Or is it?
This is a picture of the house I grew up in… my home from the age of four until 23 when I got married and came to Muscat. It was the home I went to on every holiday until I was 28. And then Appa had to sell it for various reasons. Moving to the city was sensible because the hospital was close by and he was falling sick quite often.
This is the home where I experienced my share of joy and sorrow. This is where Amma passed away on a rainy July afternoon. And it’s in the neighbourhood where thatha settled in coming all the way from Tirunelveli in 1926. Here’s where neighbours are family and some of them still remain so.
The house itself was not too huge… but quite modern in those days. A verandah or sit-out, a living cum dining room, two bedrooms, a puja cum store room and a huge terrace. I shared a room with my brother and through the windows stared at the rain, especially the huge tree in the marshy land behind where dwelled some exotic birds. We had four coconut trees in the front, two mango trees at the back and some assorted flowering plants; the chembarathi, kozhakattai poo and shankhupushpam for the daily puja.
I loved the terrace, my refuge during all seasons. This is where I studied, sitting perched on the water tank. Most of my neighbour’s mango trees branched over to the terrace and we used sticks to throw down the mangoes to the tune of mausi screaming her lungs out. Once, we even hosted a New Year’s Eve party there; with twinkling lights, scrumptious food and noisy games, we welcomed the New Year with a lot of fun.
Not everything was cosy or comfortable though. Being at the end of a lane and marshy land just behind, the place like most of West Cochin was a haven for mosquitoes. And then there was the severe water shortage. And power cuts!
But yes, it was home, where every wall housed a memory… from the creaking of the gate, the falling of the coconut, the sweeping of leaves, the plucking of arigampullu (a kind of grass), Amma saying pongalo pongal in the backyard where rice from a pot tied with turmeric boiled over on Pongal day…where Rani our dog would look over the wall and bark loudly as we came home from school… where I brought baby Amrit home from the hospital and the kid brother (who was then in the eighth standard) put up a board ‘Amrit’ naming the house after him…It’s not just a flood of memories, but a deluge.
It took me a long time to get used to the fact that the house didn’t belong to me. I used to often cry over the loss.
But then time has taught me one thing… Physically, this house may not belong to me… but the memories do! My heart is definitely in the memories that I will cherish for a lifetime!