Thursday, October 22, 2009

The house and the mango tree...

What is a house after all? It is just walls and a few windows, a front and a back porch, a garage, a terrace, a few doors, and some people who call it home. Isn't it? Or is there something we missed?

May be we missed the small room up the stairway which had a rickety cot and a tiny bulb that hung over that cot. This room saw not only idle afternoons of tea and chit chats, but probably also saw some serious studying being done late at nights, probably it also saw the first kiss exchanged by an amorous and nervous young boy, and maybe it saw tears of rejection as well as joy. Today if we were to ask its long forgotten, cobwebbed and cracked walls to speak, maybe we would see a lot of important and not so important truths emerge.

What about the Huge Mango tree behind the house? The one that was used as a landmark. Many kids, many generations climbed its branches, planted by the grand old man who designed and built each room, each wall of this house, in memory of his eternal love. The tree, seasoned and weathered, has stood proud the test of all times. Did anybody know the simple story behind this planting? Did they know that the grand old man had once loved a woman deeply. The tree was planted as a sapling to grow with their growing love, so that one day they could point it to their grandchildren and say,"This is how huge our love is!!" They never got the chance to culminate the love, but the tree stood as a loving symbol of all that was beautiful once upon a time.

Then of course there is the inner courtyard. The humdrum of daily life, the washing of clothes and utensils, the tulsi at the centre, the diya that burnt each night only to fade with the rising of the sun. The lounging chair that was always kept here with an adjacent table with the day's newspaper and a glass of water. It was on this chair that the grand old man breathed his last at the age of 92.

The terrace, was the most romantic of places, this house saw. All the children of the grand old man got married here. Under the canopy of the stars and the brilliance of the moon, the sons had chanted their vows, pledging life long loyalty and love to their brides. What does it matter now that some loyalties were betrayed down the line, love was often compromised in the passing of the years. But on the day the sons brought home their wives, the terrace was the witness to the first exchange of shy glances, of the hope of a future to be built in this house. It was also the witness down the line to the wobbling feet of the kids born, of songs being sung on stormy nights, of lullabies cooed to drowsy ears, of drying clothes in winter afternoons, of sun soaking pickles, of naughty years and drinking bouts.

The house with its walls and doors, with its front and back porch, with its cobweb and ruined plaster is to be broken down. In it's place will emerge a multi-storeyed apartment. A functional and modern place with amenities that are required, with easy maintenance and upkeep, free form the mildew of the past. The decision has been reached, the sons have agreed. Its just a matter of time before the mango tree is cut down, before the existence of the room on the terrace, the inner courtyard, and the terrace itself crumbles down to the touch of a bulldozer.

We move with times, from the ashes of the old, rises the new. There is nothing unsightly about all this, there is no fight, there are no differences, its for the ease of all and the betterment of the future generation. Just that I needed to tell the tale of a house that was designed by a grand old man, brick by brick, the tale of a love that did not see the light of the day and yet weathered the storms of the night.