Tuesday, April 09, 2013

H is for Houses: Past, Present and Future

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I'm fascinated by houses. All the houses I've ever lived in are safe inside my head - some even live on in photographs. But it's weird to realize that they no longer actually exist as I knew them. The wall colours are probably different, the furniture is definitely different, the people who live in them are different. Those houses homes now exist only in the memory of the people who occupied them for that short period of time.

The Past

The first place Nikhil and I moved into after we got married was a small apartment in Koramangala. It had bright green (!) and warm yellow walls and a balcony than ran the entire width of the apartment. Unfortunately, it was also behind the bus depot. This meant that we had more light and wind than we had any right to. But we also went to sleep to the sound of buses being spray-cleaned. 

We moved out of that place a year later. I didn't really want to leave, because it was the first place that was 'ours', that we had set up by ourselves. But I had taken a year's break from work, and it no longer made sense to live in a place that was ten kilometers from Nikhil's office. 

The Present

The neighbourhood that we moved into isn't as 'posh' as Koramangala, but I like it better. It's full of the factories of public sector companies, though houses have sprung up in between. When these factories were set up decades ago, this area was far on the south-eastern outskirts of Bangalore. But as the city expanded, it gradually became one of the central neighbourhoods.

The presence of the factories means that sirens wail frequently, to announce the start and end of shifts. The sirens used to bother us in the beginning, but now we barely notice them - just like we got used to the sound of the buses being washed at night, I suppose. Since some of the companies are in the defence and aviation sectors, helicopters fly overhead throughout the day, and small planes are common too.

The broker who showed us this apartment referred to it as a 'penthouse'. Which means nothing more than that it's on the fifth floor, the same floor as the terrace, and hence is probably illegal. The apartment is so large that it feels empty. Furniture that used to look too big in our cramped Koramangala apartment barely fills the space here. I feel a constant need to buy new things to make it cosier. But I don't, because the flat that we're moving into next year (a flat that we'll own, yay!) is about 70% of the size of this one.

The thing I like best about this place is something most people would dislike. I leave the windows and balcony doors open all the time, and the wind brings in bits and pieces of life from the apartments below us. Snatches of conversation are frequent, in many languages. Some kid tortures his music teacher every afternoon - he tries really hard, but can't carry a tune to save his life. Maids gossip with each other and their employers - mostly during the mornings. Kids play in the playground downstairs - the afternoons are filled with their shouting and mock-fights. 

And oh, the aromas, especially in the morning! There is always at least one apartment that has dosa and sambar for breakfast. Sometimes, I smell kadala, though that might just be my phantom mallu nose. At lunchtime on weekends, the smell of frying fish wafts up, making Nikhil's mouth water. 

The only strange part about this place is the plot next door. It's a largely empty plot - just a tiny metal-roofed house in the middle. But in one corner of the plot is a set of three black headstones - one big and the other two small. I wonder what tragedy lies behind those three headstones. There's a huge tube-well right next to it. A tanker regularly collects water from the tube-well. I shudder in revulsion when I think of the headstones and the tube-well together.

The Future

A year from now, our brand new apartment will finally be ready (fingers crossed!). I'm already excitedly making plans for it - about the full-length bookshelves in the bedroom, and the sliding cupboard doors, and the wonderful lighting. I know that it will be a painful process to set up a new apartment, but hey - all those years of obsessive Apartment Therapy browsing should pay off some time, right?
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naween said...

Houses have a strange way of living inside the head. Sometimes, I am dreaming of being in one of my past houses and I get up to go to the other room and end up in a different house altogether :D

Devika said...

Ooh... I know what you mean. I used to deliberately do that as a teenager, when I missed my grandma's house.

Niranjan Prabhakar said...

Terrace house huh? Nice! I'd like that!

Must remember to visit you guys before you move out.