An Ode to The Old House

The lobby smells of cream, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s a nice comforting scent that lingers in the entrance area – not too strong not too weak – the baby bear of smells. I stand in the room surveying the space around me carefully.

There is a long hallway of an entrance with a washroom on the left hand side. If I stand facing the entrance there are a series of closets on my right, a balcony on my left and an arguably excessively large wooden panel in front of me, presumably for mounting the mini home theatre system someone has decided I will undoubtedly own. I have never had a TV in my bedroom, and the thought of having one gazing at me expectantly 24/7 is odd – I will probably forget it’s there most of the time. My washroom has one of those rain showers, promising a much more solid water pressure than the dribble that escapes the one in my current bathroom.

My room, is one of a cluster of three on the other side of a generous hallway from my parents room, and the family area on the other side of the apartment. It’s strange to know I will no longer open my door into the family area, or follow most of the conversations or television shows going on in it.

I gaze at the space and try to imagine it filled my things. I cannot, it feels too strange.

The grounds of the apartment complex are green, and the pavements smooth and even, compared to the pockmarked roads and broken speed breakers that lead to our house now. Our gate is flanked by two to four dogs at all times, who greet us with varying degrees of enthusiasm, most jubilantly late at night. It will be hard to say goodbye to them.

The residents of the nearby jhuggi colony include a varying cast of characters including a disproportionate number of ice-cream vendors, who I’ve often watched wheel their carts back home sometime close to midnight. They come one after the other, weary from their days, but often still ready to make one last sale for the night.

The house at the end of Vasant Vihar, where we live, where my parents have lived for over 32 years, has been the only home I’ve known – an anchor for years I spent hopping from one city to another – my only constant. It’s a nice comfortable house, but age wears it down, meaning at any given time, like any old house, something is breaking, something is being fixed and something is getting ready to break. It is time to leave, yet leaving is never easy.

I grew up in this house. I learned how to ride a bicycle here, I got the chicken pox here, I became an awkward teenager and grew up here. I’ve cried and laughed, and ate and drank here. The majority of my memories of my grandfather Papa are from this house, all the stories he told, all his mischief.

There was the time he got so irritated at the noise my brother, my cousins and I were making that he actually pointed the remote control at us and tried to mute us. His supply of scotch, his books, the paan masala he used to sneak us sometimes, and his never-ending copies of The Economist, which he would read cover to cover every week are all memories of this house.

We’ve had and lost pets here, we’ve celebrated successes and mourned failures, and we’ve fought and screamed and slammed doors, and forgiven each other here.

The new building and apartment are lovely and beautiful and perfect. It’ll be good for the family and a more practical long term solution. It’ll be a better lifestyle, less unpredictable, and I will have more peace and quiet, something I’ve craved since I returned from Canada.

Yet I don’t want to say goodbye yet. I’m not ready – I’ll never be ready. This poorly planned cramped disproportionate construction will always be home for me, and I’ll miss it with all my heart.

Call it sentimental if you will, but I’ve made so many drastic changes over the last 15 years that it is sad to lose the one constant. While we must always continue to move forward in life, I thought to write this one piece, for the past and all the memories contained within it.


4 thoughts on “An Ode to The Old House

  1. Leaving this house brings a lump to my throat too. This is the only home I have known in the last 32 years, shabby and run down as it is. Even if we knock it down and rebuild it, it won’t be the same house, and the echoes of voices in the past will not resonate in it. It won’t be the house that Papa built, it won’t be th eone he passed away in. It will not resonate with Axel’s barks (he is in doggie heaven now), or the meows of Felix (God bless him, I wish he lives forever). But you are right, life stops for no one. In our old age, although we may be more comfortable, we will miss this place desperately.

    1. It’s the end of an era for the entire Saraf family – not just the ones who lived here but it is especially hard for us. It’s the only place I’ve ever truly called home as irritating and cramped as it is. I’ll really miss it…

  2. Mira ❤ I really loved this post. I’m happy I got to see it before the big move. Those memories may feel distant but they will never fade.

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