Sunday, September 6, 2009

Home is where the familiar “smell” is.

I never quite understood the romanticism/obsession about a “house”, though it has been the bricks of some great literature. It could be a menacing backdrop, as in Pinter’s The Room or a symbol of “purpose in life” as in Naipaul’s A house for Mr Biswas. Whatever it was, I never quite connected with it, till I visited my “home” two years back…after ages.

Opening the rusty lock, I entered a house full of dusty memories. Having been deserted for quite a few years, the smell of “dust” was beginning to overpower the smell of “home” that I so longed for. Fighting the cobwebs that hung from the ceiling, I tried to concentrate. The sofa that was also a clever little spare bed for cousins who stayed back the night had been specially designed by Baba. I removed the batik-printed bed cover from it (covered by Ma, to protect it from dust), to see if the colour was still what I remembered it to be. It was…only slightly faded.

The pegs on the wall smiled a strange naked smile. The paintings and photographs of friends and family had been dismounted when Ma went away to stay with Didi. They are kept somewhere safe in the cupboards, I think…but the walls look bruised without them.

The book-shelves in my room had also been wrapped up in a floral printed bed cover that I remember on the beds where I sat to do homework. The books were still there…neither Didi nor I could carry them all to our new cities. I picked up the Byomkesh Bakshi : Collection that Mama had given me when I did well in college. The second page had that beautiful handwriting, almost like calligraphy:
Dear Tuli,
May you enjoy the “search” as much as you enjoy the “find”.

The pujo place, which was actually a shelf converted to a place of worship, was empty. Ma had carried the Gods that she could…and the rest were sent to Mamabari, for regular “jol, batasha and dhoop kathi”. What remained was an old brass dhoop-kathi stand, which didn’t seem to find a new home and lay there all alone. I tried hard again to remember the smell of the incense sticks that Ma used…a chandan one, I think. But the cobwebs distracted me again.

Desperate for some fresh air, I went to the balcony. There were a few pots still, but no plants. Ma had given away most of her potted plants to neighbours and family. She could have left at least the old cactus behind, which always reminded me to a toothless, hairless old man. Cacti don’t need water or care, so am sure it would have survived. But no. She left all her loved ones, with some other loved ones.

I plugged in the old tape recorder that Didi and me had bought with our saved money (years later, we came to know that Baba had to pool in 90%, as our savings could buy us a few cassettes, not a whole cassette player. But we always thought it was “our” hard-saved money…and when Baba asked us to lower the volume, we sometimes told him that we won’t because it was OURS and we could do what we wanted with it.). Luckily, there was a cassette in it “Cliff Richards: Young Ones.” Half expecting the player to crash at my touch, I pressed the Play button.

And to my surprise, the magic voice started singing, low but clear. Clearing away the cobwebs from my home and from my memories, the music brought that familiar “smell” back.

Inspired by a recent conversation with a friend who is also visiting her home after ages.

My home on GoogleMaps:


Mustaf said...


I had read your post on motherhood (the title was something like When i became mom or something similar, don't remember), which was a masterpiece and this is another breath-taking one. Your descriptions are so vivid that I was feeling myself in that house. I only have memories of our ancestral house, because that have been swept away in the river Ganga, but I could relate to each of your feelings, when I visited my in-law's original house, will ask my wife to read it :-)

spiderman! said...

What a wonderful thing your mother has written. lekha ta to bangla e chilo....exact ki chilo bangla te ektu likhbi ?

tor ei post ta r koyekta paragraph is just pure brilliant. I share the same feeling sometimes when I am in my own room.

Scribbler :) said...

@ Mustaf - Thanks for visiting my glad you were able to relate to the feeling. I think I still can't describe that "smell" well enough...have no words for it really.

Scribbler :) said...

@ Spiderman - "Ma" noy, "Mama". And it was in English :)
TUI amar lekha "pure brilliant" bolli? aj shorir ta bhalo to?
Thanks, btw,

Debanjana said...

Nice...a tad sentimental...but kothata keno bollam jaani's a really nice post.

The Ketchup Girl said...

u got me all misty eyed with this one scribbler. i wont say more. Loved this one.

Rima said...

Wow. Love this one.
Like I always say, keep writing.

Shameek Bhattacharya said...

Extremely poignant ... Is the fish pond still there in front of your balcony ?

Scribbler :) said...

@SB - No it isn't. The kakus in the para committee decided we need more space for cars and filled it up to make a car park. It must have suffered from serious identity crisis all its life. Started off as a swimming pool for children. Became a dump yard when the water crisis hit hard. Got transformed into a reservoir for excess water when power cuts hit hard and the pump did not work. Became a dump yard again when power cuts became more manageable.
And now, even when it's buried, it continues to serve the people who never stopped exploiting its varied potentials...and never even stopped to give it a decent burial (they used leftovers from construction sites, junk from renovation work...and even an old yellow pot from a bathroom renovation project was thrown into it):( What a pity!

Was it also a fish pond sometime? Before I was born? Do you remember? Can't recall that :(

Scribbler :) said...

@ Rima - I will...that's what I do for a living :)

Shameek Bhattacharya said...

Haha. Yes it had been, if my memory serves me right. I somehow visualize having stood @ railings peering down into the murky slimy water and yet managing to see some golden colored fishes 'fish tailing' around.

Or is it my imagination ? :-).. Ask Kakima. She would be able to shed some light.

At that time, eons ago, the railing used to come up to my chin. Years later, somehow the same thing came up only to my knees. The road in AB Block used to seem like a mile, and no matter how hard I used to pelt the ball with the bat, the darned thing never used to cross Abir's house. 2007, just before leaving the city for good, I had strolled down the same street just to "smell" the days spent there. It appeared so tiny.

The way we 'grow' up.

Rhea said...

:-( All nostalgic now! Took me right back to my chhoto-byala.