When I was young, and visited my grandparent’s place, I was always caught by the house they lived in. It was a small, individual house, not too comfortable, but perfect. It had two gates leading into it, and it was surrounded by trees and plants of all different kinds. My mother fondly recalls that they never had to go to the market much for vegetables, because they had almost all of it right at home. Each entrance had a tinnai (a bench- sort of) where you could sit all day and chat (arrattai, we call it), and we would feel the wind on our face in the evenings. But my favourite pass-time used to be the moments when my cousin and I would cook up stories in our imaginative heads, and enact them in our little front yard. I would be the goddess durga, and he would be her ‘vahanam’, or we would be two awestruck children at a park or fair.
There was a small roofed area just before the door to the house, where we would park the cycles and keep the iron boxes of old- the one where we had to fill coal inside. I remember the days when I would look at it with trepidation, wondering whether I would burn my fingers on it.
The house itself, I vaguely recall. It was a two bedroom house with a small hall and dining room, and the pooja attached (I think) to the kitchen. It was concise, and small and pleasurable to visit. The backyard had a well, and a stone slab for the washing of clothes, something I used to love sitting on when it wasn’t being used. And then if you walked half circle around the house, you would chance upon the stairs that led you up to the terrace.
The neighbourhood itself was comparatively silent. There was a ground opposite, where in later years, my cousin would play cricket. There was a small ‘Arun Ice Cream’ shop where my grandmother would always take me to buy ice cream. The roads were mud roads, but neat (as I remember it at least). And every week-end, my grandmother and I would go to the nearby Hanuman temple and would devoutly bring home the prasadam for everybody.
At some point in time though, that house ceased to exist, and we created a new one. And I know this sounds a little ‘R. K. Narayan-ish’ but the home lost a flavour that it once cherished. It wasn’t the same any more. The trees had gone, though the building itself, was bigger. And there were no steps outside that you had to secretly hunt for to find the terrace and look up into the stars. My grandmother didn’t live to see that house.
It is one house that I would choose to imitate, if ever I were to look for a dream house in my life. It inspired in me lot of childish thoughts that probably still remain and alter me. I know that there must have been many flaws in that house, but it was the ideal home to me.