Everyone in the family was present there in “Kazhakkitthe Veedu” or East house, as had been translated to the current youngest generation of this house, a part of the huge battalion who had gathered there and had never visited a typical countryside house in a small village in Kottayam district, Kerala. What best could be offered as a holiday retreat than in one’s own family home?!
Ah! It was a reunion finally happening after six months of preparation, thanks to Binu Uncle, mom’s brother who had taken care of maintaining the house for more than a decade. It was a homecoming for my mother and her siblings and for me a nostalgic trip down the memory lanes of the extensive summer holidays during which we cousins camped here. Here I stood, one among the first few to arrive, at the footsteps of my maternal home, kazhakkitthe veedu; true to its name the sun rays lit the sloping path and footsteps leading upwards to the main entrance of the house till the house chose to create its silhouette stretching upto a kilometer from the main door to the one leading to the backyard where, the sun continued to spread its light. Coconut, tamarind, jackfruit trees flanking both the sides of the house stretched the silhouette to create a scenic shadow which had been captured by an amateur artist in the village on a canvass that adorned one of the walls of the central room.
Let me not get into the names and description of this house; the long sit-out, the rooms guarded by rosewood doors, the windows that opened a view of the fields stretching far and wide and the wooden pillars that supported the house, both in terms of architecture and aesthetics, the central open space inside the house flanked on top with small glass panels to allow light to streak in during the day and the age old furnace in the kitchen where delicacies were dished out; as a young girl what interested with me was the open courtyard which breathed life into each one of the dozen cousins who gathered there every year during summer holidays.
The courtyard had enough space for us to play and also allow string of visitors who would come to visit Grandpa seeking advice on land and agricultural issues which never mattered to me then and continues to be so. All my focus then used to be not to spare even a moment from indulging in my favorite games and activities, a mix of traditional and city bred games –hide and seek, ludo played by drawing squares on the floor and rolling the dies made of brass, blindfold man, hop and catch or taking turns to fly on the wooden swing that Kumaaran, the servant boy would tie for us in between the two branches of a tamarind tree. The ghosts that were believed to be haunting the tamarind trees during the day bothered us a little as we found comfort in making merry when many. How could I miss the “house-house” game? Grandma would ask Kumaaran to bring the tiny spoons, stirrers, vessels, hand grinders, some made of wood and some of clay and mud totaling to twelve such pieces, one for each girl. We would then divide the courtyard into portions demarcating each one’s boundary. Dressed in typical outfits of mundu (white dhoti) and blouse, we girls would cook while the boys would go the field for work. We would borrow little portions of rice grains and pulses from Grandma. Binu Uncle shook me from the peel of laughter which I seemed to have broken into. “What happened?” he asked to which I smiled. Well, he would have understood the weird symptoms of living a busybee life as an investment banker in Mumbai.
Food then, for us, was a ritual that had to be carried out, lest we were not allowed to play outside. Ah! I miss those delicacies made out of fresh garden veggies - spinach, raw jackfruit, raw banana, snake gourd, the fresh tender coconut water. Kumaaran and his family who had been serving the family would constantly be engaged in dishing out sweets, savouries and pickles for us to eat and also to carry when it was time to return to our own routines.
Not to forget the bed time stories that Grandma used to narrate to us, ranging from Mythology to Panchatantra till the twelve of us dozed off in the central open space while the elders would retire to their rooms. I gazed at the collection of story books that I had bought for my nieces and nephews. Little did I realize the response that awaited me, “I read this story on the net”. Thank God! they did not say ''on kindle''!
After lunch I walked hurriedly towards rubber plantations that stood at the backyard. The only thing missing now was Grandpa’s umbrella to shield me from the hot sun and sometimes, serve as a walking stick which then stood tall till my waist. A solitary walk, through the quiet yet rumbling trees interspersed with cooing birds and colourful butterflies, remains with me till day, except that the rubber plantations have given way to the park near my apartment in Mumbai. I gently walked on the dry leaves, enjoying the ‘crunch’ sound that they made. Old memories were imprinted in my mind, yet there was something new and novel that awaited me in that backyard. I took a deep breathe allowing a whiff of air carry the familiar scent to me but maybe the change was just too much for my nostril as I let out aloud sneeze. I could not expect more, spending most of my time either in artificially cooled indoors or surrounded by dust and suspended particles. But now in kazhakkitthe veedu I felt like
in Wonderland. How lucky I was to have got to spend my childhood in this place? I saw my nieces and nephews hustling and bustling in the vast courtyard, a far cry from the cramped cities; no compromises in the form of parking lots, no vehicles, no fear of the dark. Alice
I continued jumping on the dry leaves, crackling them till they fell silent, just like I used to do as a small girl when “Amrutha”!! I turned around to find Koel, my cousin and my best buddy. I had lots to catch up with the band of cousins whom I saw making a beeline into the house, especially Koel but the very next moment I was disappointed that this holiday will soon end and I will be thrown amidst the crowd that promised me money and prosperity. I will be soon sucked back into the black hole where kazhakkitthe veedu will be reduced to nothing more than a miniscule of a long lost memory.
Well, good things always come to an end, sooner than we would wish them to be. For now, I was happy to be away from the busybee world, atleast for a while.