Saturday, 30 March 2013



The poomukham of the house - photographed by my uncle Kumar on a rainy day.

Pillavilakathu Veedu, my paternal grandmother’s ancestral home at Manacaud was not different from any other old houses. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, the house was a typical ‘nalukettu’, with a poomukham projecting out from the main living block. The house, with its massive lime plastered brick columns, the old terracotta flooring and the dark room with the smell of old books is etched in my childhood memories.

I was not born in this house, nor did my father have any right over the house or its property. Long ago, a piece of land adjoining this house was given to my grandfather by his father-in-law, however, it was sold off and he moved away from his wife’s ancestral house. However, I was always connected to this house, with the unbreakable emotional bond of love and care. In my childhood, I saw the old house in the last days of its fading glory, when it was still occupied by the families of my three grand uncles. My father’s eldest uncle R. Krishnaswamy and his family occupied the central block, the old portion of the house with the courtyard. Two later additions, the new blocks added by Krishnaswamy’s younger brothers flanked the two sides of the old house.

The padippura - watercolour painting by the author, 2008
The house brings in a thousand scattered images to my mind, the padippura, the poomukham,  the dusty attics, the dark rooms filled with memories from the past, trunks, which had not been open since the death of its owners, old Anchal cards that told the stories of many gone generations etc. One memorable face is that of my grand uncle R. Krishnaswamy. Lovingly addressed as ‘Kishammavan’ by my parents; our ‘Kishammava Appuppan’ is a man I will never forget in my life. How can I ever forget him, when his face is deeply etched in my first memories? One could never forget the taste of the ‘tomato curry and bread’ Kishammavan and his wife served us; never can I forget the music sessions in the poomukham, where I experimented with his harmonium.

The poomukham - watercolour painting by the author, 2008.
Last Deepavali night, after we had dinner at Buhari, my friend and I were about to return home. I asked him to take the route via Manacaud so that I can get a glimpse of the old house from the road. As we approached the house, I lifted my head, waited for the expected view, of the old house sandwiched between my grand uncles’ houses. However, to my amazement (and horror), I found out that the old house was not there! In its place was a new house. On my return home I asked my mother, “What happened to our old house at Manacaud?” Without looking at me, she replied casually, “Oh you don’t know? They demolished the old house and built a new one there, the new owners of the property”. That is when I realized that my favourite memories were lost- forever.

Sharat Sunder Rajeev,
Links: Veedu/6000000007708507456