The description on a photo exhibit in the NY library
It’s interesting what thoughts take you, when you lie back on your oversized beanbag and have nothing better to do but let your mind wander. Today, actually for some days now, my thoughts have been running away to summers. Summers, despite all the heat and humidity, bring out the best in me. And the welcome of summer, a lightness to my life. Anyways, for some reason - the summers at this house kept coming back.
We had just moved into this new house a few months back. It was one of those regular rectangular houses, with a portico and a small garden in the front and bigger one in the back. Looking back, my father with his intention to fancy the house up, may have inadvertently removed some of the old-day charm in it. Next to our house, was another old bungalow with its colonial style intact? I loved this house. With the old red cement flooring, slightly high roofs, and two dominating columns in the veranda - it was a house I looked on from the outside and dreamt off. The walls were bordered with bougainvillea and there were lots of trees, but nothing organised. The whole house had a 'rambling' feel about it. Its occupant was an old lady, 'Shantha aunty'. She had never married and for a long time had stayed alone. The stray cats in her house were company until another friend came along.
It was summer holidays. A warm afternoon. I can’t remember how old I was, but it was my birthday. I was in this white frock with pink flowers - I loved this dress. Sadly, I don’t believe I have any photos of this one at all. I remember standing on the bench in our portico, and looking over the wall and talking to Shantha aunty -I was telling her how I had been ill the previous day. Sometimes, I’d balance myself on the Neem tree, which broke the compound wall, to talk to her - or to climb over to her house.
She would invite me and my sister to "pick" nellikai (small sized gooseberries), and we of course would end up eating more than picking. We'd spend afternoons making custard, jelly and pudding - dishes only read off till then. Once, when one of her cats had kittens, me and my sis (in one of the rare moments we were united against my parents) picked up one of the kittens, and tried to make a pet of it. I can’t remember how that one ended - but my parents most likely asked us to give it back.
I liked my house too, despite its lack of style. I loved climbing the compound walls. My room on the first floor was like my own private quarters. It made me feel all grownup to have a room. I used to keep lifting furniture from the rest of the house to 'do up' my room. The large kitchen - warm and well, large. There used to be an outhouse- cold and damp. During summer vacations, when I was steeped in famous fives and five findouters, I’d pretend it was the "secret headquarters". I in fact had a password when my cousins were around and we'd play detective. Since we had our own private terrace, we started the habit of making vadams. I also liked the balcony, partly covered by the Neem tree. On many a hot nights, we had dinners here.
We went through a whole life full here, but most of all, I remember the summers. Rather, life itself seemed like one long summer. Picking mangoes. Gardening or at least trying to (nobody in my family seems to have been gifted with green fingers). Running around the house. My grand mom and sis spending hours playing the daya kattai (ludo) or pallanguzhi (a game with shells). Me, either pouring over some book, or getting burnt in the sun cycling with my friends. Standing outside the house, and having long talks with friends. And fights with my sister. Once she was so wild, she actually got the aruval and threatened to hit me. And of course, spending time at Shantha aunty's house.
We lived there for almost 8-9 years. Even after we moved out, everytime I went by the lane, I’d look at the house or both houses and think it seemed like a dream that we had lived here. Today neither house is around. Instead, there's a huge apartment in their place. Right in your face and unreal.