Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Woh Lamhe - Part Deux: The verandah

The house would lose so much of its charm without the verandah. Spacious and airy, I think Valiachan spent most of his mornings sitting out in the verandah and enjoying his newspapers/magazines. Post-tea, he would again venture out to take in the cool evening breeze, and watch the sun set - mind you, this was before the place (over)developed. More often than not, someone would drop by during their evening walk to have a short chat. There was a time in the early 70's when you could see all the way to Maruthamalai from our verandah.

The verandah will always be the place where my parents got married - as did Chittamma and RKM. I wonder if there will be another grand event (like those two weddings) gracing the verandah again. The whole idea of getting married in the same place where your parents got married is a rather "cool idea", and there's still time!

On one of the walls, next to the front door, Valiachan used to keep track of the heights of all his grandchildren, noting down the date and height in pencil. Sadly, those marks were whitewashed a long time back; but it would have been interesting (and a humbling experience) to see how we all grew. During our summer vacations, Rama and I would convert the verandah into our own Wimbledon, to play our own version of tennis, with table-tennis rackets and balls, pretending to pit Rod Laver against Bjorn Borg. (And oh yes, Laver always won!).

But the best part of the verandah was the thinna (the cement bench running around half the verandah, for the lack of a better term to describe it). How I would kill to be back home, sitting on it, watching everything go past, Amma picking jasmines in the garden, Valiachan 'chilling out' on his chair, Ammamma looking at all her flowers and Achan sitting on the thinna enjoying a good snooze!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Woh Lamhe - Part Uno: The garden

For whatever reason, this trip home was a little different - and Amma and Achan felt the same too. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of reading, a fair bit of thinking, loads of laughter, a tinge of sadness (normal when you leave), a wedding, just one movie (watched with Amma and Achan) and a lot less TV! And I'm still thinking, a fortnight after getting back to the US. The house looks older, but brings back the same memories.

The board outside the house still reads P.T.Koman Nayar, although its now a granite one. The driveway leading to the house is still dusty, and becomes a little slushy when it rains. Valiachan used to walk up and down the driveway every morning, sometimes with his youngest grandson for company. His walk would almost always be interrupted by the cries of a pazham-vandi selling his favorite bananas. Bananas safely deposited on the sideboard, he and I would be back on the driveway trying to get to '10 rounds'. It was fun, I remember, for my Valiachan was a man with a great sense of humor.

As a boy, my idea of fun was playing with a tennis ball in Ammamma's carefully manicured garden. Either Valiachan, Ammamma or Amma/Achan kept an eagle eye on me from the veranda, ensuring that I didn't trample any of Ammamma's plants - though Valiachan would be deep into his newspaper or magazine and doze off after a while. Ammamma loved gardening, and
it used to be a plethora of colors with a variety of flowers, with many huge trees creating a nice shade. The garden today is a lot different, with a lot less plants and fewer trees, which had to be cut as they were interfering with the telephone and electricity poles. But what is striking is that the "tree house" is gone.

The "tree-house" was something that Valiachan constructed along one of the corners of the compound. No one really knows why he made it, but the lower level had a store-room at one end, and the other end was a garage where I remember Valliammama used to park his car. The top upper level was just open space, with an asbestos roof. For some strange reason, Rama and I liked the place, and we spent many a crazy evening goofing off up there. It was demolished around the time we moved back in, and although the place looks brighter, the "tree house" still makes me go back 15 years and cherish the good times we had.

Some time in the late 80's, Janthi-A gifted Rama and me a set of kites. What a whale of a time we had, letting it loose, higher and higher. It wasn't a competition really, but just the sheer joy of seeing something in graceful flight, soaring up into the sky. The kites never broke, giving us one unforgettable summer.

Everything looks so much smaller when you grow up. It is sometimes tough to believe that Rama and I used to play (over-arm) cricket along the driveway - today I would probably have to stand closer to the kitchen if we ever played again. Yesterday's 50 steps are today's 20 - I guess that's the way it always is! But sometimes if you look out from the verandah, you might see two boys laughing and playing outside in the garden in the sunshine.