I am in front of the place that used to be my home but now it’s not my home any more. I still keep my head down as though I have done some shameful act. “I cannot face this place, I cannot get into this house,” I tell myself. In spite of it, I can’t help opening my eyes. I half-expect my grandpa’s head peeping out of the window. “Don’t be a fool!” I tell myself, “He is not with us anymore. He has gone so far that he no one can get him back.” I open the creaky gate and get into the compound. I look around. There are dry leaves and weeds in the garden that once used to be full of flowers. I feel like taking a broomstick and cleaning the place. But no… it’s not my home anymore!
While coming back from office, there are days when my feet take me directly to this home of mine. When I see the locked gate, I realize that I have come to the wrong place, that this is not my home anymore and that I have to go to the house that is supposed to be my home. I have to get used calling the house my new home. And this… this is not my home anymore! There is a lump in my throat.
“What are you waiting for? Get in”, says my uncle. I reluctantly get into the house. I am shocked to see cobwebs and spider webs everywhere. I shoo away the mosquitoes that are eager to suck my blood. Everything is covered with a thick layer of dirt and dust. “Is this the same place where I grew up?” I ask myself. With none around to care take, the whole place has got ruined. I can hear my heartbeat echoing through the empty rooms. Or may be its all my imagination… The house seemed to be moaning and wailing to me. It seems to be pleading, “Don’t leave me and go!” “I can’t stay!” I reply loudly. I am scared of hearing my own voice. “I don’t have a sore throat then why is my voice so croaky?” I ask myself.
I open the cupboard to see if there is anything to be taken to my new home. I see couple of old tattered letters all belonging to my grandpa. I give it to my uncle. He says, “What will I do with these? Throw them in the trash.” I can see “Dear Nagan” in my grandpa father’s handwriting. Grandpa liked his father call him by that name. A lot of memories flood my mind and continue to stare at the letter.
“Be quick! There isn’t much time,” says my uncle. Yes there isn’t much time before this entire house will get pulled down. But why? Why should this house be demolished? Because uncle does not have enough place for his family. Why not build another floor on top of this? No! He thinks that the vaasthu of this house is not good. No one knows how to convince him.
I keep the letters on the floor and continue to check the cupboard for my things. I find Grandpa’s medicines at the bottom of the rack. These were the medicines that soothe his pain and gave him relief from the fatal cancer that he suffered from. “You are of no use now!” I tell the tablet strip, “grandpa doesn’t need you anymore.”
Uncle is busy dismantling our grandpa’s cot. I wonder if the house will also be dismantled in the same way… first the fittings and fixtures…then the doors and the windows… then the probably with a couple of blows from the bulldozer, the entire thing will come down. I shudder at the thought. Grandpa, if you had been alive now, none of this would have happened.
“Shall I take this with me?” I ask my uncle pointing to Grandpa’s shaving kit. It had the old-fashioned razor, two blades and the brush.
“What will you do with it?” he asks me.
“I don’t know. But it’s thatha’s. How can I leave it here?”
“Think logically,” says uncle impatiently, “After your grandpa’s death, till now, you did not see this. That means you don’t need this. Why do you want to accumulate trash?”
“Trash? How can you call this trash?” I said, trying hard to control my temper.
Everything cannot be seen and understood in a logical manner. There are things that do not involve any logic or reason. We cannot program everything and feed it to the system and say so-and-so follows this logic and can be solved in this manner. If everything were analyzed and understood in this manner then there is no difference between a human being and a machine. Seeing my temper raise, my uncle leaves the house and goes to meet our neighbor. Once he is out of my sight and I feel much better.
Still clutching to the shaving kit, as if it were my lifesaver, I walk around the house, feeling the walls, doors and windows. I realize that there is so much of me that is attached to this house that I cannot take everything away from it… not now… not ever. I hug the walls and lovingly run my fingers through the window sill. There are so many memories, some sweet, some sour, associated with this house. I almost burst into tears but control myself. Each and every nook and corner of this house is related to some memory. “How can I ever leave you and go?” I tell the house, “But I have to.”
I get out of the house into the compound. My eyes fall on the front steps. Those were the steps were I used to sit and read my favorite novels. That was where I would study during the nights for my exams. That was where I used to sit and enjoy the sunsets, the rain, the twilight… I look around the place, which was supposed to be the garden. I remember the days when I would help grandpa pluck the weeds and tend the plants. With the gardener gone, the garden was also withering. I look back at the house. It seemed like a dying creature to me… a creature that did so much good to us… it sheltered during the hot sunny days, during the chill winter and through the rough monsoons… it was right there before I came into this world… but now it will be brutally murdered and battered to death! I sigh. What can I do? I can do nothing except wait and watch! I feel so helpless.
Oh God! Let this be a dream… a nightmare… let me get up and feel that the entire thing is a dream… Grandpa, please wake me up and take me into your arms, as you would do when I was upset… I used to feel so secure and happy when you were with us...now we have been separated by life and death… I shirk away those thoughts and tell myself again and again that this is reality… we cannot change it… we have to adjust to it. I fight back my tears yet again.
I climb up the stairs and get onto the terrace. This is the place where I played bow and arrow with my grandpa, the same place where I used to pluck jasmine flowers along with my grandma. Now the jasmine creeper is not there. Probably it preferred to die rather than to be killed by someone else. I remember the nights when I used to come up to enjoy the moonlight… the days when I would gaze at the stars… I see the tall buildings around the house, penetrating and reducing the visibility of the horizon. This place will probably be one amongst them in a year or two. I just hope that I will not be in Hyderabad to see it.
While getting down the stairs, the rusted hand-pump catches my eyes. There were days in summer when it was the only source of water to us. When we were in need of it, it was there to help us… but now I hear the hand-pump cry, “Please don’t go!” but i turn a deaf ear to it.
It’s time to leave. I lock the gate and get into the car. When we are about to turn around the corner of the street, I turn around and see the two coconut trees swaying. They seem like waving to me and wishing me goodbye!
Soon, there will be a bungalow there. Everything will change… but memories of my home will haunt me forever.