My grandparent’s old house in a tiny lane near Calcutta always held me enthralled. As kids it had become a kind of ritual to visit the empty house every year with my mom, sis masi and cousins. And every year I was transported physically into a different era.
The main door opened to a courtyard which had a well in one corner. Tenants still lived there and the whole house had a strange dank smell and a cold feel to it adding to the mystery. A metal staircase led to the house where my mother and her sisters grew up. The staircase opened to a long corridor which framed the courtyard from above. Rooms hugged the corridor to its right. The furniture were still intact…huge mahogany beds with posters and tables and chairs. There were still old crockery lying on the shelf and huge trunks invited me to explore its content. I found so many coins dating centuries ago, the dolls that my mom and her sisters played with. The old sprawling bathroom and the scary store room next to the kitchen which had one tiny window from where the light filtered in….each room had stories to tell….I could see my grand dad sitting on the bed reading the newspaper and my strict grandma shouting at my mom and her sisters. Another spiraling metal staircase led up to the open terrace above…which was forbidden to my mom and sisters lest the neighbourhood guys get attracted to them!! I never did manage to go up that staircase as it had rusted very badly and fell apart when I put my weight on it…it remained as forbidden to me as it was to my mom…
Another part of the ritual was to buy hot samosas and jalebis from the old mithai shop where my grandparents used to buy mithais; eating it straight from the packet while listening to the creaks and groans of the silent house. We never touched the crockery left in the room….it stayed there as in a museum.
Now a swank new building stands in the place of the old house owned by unknown people. My grandparents thankfully were not there to see this happen. Sometimes I wonder how bad it must have been for my mom and her sisters to see their memories razed like that.
For my part, I still see in my dreams the house where I grew up and lived a free life!