The old house

4 Mar

The old house stood in the intersection of two fairly busy by-lanes of the quiet colony. No one had lived in her for quiet a while – maybe 5-10 years. She was called a “bungalow” but hardly qualified – she was of modest size but fairly well designed. She had two average sized bedrooms, interconnected with just a door between them, an attached bathroom with a funnily positioned door leading to the garden from it, a good size hall and dining room, an old fashioned but decent looking kitchen and store room, and two verandahs. The back verandah housed another bathroom. The verandah itself faced the back garden and had no glass or even wooden shutters, but just a metal grid on the window frame. The front verandah into which one entered however thankfully did have windows, that could be open and shut and was a very pleasant room. The flooring all over was a maroonish red tile.  And now for the garden she stood in – insanely overgrown and uncared for at that point but oh-with-so-much-potential. There were three mango trees, a jamun Tree, a guava tree and a custard apple tree. The guava tree and the mango tree were pretty attractively climbable with low enough branches, if you know what I mean. The garden was rumored to house a few snakes, and had maybe one snake pit to prove it. Probably a snake might have been spotted and killed on the premises a few years ago too, or maybe it was just the rumor mill Monkeys however did abound and made their frequent appearance on the fruit trees. There was also a service quarter detached from the house and a garage. All this was at the back and the sides of the house. The front lawn had tons of flower beds and bougainvillea bushes. A stone bench stood at one corner under a shady tree.

Why no one chose this house to live in was a mystery. Previous prospective residents didn’t think much of the sleepy little colony that the house stood in, far away from the city center. Maybe it was the no air conditioning in the Bangalore summer and the modern amenities of the city apartments. Then along came my dad, my mom and I. I was seven, and the only India I knew at that point was my Grandparents’ houses in Chennai. Bangalore was the city my dad was posted in after a few years abroad and I was in a whole new world. My dad was shown the house first and it somehow appealed to him, maybe it reminded him of the houses he had lived in as a child during my grandfather’s career. Anyway he sold mom on the idea and on Republic Day we arrived there, bag and baggage. The snakes and monkeys were not in one bit appealing to my mom or me. The gardener that we were assigned , assured us though that he would get some guys to get rid of the snake pit and that it was just an ant hill now , with no snakes in sight. The open back verandah made my mom feel more than a little insecure too and for the two and half years we lived there, she attempted to have several people come in with a plan to enclose it, only to be told it would spoil the ventilation and the “beauty” of the old house. We just never used the back bathroom much. What mom did love though were the kitchen and store room with ample storage. What I loved was the interconnected door between the bedrooms – I finally agreed to move into my own room for a few months, maybe just enough time to give my folks some time to work on the much postponed second kid!

Live in India started in earnest. I was enrolled in a lousy little school nearby – maybe the only one who took me in the middle of class three , when I had no idea how to do long division or multiplication. The only thing I could do was read, and read I did in my strong British accent, enough to blow the socks off the little lady who “interviewed” me. Writing too I could do , slowly and laboriously in neat , small , printed hand and no running or joint letters , as that is how I had been taught. Anyway, this school gave me an exemption for Hindi – I was allowed to do the alphabet and KG level books, while the rest of the class followed the prescribed class 3 syllabus.  So they took me in a few days before the end of Jan and strongly expected me to fail the class 3 final exams in March. I surprised the whole lot of them by passing – the lowest I scored was 50 in Maths , which was huge after doing the just 2 times table a few months ago. And of course subjects like social studies, moral science and science I scored in the high 90s. I had to be promoted to class four , but was still 7 years old and the school struggled with this idea. Anyway, as luck would have it a brand new school, a branch of a reputed other Bangalore school opened and were ready to take me into class 4 . Yippee! So I was finally set and took the school bus to the new school within a few months. I lost the accent completely within less than 3 months, started singing Hindi filmy songs with gusto and settled in pretty well. So that was with regards to school and me.

Dad meanwhile enjoyed his 10 minute walk to work on pleasant days and on other days took the assigned car and driver. He enjoyed the nature of the work and life in the outskirts. Mom busied herself trying to find some house help to live in the service quarter and help out – she found one thieving maid after the other but that’s another story. After dabbling with being at home for a while, and writing stories for children to occupy herself ,she also found herself a job, teaching at a reputed college in the city. I loved Saturdays best when I was home with the maid from school, dad arrived home for lunch and picked me up to drive all the way to get mom. I loved sitting in the back seat hearing my parents talk, seeing the Bangalore traffic, playing imaginary games in my head.

