Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Real House

I learnt last month that the house that partly inspired this story has been demolished. An apartment building is going to come up in its place, each flat selling at the astronomical initial rate of Rs 5, 500 per square foot. Like dozens of other old houses in Trivandrum, this house too had become out-of-date, it couldn't live on in the new century, in the new Trivandrum.

(For those who've read the story, don't worry - the owner of the house, my grandmother's eldest sister, is not in the situation I've described in the story. She has five sons who take very good care of her.)

I couldn't help feeling a little sad about the house's demise, though I was never more than a casual visitor to the place. Somehow, despite never having spent too much time there, I have very clear memories of the house. But then, large houses are quite magical to young kids, especially when the adults are busy and the kids are left to their own devices. My brother and I have explored the large grounds, played hide-and-seek in the rooms, read books on the verandah.

I think the only occasion on which I spent a few days there at a stretch was during the monsoons of the year I was five. The house we were staying in at that time was on the banks of the Karamana Aar, and it flooded. Our house was in knee-deep water. To make matters worse, both my brother and I had chicken-pox. So we shifted to the grand-aunt's large house for a few days. Of course, I've also visited the house multiple times over the years I've spent in Trivandrum.

The house had a rare characteristic - two gates, one on either side, because the house was on a large plot between two roads. On one side, the road was much lower than the house, and steep steps led down to the gate. This gate was supposed to be the front entrance of the house, but later on, when cars became more common, the back gate of the house was more frequently used. The front gate was locked pretty much all the time. I remember my brother and used to find the moss-covered steps leading down to the front gate spooky - we rarely played there.

My grandmother's father built the house for his eldest daughter after she got married. So it can't be more than fifty or sixty years old, because she got married in the late forties. The rooms are not as small and dark as rooms in older Kerala houses generally are. They have high ceilings, large windows, cold red floors. Somehow, despite being so large, the house always seemed very warm and welcoming to me. I don't know if it was the house itself, or the warmth of the people who lived there.

I find it so weird that the house now lives on only in the memories of the people who lived there and visited there. Also, if I feel so sad about the house's demolition, I wonder how the five sons of my great-aunt must feel - they grew up there.

But I guess time has to pass, and the world has to change.
• • •