of erasers, stickers, key rings, pens, stamps, the 52 certificates, report cards, and all the books that I have ever possessed are all that remain of that bygone world. I do not live in the past, but I do preserve it. Every time I go back, I never fail to go through one or all of these, for a stroll back into that time. I am struggling to describe the exact effects it has on me. It calms me down, amuses me, motivates me....
I have my favourite places. The corner in the drawing room secluded by the sofa where I snuggle for a quiet reading or retreat for a few silent sobs. The window sills. The chair in the veranda inside on which I love to stretch out with feet popped up on the wooden divan alongside it. I remember the patterns paint has etched on the doors. I love the fact that it has five terraces and three courtyards in all. I love the fact that it is so old, a few on its walls get damp in rains and the tiles in the courtyard, the inside one, have swollen up to form a very small mound due to the same reason. I never would have thought possible that even stones can be so accommodating and flexible. The roof leaks at times in rains when the leaves from the peepal trees, which surround the house on three sides clog the drains.
I can’t even begin to think how will it be going back to a different house, or will it ever be same. I cannot bear the thought of it being demolished. It never failed me, but I have. I do not know the day which would me my last there. Perhaps, that would be day when the mound would finally burst open.