During my recent stay in Hyderabad my cousin (who is a doctor) was good enough to suggest we visit the old railway quarters where my parents, my two brothers and I lived more than fifty years ago before we moved to Jamshedpur when my father joined TELCO. My cousin was very close to our family and would visit us often during his student days and also later when he joined the AMC. It was a short drive from Tarnaka, Secunderabad (where I stayed with my brother) to South Lallaguda, where our house stood. When his car pulled up on the muddy road, a few yards from our house, I was seized with nostalgia and tears welled up my eyes at the sight of the dilapidated building, which appeared beyond recognition. The big mango tree that was near the gate had crashed, probably it couldn’t stand the vagaries of nature and was lying across what remained of the wooden gate. Though I didn’t expect a house built more than a century ago by the British to be in good shape what pained me was, the running tiled roofed verandah facing west and enclosed with a trellis resembled a dungeon, barricaded by walls on all sides. As it was late in the evening and with no lights burning I had to fend my way in the darkness in order to reconnect to the house we children grew up. I gingerly stepped into what used to be our living room where our RCA radio took the pride of place adjacent to the entrance. I was reminded of the days when we would eagerly look forward to Wednesday evenings to listen to Amin Sayani’s welcoming voice announcing our favourite programme, Binaca Geet Mala. We would make our guesses as to which of the latest songs topped the list! Much after the programme was over his voice would linger in our ears as did the songs. My small book shelf which my father bought from a British officer who was leaving Indiawas placed in the opposite corner adjacent to the door that lead to the formal drawing room meant for visitors. Among the other three doors the hall had, one opened to my brother’s study, the other lead to my parents’ bedroom (the summer bedroom with high roof) and the winter bedroom (its roof was low) was adjacent to this. The fourth door lead to our dining room which had a small kitchen attached to it. The house as such was accessible through five entrances, one from the verandah which faced the drive, the second through the living room facing north which opened into the garden, a third through the first bed room , the fourth from the second bedroom which was always kept locked for safety(the second, third and the fourth doors had shutters which could be opened to let in light and breeze) and the fifth from the kitchen which opened to the washing place. I could find my way into all these rooms despite the darkness (my photographic memory didn’t ditch me) excepting the two bed rooms as they were locked from inside.
There were four out houses, two probably served as stables for horses (when Britishers resided here) and the other two used as servant’s quarters. We used to have a servant who lived with her family in one of them. There were two garages and my father used one of them to park his Ford car. I noticed none of the fruit trees we had, like the guava, custard apple, bail fruit, mango and others like the pipal and neem in the large compound existed (except for the one mango tree which fell blocking the entrance to the house) any more, perhaps they lived their life. We children identified ourselves with the three mango trees we had according to their size. The one near the gate was the tallest and my eldest brother would say it belonged to him, the middle one was short and my second brother identified himself with it and the third was mine as it matched my physical description.
Once I remember walking on the parapet wall of the pond (which had three gold fish) with my second brother in tow and suddenly I had lost my balance and fell into the three feet pond and started tossing up and down swallowing a lot of water in the process. My brother went running inside the house and forced my mother to accompany him to watch me swimming! My shocked mother managed to rescue me and squeezed my stomach of all the water I had swallowed. Fortunately nothing serious had happened and I survived.
The convent school we three children studied in was adjacent to our house and we would sometimes enter by jumping over its wall (which was parallel to our compound wall) after hearing the bell ring. I was glad to find the school continued to exist even after more than six decades and has expanded considerably to accommodate more students.
I don’t remember when my father moved into this sprawling bungalow (my mother said I was less than two years at that time) allotted by the Railways for which he worked the major part of his life but do remember growing up here.
Now the house, the only one that survives among all the neighbouring ones which have been demolished giving place to new smaller houses has become a dwelling place for construction workers and is being used as a go down to stock building material. Probably it might not remain there for long !
N Meera Raghavendra Rao