Saturday, 31 July 2010

Reminiscence of a Lost Past

(This post was started at least three years ago!)

The house I used to visit almost every summer when I was a kid was sold recently. It was my mother's parental home, which in her own words was "a hundred years old, the same age as your grandfather would be, if he were alive today". The house was truly remarkable in many ways. It held its own against the rapidly changing world all around it, complete with a venneer ull (literally: hot water room) where the bath water was heated in a wood burning boiler. The lavatory was not attached and had no plumbing even when I used to visit in the 70s and 80s. The lavatory had no ceiling and early in the morning you could look up and watch the birds sitting on the tree branches directly overhead. Occasionally a peacock would perch himself in all his colourful glory on the far wall of the lavatory and listen to the early risers on the streets beyond the back wall. And at night, it was the ideal playground for a school girl's active imagination. The walk from the home to the lavatory passing by the cow-shed  and the bales of hay that stood taller than a man with only a tiny torch light in hand was enough to make a Steven King out of even the most Dudley-esque kid. I am still amazed that I did not write horror stories instead of poetry during that period!

It had its own two-storey high granary built into the house! At least, that's what I was told it was. It had a single window on the first floor, through which, presumably, the grain was dumped in. For someone whose brain was filled with Dickens and Bronte and Eliot, that room had a sinister ring to it. The ideal hiding spot for mysterious wives with undiagnosed mental ailments or consumption ridden abductee kids! The first floor also housed a room of books into which you entered via another room of books! This was not a mere library with books stacked in shelves along the walls. No, no, this was truly a room of books. A room with floor to ceiling book-walls. This was a room with pillars of books rising right out of the floor like stalagmites in some untrodden cave. The only decor the room sported were the millions of spider webs that criss-crossed from book-pillar to book-pillar. No furniture. No drapes. Just books and walls. And, of course, industrious spiders. I had no trouble at all visualizing Ms Havisham's Satis House while enclosed within the walls of these two rooms. In other words, it was my paradise!

The stories contained in those books alone would have been enough to tide Shehrzad over for several nights beyond what she needed. Add to that the stories that, I am sure, the rooms themselves bore witness to and that should make it any story lover's heaven. Stories of countless children and cousins and grand-children. Perhaps the first book-pillar was born when one school kid threw his or her English text book into the room, on the floor, in a hurry to get out to play? Who knows? One can only imagine. It was my paradise, my escape from everything around me. Each summer that I visited, I spent several hours closeted in those two rooms, completely oblivious to the voices calling me to lunch, tea, dinner... And when some completely frustrated adult climbed up those stairs to haul me bodily out of that room for yet another meal, I would always imagine that granary to be the site of the latest horrors that I had read about. Surely, that was where Edmond Dant├Ęs spent his years before he metamorphosed into the Count of Monte Cristo?

Once back on the ground floor of the home, it would take me a few hours to stop speaking in 19th century English and get back to terms with reality. This return to reality was always aided by watching the konar (milk man) milk the cows or my grandfather feeding the cows. My grandfather loved his cows. You could see it in the tenderness with which he tended to them. I had heard stories of him swimming through storm waters, through the raging Cauvery to save his cows, only to be bed-ridden for months after. He loved his grand-kids and always made sure that there were mangoes in the house when we visited him. Large, Nawab mangoes. To die for!

And then there was the old well with the pump that my grandfather built. A pump he was reluctant to give up even when it was wheezing its final days out. A pump he insisted on repairing even with his failing eye sight. Even when he had to describe to someone the nuts and bolts he needed so that they could fish it out of his tool chest for him. A pump over which I bonded with my grand-dad and talked about our mutual love of English literature and our under-grad education in Physics.  Perhaps my last memories of my grand-dad was of him hunched over the pump mechanism in the failing evening light.
Adieu, house of my child-hood imaginations! Or may be I should just say: bye,  house of my childhood dreams. Trichy will never be the same for me without you.

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Friday, 30 July 2010

The Moonsoon took a break!

Perhaps it was not a good idea to name the blog "Monsoon Rains". True to type the Monsoon took a 3-year hiatus! Let's hope the drizzle turns to a steady downpour!