The house that had lived the life of four generations has been demolished last week. It was built by my maternal grandpa in the year 1955, a year before amma was born. Amma has close connection with this house as she always says “we both are of same age”. During those years it was the only multi-story house in our village that was popularly known as “Maadi veedu” and amma has a pet name as “Maadi aathaa”. Her throat choked as she was passing on the message to me last week and I couldn’t refrain myself from shedding those tears as I traveled back my memory lane in association with the house.
For my cousins and myself it was “Mama’s house” as it was amma’s brother who took the lead role of the family after my maternal grandpa. Mama got married at an early age and his first daughter was of same age as mama/amma’s younger sister. So, amma, chithi (amma’s younger sister), atthachi’s (mama’s daughters – 3 of them) and athaan’s (mama’s sons – 2 of them) all grew up together under the supervision of grandpa, grandma, mama and mami. Though amma is supposed to be “atthai” (father’s sister) for mama’s children they all still call her as “akka” (big sister) because of the closeness developed by growing under the same roof that is this house.
I have spent all my summer from the day I remember (kinder or first grade?) until I joined college at this house. Tickets will be booked even before annual exam dates are published and letters will be exchanged between cousins as when each one is planning to arrive the destination that is this house.
This house had witnessed more than 10 marriages, 20 childbirth stories and 4 major deaths. Amma’s marriage was the first to happen in this house in 1971 with “Thanthai Periyar” as the chief guest. The first thing anyone who enters this house will notice is the big big frames with amma’s marriage pictures posted on every frame.
The house where the whole clan gets together every April/May for the “Chithirai Thiruvizha“
the time when all the son-in-laws gets to spend time together
the time when sleepless nights are spent on playing cards/pallankuzhi/paramapadham and chatting under moonlight at front porch
the time when ladies spend most time at kitchen dishing out sweets after sweets
the time when the house is filled with minimum 10 kids anytime running around
the time when mama terribly misses his siesta because of our noises that we deliberately make to disturb him
the time when we fight by rolling on the ground
the time when we give hard time to elders by not letting them to be at peace for more than 10 minutes
the time when each meal is served like in marriages, that type where we all sit in a long row and polish off the food served in banana leaf complaining about that extra laddu in the next leaf
the time when countless live fishes, chickens and goats are slaughtered (sorry veggies)
the time when we we enjoyed the kuchi ice every afternoon (the seller will make those extra horns when he comes near mama’s home to alert us much to our elder’s irritation. I remember trading some old bottles/iron rods with him for the kuchi ice and pal ice)
the time when we (mind you girls only) all used to bath together in the open space at the pump set at mama’s paddy field
the time with skirmishes (what else do you expect when more than 20 people live under the same roof for more than 2-3 days). Thank you RM, for the word
the time when we fought for pillows/bed sheets at night time
the time when we slept over each other with 10 in a row
the time we have watched overnight stage dramas like “Harichandra mayana kaandam”, “Valli thurmanam”.. The dramas used to start at around 10pm and end at the crack of dawn
the time when we have enjoyed those special attentions at temple as amma’s family were the primary caretaker of the temple.
the time when we all assemble at the TV room along with people from neighborhood to watch Friday “oliyum oliyum” or Sunday evening movie. If I remember correct, on those days it was only mama’s house that had television and phone connection in the whole village. As direct grand kids of the house we had always demanded for the privileged seats while watching TV. On Sunday evening, neighbors used to visit mama’s house half an hour before the movie starts to secure their places. The house will look like a mini theater with chairs/benches and floors filled with elders and kids.
The list is endless…
This is the house where I spent most of my time though Appa’s house was just on the adjacent street. I used to just visit Appa’s house once in 2 days for a very minimal time to mark my attendance to paternal grandpa. He loves to have breakfast with me so that’s all I gave to him. Visit him in the morning before my cousins wake up, have breakfast with him and then spring back to mama’s house even before hands are dried. It was the liveliness and some magic of mama’s house that pulled me I believe though sometimes in retrospect I feel that paternal grandpa deserved better from me. why didn’t he make atthai’s, periappa’s and chithappa’s for me? Appa was the only son so I always pacified myself by blaming it on grandpa for not staying there. tell me where would you prefer to stay? a place with 2 or 3 oldies or a place with 10 lively kids?
This house had always been a home away from home for my cousins and myself. Apart from my home, mama’s house was the only other place where I have stayed back for longer time. I feel that it was my cousins and myself that had the most wonderful time in this house but I am sure every member of the family would have a story associated with this house irrespective of their age now.
Sorry for the long post. Its very difficult to compress the story of a 50+ year old house in a single post. There is so much more to say but I will stop here otherwise the post will never reach an end. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of this magnificent house but let me try my best to explain the details
As you enter there will be a horizontally long thinnai (visitor’s room) followed by minnu veedu (TV room), followed by naadu veedu that has a small grilled open space in the roof for sunlight, followed by adupaadi (kitchen) with a big mutham in the middle. Mutham is a space in the middle of kitchen with iron grills on the top. this is the space where ladies wash dishes and use for other kitchen cleaning works. It would be an awesome feel to sit around this mutham when it rains as the rain water pours through those iron grills. Beyond kitchen, there was a big backyard with all sorts of vegetable/flowery plants and bathroom (again mama’s house was the first in the village to build a bathroom much to our relief). There was no vertical partition at any room, the rooms were built one after the other so if you look from the front porch you can see the backyard door all the way at the back. One of my favorite spot at the house was the Unjal (Swing) at minnu veedu that was fixed only when we visit, rest of the days they were tied up to the uthiram (Ceiling). From, minnu veedu stairs were built inside the house to reach second floor where there was two more rooms and an open verandah (from this verandah you can see the front porch and street), these rooms were always allocated to the newly married of the house . At the back of the open space of second floor there was an other flight of stairs to reach the mottai maadi (open terrace) at third floor. This is where we hide most of the times while playing hide and seek or this is where we come to have private talks. There is no doubt that the house has a magnanimous look from the street view.
The house that can easily fit in minimum 50 people anytime is now housing only my maami and have started to give up on its infrastructure for past few months. Walls started to crack and small creatures were creeping in during winter. After so many months of discussion and postponement a decision was finally made by mama’s sons to demolish this grand witness of four generation. It pricks my heart to realize that I am not going to see this house anymore. Amma will definitely have a hard copy of the house at least in her marriage picture collections. On my next visit to India, I must get that picture from her and save it as a soft copy for posterity.
May god give all the strength and courage to my maami who strongly refused to move with her children and chose to continue her life alone in the same place of that legendary house.
This is my small tribute to the house that has played a major part in making my childhood as beautiful as possible and that taught me the value of relationships.