Childhood memories 20/07/2011

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


7 thoughts on “Childhood memories 20/07/2011

  1. V Raghavan

    Visiting the home where you lived as a child is always an emotional experience! Three years ago, when travelling in and around Thanjavur with my son and family, we drove into the street, where I lived as a child. So much had changed and I could not recognize the place. Many years ago, Nirupama wanted to locate the house of her great grandfather in North Arcot Dt. With the help of locals, we did locate it, but there was a new building in its place!

    1. Your wife’s experience reminds me of a book I ‘ve read where the author of mixed parentage comes to Bombay from abroad to locate her grand father’s house .She finds it after a lot of difficulty and also meets the new occupants !

  2. Prof. V.N.K.Kumar

    Revisiting locations and houses of your childhood may bring nostalgic memories if you had a pleasant time in your childhood over there. The only difference will be that the lawn or courtyard which felt like a football field then – now appears to be just a small 20 by 20 feet space. However for battered or sexually abused children and for those who belonged to families with privations & deprivations, such visits may bring back the horrors of childhood and such people would like to avoid going to such places.

    You had apparently a happy childhood, like many of us. So your reminiscences give a kind of vicarious thrill to the readers of this post who also had a pleasant childhood in certain locales but for various reasons are unable to visit those places. I could imagine the earlier structure of the house and the configuration of it from your description. I could imagine how you felt living in that house and how sad you feel now when you look at the dilapidated status of it.

  3. As I said in my editorial and I reiterate, life is not sugar and spice and all things nice, because it is a bitter sweet pill .Sometimes being too analytical also might make us cynical !

  4. Rekha

    That was a very moving snapshot Meera. Its remarkable that your house still stands , whatever its condition. Perhaps it was waiting for your goodbye. Houses seem human to me.

  5. Dr(Brig)M Jaya Rao

    old is gold.Childhood memories never vanish.
    Pl permit me to introdue myselfI am Dr(Brig)M Jaya Rao,Retd from the
    Army Medical Corps on 31 Oct 1993.
    The author’s(we call her Papa) father was the youngest brother of my mother.
    He was fondly called ANNAYA BABU.
    My child hood days were spent in Jeera Compund a good 5 km from SOUTH LALLAGUDA where my uncle stayed.I was the errand boy if there was any message to be conveyed to my uncle’s (or anything to be carried) family and as there were no buses it was a long walk usually mid day. bare footed.(This practice ,probably has stood me
    good,in our routine long marches while in the ARMY)My uncle would come from the workshop at about 1310 hrs have his lunch get into a horizontal position on the huge iron spring cot and get up at 1350 hrs-there was no need for any one to wake him and would be in his office by 1400hrs.
    In spite of me telling my Aunt that I had my food I had to take lunch again.
    While trekking back to my house in Jeera,I was invariably served with hot Upma.
    Coming to the house proper.The front Varendha was as long(wicket to wicket)as a cricket pitch and as wide.Every thing else in the house matched the Varendha.During my 30 and a half years in the Army we also stayed in some big houses but probably the best was house I occupied was in Pune with a direct veiw if Parvathi temple on a Hillock (Shivaji Maharaj offered worship in this temple)The side Varendha of this house could match the front varendha of my uncle’s house.I had the good oppurtunity of hosting the Author and her husband in this house.
    One more small point of interest (which probably the author would not remember )My uncle stayed in a small house in NORTH LALLAGUDA.prior to moving to SOUTH LALLAGUDA.
    He had a number of shoes one each for a different occasion.One amongst them was for evening walk.When he used to get into these ,the author would say “ALLALLA SHOES” and she would walk with him.

  6. I am glad jaya rao that my article made you relive the good old days and reminded you of the sprawling bungalow you occupied in Poona.I liked the bit on the ‘ALLALLA SHOES’

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