“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
― Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I stand in front of a structure that used to be my home. It is also the only home I ever had and will have. A million memories come flooding in and I swallow hard so that the people with me do not ask me the reason for my muddled eyes. I do not want to let them into those memories, it is all mine. I walked into “Lotus” the first time, when I was 4 years old. It was summer of 1990 and I was the brat who was running around the house, climbing walls and trees like a monkey. The house was pink in colour back then, living up to it’s name quiet well. There were coconut trees, a mango tree and a rose apple tree and I remember trying to learn to climb the coconut tree and falling and failing hard. The porch used to have a hammock which would be the bedroom when playing “house-house”. The sit out was where amma and ammuma would wait for me to return from school. That’s a post for another day.
I stand in the middle of the room we used to call “drawing room” and trace my finger across the cracks and creases that adorn the walls now. Everything about the house is old now; the walls, the structure, he furniture, the paint, the people and the memories. In all honesty, I have come to say goodbye to the house and wander amongst the multiple corridors and rooms one last time. The house, with its stark rooms, cleared of all furniture, like a widow who has been stripped off of her finery. I stop as though I heard the hushed conversations of tiny girls. Nah, it was my mind taking me back to the times that my girl gang and I played “dark room”, “house-house and dressed up Barbie dolls. From school to college, I don’t think I have a single friend who hasn’t been to my house and cozied up to its warmth like it was their own.
This aged house and its walls, doors and windows have seeped my laughter and tears, dreams and sorrows; the very fabric of my being. As I tread around, I can almost hear snatches of conversation, peals of laughter. I can almost smell wafts of familiar scents and feel the non-existent furniture; the swing in the pooja room, the easy chair, the sofa set older than me, the hallway whose high beam were filled with books, as though my senses are conspiring, pleading, to will the house, to come alive again.
Nooks and corners of the house stick themselves on to the collage of my memory. The back verandah or “work area” that had 3 doors; “ammini’s bathroom” that had a major role in the conversations that the brother and I had; the stand at the corner of the dining room which held the blue colour tape-recorder on which we used to record songs that we all sung, the IBM washing machine that used to run around, the double bedroom with the barely noticeable bathroom and the pooja room, which was bursting at the seams with cupboards, suitcases, the easy chair, inverter and all sorts of odds and ends; so that the beds looked like an afterthought. It would seem that each of us; Achan, my brother and I, had left a bit of ourselves there.
The walls of this house have soaked up my laughter and tears, my dreams and fears; held my secrets and the very essence of my childhood. You are special to me and will always be the only place I call home. for within your four walls I will always be a child. You will never know me as an adult. For you, I will always be the tomboy swinging on the gates without a care in the world.
A house is brick and mortar and everything else that goes into its making, but it is also something a lot more. A little like how we are not just our physical body and features, we are also the sum of our thoughts and dreams, our memories and scars. Now, as I walk in and out of the rooms, I imagine the spirit of the house leaving it. I step out to lock the door and hand the keys over. I take a sideward glance as though the cage that was once home to over 30 lovebirds is still there.
As I walk down the lane, barely being able to see a thing, I begin to accept that a moment can mean a thousand different things; indelible impressions can be left on people and places and I suddenly understand the innate depth of a memory. I know I can’t stop time. I can’t capture light. But I know I would love to delve deeper into my treasure chest of memories.Maybe someday that which we lost to time, will come back to us and remind us of a forgotten past and gift us a smile or a tear maybe.
Home is where the heart