The house where I spent my early childhood. Those days, the gated grill wasn’t present, instead a wooden railing used to guard the veranda. A pair of night blooming jasmines planted on either side of the entrance which had somehow made it to the roof would hang down from the trellis that was made to support the plants. The heady fragrance would envelop us in the evenings which were almost always spent listening to the grandparents exchanging stories with relatives who would drop by in the twilight hours.
The present house has been built on the large expanse of ground (three levels) that used to be our playground. I grew amidst 7 dogs and a handful of chicks that my kaka (granddad) reared. We used to feast on custard apple, chikoo, guava, papaya, coconut and banana which kaka had planted when construction of the old house began in 1962. He had also planted 16 varieties of bougainvillea, those fragrant jasmines, pinwheel flower (crape jasmine), tuberose (rajanigandha), gardenia (tagor), the common single leaf and multi-leaves rose, marigold (narzi), hibiscus (joba); plants scattered all over the three levels. Aita (grandma) used to send me down early mornings with a cane basket to pick up flowers for her daily religious rituals. I swear there was more than enough to appease the 330 million Hindu Gods and Goddesses 😄.
The ground level used to house the garage, the first level used to have the vegetable garden (kaka and mummy used to spend most of their free time nurturing the plants and vegetables), the 2nd level used to be our playground and the top level used to be the home. We spent hours outside in the sun to the constant barks of one dog or the other, the clucking of the hen and sometimes, even the hiss of snakes visiting from the hill behind our house.
Our kaka had a strong presence in the lives of my brother and mine. He was a very patient instructor. My brother knew the inside-out of a vehicle by the time he was 8 years and by 12, he self taught himself to drive. We learnt how to wire basic electrical appliances like food processors, irons and toasters. Always under the hawk eyes of kaka. I used to soak the different hued bougainvillea in a huge jar of water, mix in some sugar and salt and feed umpteen toy cups of ‘juice’ to my kaka who used to readily oblige. However, he never allowed me even a sip of that. I wonder now how he survived through that. He taught me to use the fork and knife and by the time I was 4, I could cut a slice of bread into 9 accurate tiny squares 😆. Us and our cousins would all get loaded into his Ford Prefect and get driven around the various gatherings during the seasonal festivities.
Now, only memories remain. The dogs passed away and have been buried close to one another on the 2nd level. Slowly, the fruits and flowers disappeared as the ones who nurtured those either moved away or moved on to another world. The house still exist where our aunt continues to live. Memories, a plenty are associated with the house. It has touched the lives of 5 generations till date. We have moved on, moved away but this home still holds us within its memories. It completes us. And kaka lives on in all of us.