The three of us enjoyed that little colony immensely. The lovely breezy evening walks, visits to a little bakery for masala buns, dad teaching me to bike without my side wheels in one of the numerous playgrounds, mom sitting by watching and clapping, visits to the local club for juice for me and beer for dad and piping hot masala vadas for us all, Sunday morning ordered breakfasts of poori and saagu, visits to the local library where I raced through the entire two shelves that was the Children’s section in a month!

Dad travelled for work a good bit when we lived here and mom and I had the major fearful task of locking the gate each night that he was away. As we were both scared of the dark and had crazy imaginations, we always did this together and ran back into the house at break neck speed when this was done! Oh and once a teeny, tiny snake made its way into the main bathroom and we freaked out and didn’t use it for a few days. This involved using the bathroom in the open back verandah which was also a little scary but we chose it over the snake! Fun times:)

We had a lot of family visit us in this house and miraculously had plenty of space to have people stay over. My cousin spent the summer with us and we climbed every single climbable tree in that garden. Frisbee, badminton and cricket were all played in the front lawn.  The garden bloomed that spring as the gardener true to his work did a great job, we were surprised to find out garden nominated for a local prize and I went on stage to pick it up.

Ah, next the baby! The house truly proved lucky for us, as more than one person told us.  My parents told me a few months after I turned eight that I would soon have a baby sister or brother. Of course, I wanted a sister and bounced off the walls with the news.  She arrived the day before I started my class 4 exams, and though she was born in Chennai as my mom was at her parents’ place for the delivery, this Bangalore house was her first home. We brought her home at about 2 months old, after a 6 hour screaming session in the Chennai –Bangalore Shatabdi. I wheeled her around the garden when she was old enough to sit in the pram, we spent many a happy moment on the shady, stone bench and she had her first little injury with some blood  (thanks to me) in the front garden porch.  She took her first steps in this house, cautiously holding the wall and the furniture and crawling where she had nothing to hold.

We were more than a little sad as our time in that house drew to an end. Dad was transferred to another location, in the city but away from this area. It made complete sense for us to move and we did.

Bombay will always remain my favorite city in the world, maybe because I spent my formative high school and college years there. But Bangalore, this house in particular where we were so content and happy for those two odd years, is one of my favorite peeks into my childhood.

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12 Responses to “The old house”

  1. Bhavani March 5, 2015 at 2:32 am #

    Wow what a lovley nostagia…loved the description of your home in Blore..though i freak out looking at snakes even virtually:)) I can imagine why it was so special..flows through your writing

    So you grew up in UK till 7?? nice..

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 5, 2015 at 7:02 am #

      Snakes freak me out too, B. Like I deathly scared, and dream of them too sometimes. My mom too actually. Na, I was in Hong Kong from 3-7 , but was under the British rule then, so sll the good schools were British ones for expats, Teachers and students from the UK mostly. I had like maybe one Chinese kid in the class. Hence the Brit accent when we were there.

  2. princessbutter March 5, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    It sounds beautiful! Makes me feel nostalgic. All the trees and plants. I lived in a similar bungalow in Indore. But there were scary lizards there! Mom and I usually could be found sprinting here and there. Once I sat down on a kambal-keeda there. Shudder.

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 5, 2015 at 7:03 am #

      Kamabl keedas! Had our fair share in Blore too..used to be freaked out about them hiding in the baby’s clothes. My mom used to dust any piece of cloth vigoursly before dressing us..

  3. Ranjini March 5, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Hey, have been reading you for a while, so just stopped by to say hi. I’m not much of a commenter but your post about Bangalore made me. It feels so good when people have good things to say about my city 🙂 Did you ever have a chance to learn Kannada at all?

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 5, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Ranjini. Sadly, I don’t have a ear for languages at all, ya. Ask my gujju in laws and their relatives who are in utter despair over this! In our 3.5 years in Bangalore, we managed great with Hindi and Tamil, surprisingly. But I can understand a fair bit.

  4. greenboochi March 5, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    Loved every bit of this post 🙂

  5. Kavs March 7, 2015 at 12:53 am #

    Lovely post P! Your brought the house alive with your beautiful writing and I could literally see a little P running around the house in summer frocks 🙂 I am sorry have been busy so haven’t gotten a chance to fix my blogspot comment moderation 😦

  6. smdeea11 March 8, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    Ahh! What a lovely, beautiful post. Could imagine every single thing. For once I thought, maybe its a ghost story, sorry! But loved your house!

  7. Pepper March 18, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Sigh.. what a lovely post! I could feel a lot of emotions as I read through. I have similar memories of the house I was born in and spent the first 18 years of my life in.

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 19, 2015 at 7:00 am #

      The husband was saying the same thing – he had all these emotions for the first home they lived in till he was 19. But doesn’t have the same feelings for any other house since. For me, I remember each of the homes we have lived in vividly, but some are more special than others of course.

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