Life

The House That Nana Built.

82 Araghar was my Nana’s house, my second address all through my growing years. It was tall, white, double storey opposite the Araghar Post Office. In fact Nana’s house looked like a slice of cake with pretty white trimming, served on a narrow platter. A gushing canal ran along its boundary walls for many years till a metal road came up over it.

For such a big house, the main gate was surprisingly small. It opened into a narrow passage that skirted around the house, all the way back. A few years later, Nana bought the adjacent property and there was finally a bigger gate and area for the four wheelers.

I adored the old house. It was ancient, the rooms were all squashed together without any thought to size or function. Nani’s tiny bedroom by virtue of being in the center of the house was a thoroughfare.

Front view of my Nan’s large house with a passage running from the front to the back The White House!

Nana had a bee in his bonnet to modernize his rambling house. Every sail he came back from (he was in the merchant navy), he would want to replicate what he saw in the foreign lands. That meant each holiday, we would be greeted with some home improvement project.

Nani was never comfortable with the modern changes. She let Nana have his way to an extent. Once he was off on another sail, she would quietly let things go back to as they always were.

She may have left the Kumaon hills as a young woman but she never abandoned the Kumaoni ways. She cooked Kumaoni dishes, wore her saree in the pahari sarong manner and spoke only in Kumaoni with a smattering of Hindi. She ruled the household with an iron fist.

My favourite memories were of Nani’s wood burning clay stove in the old kitchen. All of us- my three uncles (mamas), mother, younger brother, Nani and I, sat on the floor on our individual pidkas (small wooden stools). Had mobile phones been there, it would have made for a dramatic shot! This kitchen remained even when the new one came up with proper stove and a gas cylinder.

So there were usually seven of us sitting shoulder to shoulder in the small, older kitchen that Nani ran, efficiently doling hot, round humungous chappatis. Oh! She also loved cats so there was always either a Maradona or a Platini slinking around. Yes! I come from a family of football nuts. Those were the only names used alternately, for every time a kitten came along.

In this kitchen, the tea was always boiling. Food could wait but not the scalding cups and there were countless cups through out the day. Today we may have scattered afar but the tea drinking ritual continues in our individual households.

For special treat, it was shaya (sweet halwa made of rice flour). My dear friend dubbed it ‘the jaw breakers’. It became one if it wasn’t eaten instantly. He learnt it the hard way and since then the name struck.

Then there were stacks of madua ki roti and bedu roti kept in a small straw basket for the perpetually hungry members of the family. I remember palyo (a curry made of skimmed milk/ curd) and bhatiya or bhatt ka Jolla (made of black soya bean) for lunch.

Today, these pahari words feel foreign for none speak the language. While I write this, I strain to remember the pronunciation of the pahari dishes so that I can write it phonetically close to it. I blame myself. Somewhere along the line, I turned my nose up and salivated after KFC and Pizza Hut. In the bargain, lost this.

Nana’s house was a tangible proof of my carefree childhood days. I fell in love with Luke Skywalker and the Star world Universe in its drawing room. I learnt to fly an actual kite. I discovered that I adored old books and comics. This was the place where I spent my childhood trailing my youngest mama to the roof, clambering up the walls and strolling in the garden.

Leafy banyan tree in front of the house Roots!

Ah! The garden. Even that was something of a marvel. It was my eldest mama’s domain, the man with green fingers. Mostly he would be found pottering, spectacles perched on his nose, scowling in absolute concentration.

Thanks to his efforts, it was a tropical forest of gigantic jackfruit, mango and litchi trees. Pumpkins and bottle gourds creeped and climbed all over the place and the huge cement pots always had some evergreen plant blooming. It was easy to get lost in the shrubbery. Perhaps that’s why Platini had her litter there. I know because I followed Nani there to feed her one sunny afternoon.

Today, neither the house nor the garden exist. Last year it was sold. The tall slice of cake smashed.

All that remains are its photographs and the memories that are fraying at the edges.

Sepia photos of my maternal grandparents when they were young. Sepia memories !

Once they go, I would have truly lost my second address forever.

14 thoughts on “The House That Nana Built.

  1. Aww, what wonderful memories! I’m new to your blog and I just Love this post. (I’m also loving the memory of Luke Skywalker and the Star Wars universe, something I still love to this day!) But it’s these special memories we cherish, oh the garden sounds amazing too. I enjoyed all you beautiful photos! 😀 ~Diana ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diana, it feels wonderful that my words left an impact. This was prime time nostalgia, a different world and a different time. I am thrilled you could connect with it. Thank you for leaving such a warm appreciative comment.

      May the force be with you ! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey….what about about daily race to the chicken coop every morning to bag the biggest brownest egg…and the early morning greetings of high tempo music beats at 5AM coming from Anil mama’s first floor abode while doing his workouts…and scores of hours spent hanging over the wall under the ‘lucaat’ tree watching the world go by the busy intersection of Araghar and also trying to keep an eye on Sundariyal’s cycle shop across the street ….super Didu…u opened the floodgates of the happiest memories of our childhood at our gingerbread house at 82 Araghar…😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah Sharad! Your comments take me back on a roller coaster nostalgia ride. I had almost forgotten till you reminded me of it all. This has to be one of the most super of all my treasured comments .

      “We had joys , we had fun , we had seasons in the sun…”

      Like

  3. What a lovely, sentimental post Sheetal. Always wonderful to understand a bit more of your culture! Like you I lost my grandmother (we called her nana – I found it interesting that is the male name in your language) many years ago. I fondly remember visits to her home and the treats she always had on the ready that were not allowed in our own home. Things like coka cola and cookies for example. And she always had a little something as a gift – I remember loving bobby pins with a rhinestone on the end that I felt so elegant in! Thank you for the walk through memory lane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is a coincidence to see that the word ‘nana’ unites grandparents across the world. We have much in common than what we are lead to believe.

      I enjoyed reading your reminiscences as well , imagining those halcyon days. Thank you for sharing them with me, Tina. Have an amazing day, it’s bright and early in India!

      Like

  4. Childhood memories are like pressed flowers in your favourite books. They remain fragrant and exquisite and wuth time-become timeless. You only have to flip the pages and out they pour:)

    What fun you must have had, Sheetal! Your narration gave me a glimpse of It, would love to read more of It.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nostalgia relived through a perfectly structured and flowing narrative à la Khushwant Singh. Tremendous capability you have to paint life so vividly with words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kumud, I’m floating on air . Khushwant Singh is a level I aspire for ; I am ecstatic if you think I was able to capture a fraction of his magic . This was a memory trip and I’m glad you enjoyed the blast into the past. Thank you.

      Like

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