Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The house I left behind

I forget the context but wife said, "It seems we have been living in this house for a long time." "Yes," I said, "in fact, to me it seems that we never lived in that old house." That old house is a government accommodation where we spent first three years of our married life and where before that I had lived about seven and a half years of my bachelorhood. That was a house from where we married my sisters. The house my nephews and nieces fondly called 'nana home' and my mother's side of the family, 'guddi da ghar'. Nearly eleven years of my life were spent in that house and about another seventeen in that same, what we call, colony. But I do not miss it. Why? Why am I not nostalgic about that house? I only think about it when I am thinking of changing address in one document or the other. And even then I only think about the combination of some numbers and letters that comprised our address line. Nothing more.

Perhaps, we always knew that we had to leave it one day. Perhaps because my peers had all gone (one of them from this world), their nurse mothers having retired or, at least in three cases, died. Perhaps it was simply that we were at last able to move out from the unmindfully architectured and hurriedly fabricated dwellings. I use the term fabricated deliberately, because these belied the idea of decent housing.

But those houses shaped us. Gave us invaluable lessons in space management, for example. We were taught to be thankful for what fate (State) bestows upon us. And in turn, we continually shaped them. We tried and made those our own by experimenting with things like furniture and paints, doorhandles and commodes, by constructing extra rooms with corrugated-iron roofs, by growing a mulberry tree in the backyard, where we often saw some of the most exquisite birds stopping by to amuse our kids and make us adults curious.

After all this, if I am not nostalgic, am I ungrateful? I don't think so. Individuals in the service of the State deserve respectable housing for themselves and their families. The architects, the builders and the contractors must be sensitized to the needs of people who, though will not personally commission them and whom they will perhaps never meet face-to-face, inhabit the city envisaged by that savant of an architect, Le Corbusier.

Maybe, by nature I am not sentimental about places. But I do feel strongly about the arrogance, and callousness, with which government houses are constructed. And this strong feeling overpowers any amount of nostalgia my old abode can hurl at me.


Shaheen said...

Beautifully scripted!!You tend to have fond memories of the place — sisters getting married, children visiting nana house,spending first three years of your married life there.With the passage of time and ofcourse on special occasions, you will surely miss the place:)

Ham-Kalam said...

Nice and intriguing account !

Charles said...

Well written. You may not be very nostalgic about that house, but you will miss it, at least on certain occassions. We all do. Perhaps, this very script is the evidence of it.

Sushant said...

Good point Ashish! Certainly those involved in govt. construction need to be
sensitized to the fact that their standard of work affects other people.

It's interesting that you mention about what you learnt and how you coped in
your old house.

I remember when my wife and I joined our first ship after we got married. We
were greeted by a pokey cabin at one side of the ship which would make even
a lonely bachelor wince. We weren't sorry when we go off that ship, but our
memories are of how we met the challenge of turning the cabin into a home.
My wife went about starting plants from fruit seeds and changed our
furnishings around to add colour. When my replacement came at the end of our
contract, he was delighted and took care to preserve everything.

Thankfully we did not have to go back to that cabin!

Anonymous said...

Nice article,very touching to my heart. The first paragraph took me straight away to year 1998, The day i went there to meet my would be.The wonderful & blessed time spend there with my wife Anupama & children Aaron,Sharon. 'Nana Home' will always be remembered.Definitely we will visit 'Nana Home' when we visit INDIA and refresh our memories.

Anonymous said...

Mamu that picture looks really weird and the first time I looked at it it was weird. But when I stared at for a while it made more sense and so it wasn't weird. I realised that the tin roof had been taken out an that's why it was so weird but now it isn't weird. Is the word weird becoming a little weird. I'll remember it even though it still looks weird after the tin roof came out and I realised it wasn't weird,

Romila said...

Wonderful...I am running out of adjectives, courtesy of all those who commented before me:)
Not just you, we too miss that house, or shall i say Home. The house is still there, but the people who made it a home I could visit anytime, are not there:(
I miss you all and when i get back from my walks, i inadvertently glance in that direction to see if your or P's car is parked.. then I sigh and move ahead with a goofy smile on my face:)
I personally know about government accommodations..being a nurse's daughter n all:) Yup, these houses do teach us a thing or two..

jesse said...
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