We were going back after 15 years and of course we were bubbling with excitement. My sister and I grew up in that house. I took my first steps there, spoke my first words and rode my first bicycle (with balance wheel of course ). We had little picnics in our backyard inspired by the Enid Blyton books that my sister read. The large turkey towel was neatly spread out under the tree. We had everything from lemonades prepared by our mom to giant bottles of Fanta and little chips packets to Peppy cheese balls. Sometimes we picked guavas from the tree for the picnic. We sat there talking about all the things only a 7 year old and 12 year old could talk about. Perhaps discussing the Little Lulu show or school gossip. I don’t remember very well. Anyway ,the place had flowers of so many different colours– pink, yellow, white and the red honey flowers. I remember waking up early every December just to pick the purple “december poo” which bloomed only in the winter. Our flat even had its own spooky ghost story. The watchman committed suicide in the house opposite to ours, so they said it was haunted. Life in that apartment was every bit fun for me. Three months back, my sister came on a vacation to India and the first thing on our ‘to-do’ list was to visit our old house. We successfully ticked it off our list. I am going to write all about that but there’s also a twist in this story. Wait, I will get to that part. Anyway, our memory of that place was always grand. Though the apartments were small, the huge outdoor space and a beautiful garden made up for that. Going back there to relive those memories was very overwhelming.
The auto turned towards our street. The mechanic shop was still there and the butcher’s. There were many shops that I didn’t recognize. We were almost there. The big house next to ours came into view and the next moment the auto stopped. My mom got down and quickly went inside the house. I stood where I was. My sister didn’t even get down from the Auto. Something was not quite right. The building in front of us wasn’t our house. No way ! It was small. The steps to the ground floor was tiny and don’t even get me started on the corridors . This place looked nothing like our old house and yet I knew it was our house. There was no mistaking the door number! I forced my sister to get out of the auto but she kept insisting that it was the wrong house. Once we got over the initial shock, we headed straight for the backyard. Another wave of shock ! No flowers and no Ashoka trees. There was only a car parked in that place. Did we really have picnic in this tiny space ? I thought. My sister was wondering if they sold a part of the flat. Oh, how I wish that was the actual reason. ! We both went inside the house feeling like a pair of deflated balloons.
At last, my sister voiced out both our thoughts. The place was never really big. It was just that we were small back then. And every thing looked through a child’s eyes. Oh boy, how our memories deceived us. Returning after 15 years just to realize how so wrong we were. But we came to terms with that pretty fast and moved into the house. How do I describe the exact feeling I got when I stepped into the living room (or hall as we call it) ? It was like a fast forward film of memories. The time when I broke a glass fanta bottle right in the middle of the hall and how my sister frightened the hell out of me saying that the shop keeper would put me in jail for that (she used pull a lot of cock and bull stories back then); watching the Mahabharata serials as a family; coming home from school to watch Little Lulu; the first time we got a landline phone in our house and my sister sixteen prank calls from dad’s office; my teaching English to our maid Mani; our Grandma’s ‘curd rice’; jumping on the bed, dancing to Muthu movie songs with our cousins; playing kitchen set pretending to be ‘Mallika Badrinath’; getting my first soft toy rabbit ‘Kalpana’ (which my mum mistook for a teddy bear). Oh I could go on and on for another ten blog posts about it.
I took a lot of pictures to cherish those memories. Even though a lot of things changed about that place, a few things remained the same. For instance, my father’s helmet was in the same place even after so many years like an antique peaking out of the past.
The big house next to ours looked like an old ruin. Back in those days, a snooty old lady lived there with at least 10 doberman dogs ! We were (at least I was) terrified to go anywhere near that place. And that is our version of Boo Radley house !
That is our favourite guava tree. Speaking of which, I remember two twin girls in our building whom we called the ‘guava thieves’. It was their tree as much as it was ours but I don’t know why we called them that. May it was the way they moved stealthily. Now I think about it, they strangely resembled ‘Wednesday’ from the Adams Family.
This is the famous picnic spot that I was talking about. Now now, don’t laugh at it It looks so much better with tree (which I couldn’t get into the frame).
We were hoping to meet our watchman Madurai who’s also Mani’s husband. I think he was on leave that day. Sometimes, Madurai picked me up from school if my classes got over by 12 ‘o’ clock. He was a kind old man and too bad we couldn’t meet him. When we almost finished our tour of the building, we met Kuppu. She was another maid who worked in one of the houses there. Kuppu has known me ever since I was a baby and we were mutually surprised at seeing each other after a long time.
Aaand that was our visit to the old house. So is our memory of that place tainted because it wasn’t like how we imagined it to be ? No. That big old place is still unchanged and fresh in our memory. Besides, I remember something my sister said, “Back then it was our home buzzing with activity, now it’s just a house”.