Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Old order changeth yielding place to new...




And nowhere have I found this to be so true than in the march of time as can be seen in my hometown, Allahabad and indeed in the changing landscapes of cities and towns in India

The Big White House (as named by my niece when she was just about four) is no more, it has fallen victim to changing times. A bungalow (kothi, to be very precise) sitting in majestic splendor amidst 4 acres of land …my earliest memories of the house, my maternal grandparents home –a solid haven, security and shelter away from the confusing world. The Ashok trees fronting it, shading it from the road’s view and that big circular garden, with mehndi bushes forming the barrier and the marigold plants always in bloom. Every season would see the garden resplendent in color with flowers of the season, the crude gate made with crossed branches and oh, it was the favorite playground of all of us cousins much to the despair of the gardener.

My memories are hazy, old photographs help to refresh them –there is a beautiful sepia tinged photo of my grandparents sitting by one side of the house in chairs side by side. I do recall returning to the house at my grandfather’s death - kids who didn’t quite grasp the solemnity of the occasion –all we knew was nanaji/dadaji was no more and we were not to make noise

My maternal grandmother presided over the house and its grounds as it were, in her special chair from the verandah. She had come to the house post the horrors of partition, seen her children married off from that house; lost her husband, my grandfather.

Had someone told me that I would see a part of my own life vanishing before my eyes before I would have thought they were joking, but today I stand testimony to vanishing history…

Memories bittersweet: summer nights were spent sleeping out in the open under the stars in cots (charpoys) covered with mosquito nets. No lights out rules- there were none to switch off; the only thing that stood between us (kids and adults who opted for this) was a 5ft high boundary wall and yes gates –which could be easily jumped over—but those were the days when people thought twice before intruding. How can I forget the gooly-gooly witch—the evil witch who resided in the well that lay towards the front and side of the property. She was used for a long time to scare the youngest member of the family –ostensibly to ensure he did not stray that way, because it was open and dangerous and he had an ever curious mind...

The grounds around the kothi rang to the sounds of merriment from cousins who gathered there every summer and winter holidays, were witness to us playing many games-seven stones, dodge-the-ball, chain, hide and seek, and later cricket, badminton and yes learning to master the bicycle.
And, not to forget the time we got chased by an angry buffalo, running desperately away from the curved horns, finally managing to clamber up to the verandah...
Today, there is only a pile of rubble left, the spacious grounds have been carved into small plots, row houses have come up and the grand beauty lost...