I lived in a big ancestral house I used to call home and have splendid memories of my childhood , if not detailed. Of playing with cousins and friends, children of tenants. I lived with my grand parents, uncles and aunts along with my parents and brother. Though have not been to the place since long, may be from the year 1995. The thread or the rope tying me to it might have weaken but still a weak strand still tugs deep at the heart.
It’s a fine evening. Me and my husband are sitting in our 5th floor terrace garden having coffee. Rain is falling and cool gentle breeze is flowing.’ I don’t know why but every time I see my home in dreams since leaving it back then, it seems quiet and lonely. It’s calling me infact pulling me. When we are next in my home town, we are going to visit.’ ‘Who do you think will welcome you there. Why don’t you understand this point my love, there’s no one now’ he is putting his point but what he doesn’t know is I am going through a strong pull since years and this is high time that I should visit. Well, the good news is now after half an hour he has given in.
I am packing up my bags. Hurrah! We are going to my home town tomorrow with children. Actually the domestic flights are open now so it will be quick annual summer vacation trip. ‘ Hello. Bhaiya, we are coming. Just for few days like a change of atmosphere’
We are in my home town. ‘ mmmm…haaa.’ There, my brother is standing in the parking lot. We are driven to a camp. Here we are staying for 5 days. It’s actually a nice guest house where we are putting up but it’s not costly. Only concern is about children. How will they cope.
Today is the second day and children are already exhausted. They are draining my energy too. May be to some of you it might seem a wrong decision but believe me, they are completely safe here as the place we are in, is not used as camp, before us and we got this because of my brother’s connection with the health team and the police staff present at the airport.
This is fourth day. Yesterday it was very boring. I scolded kids because they were shouting and running in the gallery. This all is because we are the only ones in this guest house till now. No new upturns. My husband has kept himself busy in his script writing work. He puts on his headphones and dives into his thoughts. So yesterday was no different from past two days, on his front. Today, after lunch I have asked the manager of the guest house to let me peep out of the window if possible as I am cluster phobic and the situation is taking on my nerves. Out of pity, he allows a brief moment to look out side. Me and the children are clinging to the window. They are pressing so hard as if they will go out through the mash of the windowpane.
Well today is the last day. Finally tomorrow we are going home. I mean to my brother’s place. At last we will be out in the open air. Today I am late in making the entry as children had the phone to make video calls to their grand parents back home and to their cousin, my brother’s son.
We are having dinner. The current is out but they have a generator here, so no problem. I am done with the dinner and want rest of the three to finish off soon so we can call for the night early. Naturally, next day will come early. Don’t they say,” early to bed early to rise, makes a good person.” In my case it will be free from isolation.
Here is my brother with his MUV, to pick us up. ‘We will be home in not more then five to ten minutes’ he is telling my husband. ‘Well, bhaiya we are here for a very short stay. Hope we don’t bother you much. It’s all your sister’s stubborn idea.’ My hubby is looking at me while saying so. ‘ I can understand that very well. She is like this since beginning.’ Now my brother is winking at me. Both the children are laughing. They are enjoying my leg pulling. Naughty children.
Here we are at my home. Yes still I call it as my home too, because it’s my papa maa’ s home. Brother says till he is alive I can call it and feel it as my home. Because we are one.
Today is the day when I am going to enter this ancestral home after twenty five years appropriately. The bushes and shrubs have grown here so wild. I am shocked. ‘ care taker, our distant relative has passed away ages ago. His mother and family stayed here but now the mother is also not alive. Only the wife and her sons are here.’ My brother is telling my husband. ‘ she seems too busy in her life. But what about her sons? Why dont they take care?’ My hubby is asking.
We entered the house. My heart throbbing as fast Express mail. Crushing and pressing the wild bushes and shrubs we are making our way. This is the first yard with all the garage and houses and a small factory built for the tenants, I am telling my children and hubby. ‘Look that is the entrance to the farm, where we had cows, buffaloes and farming land.’ My brother is showing kids.
From here we are entering this big gate. The first one to the main building but it leads to the small yard, where on one side old rooms built for the estate staff are there which were later converted to parking and other side had a small area surrounded by brick wall and a small entrance to the berry garden. This all is dried. Nothing is here. From here we cross another small entrance which has a wall in front of it with a small window. Now this is also crumbling. Twisting and turning I am entering the third yard where on the front of it we had our rooms, the second section. I am moving towards the area where caretaker’s family is living. But I think they are either sleeping or out of the house as cannot see them.
Leaving the place I turn back to the main stair cases. One takes to my elder uncle’s portion and the other one takes to the main building. I take this one and taking one step at a time climb to the final entrance. From here I turned back to look at others. They are coming right behind me and are at the bottom of the steps.
I am now standing in the big courtyard. To my left is a veranda and rooms of my grand parents. And small granary opposite to which, means slightly opposite to me is the old kitchen. Adjacent to it and opposite me is a small room, for my great grand mother and in front of me is her veranda. I was looking at fallen gazebo between granary and kitchen.
A light streak of smoke is coming out of the kitchen and I am moving towards it. I am standing at the kitchen door and opening the mash door. The scene inside took my breath away. Sitting there is the maid who was nanny to my elder uncle and used to cook for the family with a group of house helps and maids. I am not able to believe because she is dead ages ago. She cannot be here, not at any cost. She is giving me a look, as if saying you have come at the right time. Have lunch. ‘Screech’ and I am startled. Then hoping to see my kids, hubby and brother, who might have opened the door to grand parents room, I am half dead to see my cousin who died young. I am having goosebumps and it is a hair raising experience. He is smiling and signalling me to come over. I am in a trance I think. My legs are moving towards him. At the door I stop and I can see my grand parents sitting there with the lunch served and they are about to eat and I interrupted. They are now looking at me. My grand ma is scolding,’late as usual’ but grand pa is smiling the loveliest smile ever. He has softness in his old eyes. ‘But how could you be here. All of you. You’re gone long back and you- you cannot come back!’ ‘ Then go back to your room’ grand ma said,’ across small veranda.’
I am taking swift strides. It’s like gliding. Or floating in the air a few inches above the floor. I am crossing the small veranda or my great grand mother’s room and veranda. I am bending down to exit when I hear some whispering from behind. I am trying to hear but all I can make out is whispering of two or at most three old ladies, from great grand ma’s room. As if rest of the house maids were trying to give her a bath as she is paralysed.I am not able to take all this. I am trying to run away but all I can do is go forward.
This is my room. The wooden door is open but the old mesh door outside is ajar. This is the room I have been dreaming of since left visiting the house. I didn’t mention till now, that whenever I had it in my dreams I fell ill. It always used to pull me in and never let me out. It used to shake and tumble but today here I am, standing in front of it. Inert. Again my hair while mentioning the past dreams, raising.
I am opening the mash door by the handle. Still I am freezed. I don’t have the guts to peep inside. I am still standing at the door, half open. I don’t know what’s in there. Why I am so afraid of this room where I have lived from birth to teen age and have returned to it many times in young days till last of the family members lived here and vaccated in 1995. What if it locks me inside in real. With all these thoughts going on in my mind and heart thumping in my mouth I am entering the room. And here I get the shock of my life. I cannot breathe now. It is so gloomy here. As if the opening door has let out the years of loneliness, it has suffered. And in front of one of the two windows facing private court yard of my room till now where I was standing sitting here for lunch are long gone Maa Papa. On the centre table there are three plates. Two served one empty. Papa is looking happy to see me and maa is serving food in the third plate.’ Come. Why so late?’ And she is looking at me with maternal love. I am blank. Maa Papa… really? Am I dead or my life till now is a delusion.