|Part of the old house still exist today.....the upper portion from the front 40 years later.!|
|Steps to upstairs from the outside! Today (40 years later)|
|Covered corridor to the backyard, connected to the next house.|
Till I was eight years old, we lived in the town of Athirampuzha, in a high, steeply tiled, two storied house, rich in wood. The floor of the second storey, which lay in two heights, had smooth floors of wooden planks, with a dusty dark attic above it that housed old books and heaps of tattered papers. Each of the floors, except the attic, let sufficient air and light, through many wooden windows on all sides. In commercial towns, most houses huddled together. Mostly, two houses shared one or more common walls and a closer relationship with the other side. They were all strong and good walls and as the saying goes, good walls made good neighbours. May be, good neighbours made good walls.
My brothers and I could walk into all those houses and expect a door-less entry from the kitchen yard and run around with the young members of the household. One day, my two year old younger brother Justin lifted a tin of mustard seed from a neighbour’s kitchen cupboard and threw them all around the soft and watery backyards. A few days later, mustards sprouted, with tender green leaves in the rich monsoon rains. Everybody enjoyed the childish prank and such incidents never had any negative impact on the open door policy of the neighbourhood kitchens. Today Justin has grown up from that sprouted mustard seed to become a senior executive in a premier software firm in the United States.
‘Ding ding’, the bells of bullock carts sounded, and woke us up on Mondays, the market day in Athirampuzha. In the early hours of the morning, slumber still in our eyes, we would open the front door of our house and sit on the downward steps and gaze at the sea of activities in an otherwise peaceful road. Never ending chains of bullock carts moved along, in a slow jerky motion, laden with vegetables, spices, fish, coir or rice. The beasts wearily stamped their worn-out shoes on the sun burned bitumen and created painful patterns, while cart-men lashed their merciless whips and pushed them forward.
Men pulled handcarts faster than animals, with huge piles of banana bunches on them, as streams of sweat ran profusely from their bare necks and muscles and disappeared into the tightly wrapped dhotis around their waist. Groups of men and women walked happily home with provisions, balanced in cane baskets, for their homes.
Today, thirty five years later, as I sit on the steps of our old wooden house (a part of it still exist), all of those bullocks and most of those men stand still, like murals in the old walls of my memory. Athirampuzha wears a new face, with wider roads, modern buildings and automobiles rushing and jamming the town, a place where bullocks and neighbourhood walls once ruled.
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