I love starting early on Fridays to squeeze as much fun as possible into it. Somehow i felt Fridays are the best thing to happen to mankind. Even if it is Friday the Thirteenth. But the last thing i want to do on a Friday is wake up with the memory of a terrible nightmare which had the audacity to repeat itself thrice in the few minutes that elapsed between semi-consciousness and complete wakeful-ness. Damn! Double Damn!
Amma felt it was not a good omen to have such a dream on a Friday morning.
"Acha cho...but why? Are u doing your puja everyday?"
"Err...hmmm..of course i am. I am such a nice obedient Pillai girl, no make it wife"
"Do it today and i will ask Amma(her mom) about it"
So i washed all the silver lamps (yeah, when u get married you move up the pedestal. So no more brass lamps!) and lighted my diyas, went to musicindiaonline.com, searched for TMS' devotional songs on Muruga and while the house reverberated with songs for the 6-faced Lord, i sat and read 'Kanda Shasti Kavasam'.
I am not exactly what my family would call a 'religious and pious' girl. In fact, i don't know if they are synonyms or not. To me God has always been this person/friend with whom i have these conversations as and when i feel like and since i have always been this 'weird' kid who talked to herself most of the times, i did enjoy all our conversations (or monologue, if you insist)
Today was different. It wasn't about conversations. But the moment TMS started "Ullam Uruguthaiya" i was tranported to an another world...a world far away from the luxury of unlimited water and dishwashers.
No:3, Muthiyal Chetty Street, Purasaiwalkam, Madras
The Wonder Years
We lived in this tiled-roof house which was home to 6 tenants and the owner, a very old blind woman (Paati) but extremely sharp. She would know who has entered the house by their footsteps and if you tried to go upstairs without answering her probing questions, she would immediately call for Vidya Periamma. (I call her so. Her daughter is Vidya and it was those times when there were no Aunties or Uncles but only Periammas and Chithappas).
It was an old house. As soon as you crossed the wooden door there was a small verandah with grills, where Vidya Periappa would park his scooter and Appa his cycle. Then a long corridor and you entered the big courtyard. On the right was a small dark room in which stayed Lakshmi (the milk maid and the one who looked after Paati) with her daughter and mom. On the left was another small room in which Kala chithi stayed till we moved out in 1989 and then she took our portion. Then in front of Kala Chithi's house was this huge hall which was Paati's residence. Next to the courtyard (in front of Lakshmi's portion) were the stairs that one took for the first floor. Below the stairs was the highly scary common toilet. I hated going in there coz it had the biggest cockroaches in it.
Digression 1: The only time in my 24 year existence that i remember my Amma raising her hand to beat me was inside that toilet when as a silly 4 year old i refused to get in as there were cockroaches and wanted to run to teh road for my ablutions like the slum kids. yes, i did have higher goals then. Amma went berserk and pinched me on my cheek before she started on her tirade of blaming herself for all that i did. Sweet lady, she is!
Opposite the toilet, right across the courtyard stood the common bathroom. And behind that was Vidya Periamma's portion. Her home had one hall, one small kitchen and small storeroom. I loved her house as that's where i stayed after achool till my parents got home from work. She had a very kutti chair in a greyish-green tinge. My chair. Or so i claimed to an already incensed Vidya akka who couldn't stand my tantrums.
Digression 2: And they were the only ones with the TV initially till my parents got embarassed by the tantarums i threw in their house and got our first Uptron B&W Tv. I have really been a bad kid :(
As soon as you got off the stairs you would find our small abode on your left. 3 steps( or was it 4) to enter my house. There was a big hall; in fact that was the only big room in that entire house. On the left corner was a small slab of stone under which we kept all our shoes and slippers and next to it was the kitchen. Then a small wall and the bathroom. (I was proud then as we were the only ones who needn't have to share bathrooms with everyone)
Digression 3: Madras wasn't a populous city then but the water scarcity was still a huge monster. Our bathroom had tubs fondly called 'andaas' in various sizes and colours, buckets, pots and u-name-it-we-store-water-in-it vessels and 2 mugs. Yes, 2 and my favourite past time was making my own stories while i played with those 2 mugs. One would be this ship with Sindabad and i would ofcourse be The Surpreme One sending a huge wave over his ship, by pouring water form Tub1 to Tub2 with Mug2 :) Till amma screamed that i shouldn't waste any more water!
The corner next to the bathroom had the Tv and on top of it was my fave Princess toy in Red sponge dress (made by someone in the family) and our Radio - the one with knobs and no buttons. Next to the Tv was window 1 under which stood the grinder. Next to it was the pooja set up till we bought the fridge when we moved our deities to the kitchen shelf. Next to the fridge was window 2 - my favorite haunt in the house....there was always a chair near it and every morning appa will sit there and read his paper and that's where i sat to have my food, stare at the world outside, tell my little stories to the sparrows which stood on the sill...
Digression 4: The house was really old so the bars on the window were really rusty and weak. I kept playing with it and one day in a fit of anger i just gave it a hard push and threw the broken iron rod down. Saran's mom who was standing in front of the house was saved by a hair's length as she moved from the very spot where the rod fell just seconds earlier. Aaah...the dressing down that followed.
Next to the window stood the door to my haven - the bedroom with my BIG double bed(which is at present at Kala chithi's house) and my book shelf with 'Puss in Boots' and 'Cindrella' and my small steel wardrobe( i still have it) with its secret locker to store my feathers and nuts & bolts. Amma's big wardrobe and all other boxes.
As soon as you walk out of my house on the left was Saran's portion which had just one room and one kitchen and after that, directly opposite to our portion stood Vijay & Vinod's house.
And right next to Vijay's house stood the most important member of the entire house - THE WATER PUMP.
That brings us to the point of this entire essay. Oh yes, there was a point to all this nostalgic roller-coaster ride( which by the way is not over but i decided to cut short since talking of 6 years in one post is not possible even though you might not agree that it is short).
Now though there was a pump one never knew when we would be blessed with water. Appa would wake up every morning at 3 A.M, have a bath, read some novel for sometime and then proceed to try his luck with the pump. Amma would get up at around 4 A.M, take bath (The bath was essential so as to empty tubs to re-fill again) make coffee and then they both will again have another go at the pump and if there was water, start the 'filling tubs' ordeal and then wake up Vidya Periamma, saran's mom...in short my parenst were the alarm clock for the entire household.
And in those days at around5 A.M ( after we bought the BPL tape recorder) Appa would play TMS' Murugan songs...a cassette he made with all his fave songs and one of my strongest recollection from those days is that song...the way it played as i stared bleary eyed at my amma running with a pot on her hips, making sure she finished cooking, having a story ready for me so that i get into the bathroom to brush my teeth...
It was a small house and it leaked during the rainy season but somehow i feel some of my best years were under that leaky roof, playing with the rain-drops falling into the plastic bucket which was patched up to close the hole...a life not dictated by money or the lack of it...a life quite content with a small shampoo packet got for 50p, sitting on the steps and eating roasted peanuts, going to school in a rickshaw...a life so beautiful!
P.S:: After Paati passed away in 1989, her (selfish - that's what i felt as a small girl) daughter sold the house to a Marwari businessman who demolished our beautiful home and built a colossal, ugly many-roomed stone edifice. Along with the rubble the poster which covered the hole in our walls must also be buried - "A house is built by hands but a home is built by hearts". True.
* Means - My heart melts (everytime i see you, O Lord Muruga)