My childhood home was large and spacious. I still remember its green painted walls, dark glistening floor and the huge airy windows. In fact, to this day, I can feel its floor below my feet — cool and earthy. I spent the first fifteen years of my life befriending every crack and crevice of this house. I waltzed through many afternoons, tracing their rough edges and dusting them clean.
It was not just the cracks on the walls, there were the dents on the floor, the broken handles of the cupboard and not to forget the wooden furniture.
My favourite furniture was the settee — a large wooden chair with wide arm rests and the perfect reclining back rest. The chair had no upholstery and the wicker seating gave an earthly scent. I remember sitting there with my feet curled up, learning to solve the Sunday crossword puzzle. And every single time, I would squeeze my pencil through the little gaps of the stringed seat — one of the reasons, why the seat had to be re-strung many times over.
I was so lost in the many spaces of this house, that, I never for once thought, I would have to say goodbye. When I finished school, moving to the city became inevitable. The first house we rented was a small one with just one bedroom — so small that, if I stretched my arms, I would hit the wall. It was hate at first sight.
Thumping up the stairs
The house was on the first floor behind a huge building. The owner of the house was a burly lady with heavy accent and she simply hated me. “You always go thumping up the stairs. Why can’t you climb gently or you may break those steps”, she grumbled. “This is ridiculous. I am not superman”, I told my mother but mother always said, “It is her house”, and I would grit my teeth.
With no favourite walls and no favourite furniture, my hatred piled on — layer after layer. “Why did we have to move?”, I always complained to my mother in my head. But, I never voiced it out aloud because, I knew in my heart that the move was for me to go to college. That moment, I learnt, that moving houses would be tough. “Build a dream house and settle”, I told myself, “and never ever move out of there”, I mentally made a note. Who knew then, how life would unfold?
Fast forward to my present life. I now live in a beautiful house with many cracks and crevices. I have a small patch of garden and I have many conversations with my plants. On a rare day, when I am stung with nostalgia, I walk up to the wardrobe where I have put up a little memorabilia — a stand alone house painted on a violet coloured dry leaf. I recall buying this in a craft exhibition during the early days of my marriage. “Our dream home”, I had then told my husband.
From then and now, we have moved at least fifteen times — different homes in different countries. As life continues to happen at meteoric speed, I wonder about my dream home. Yes. My childhood home will always carry a special place in my heart, but the other houses I have lived so far — even the one I hated the most — the house on the first floor — are special too. They are all laden with memories. The house on the dry leaf may have been my dream, but then, every single home so far has rewarded me with souvenirs to cherish.
Perhaps, it is not such a bad thing to move. But, if you are still on the look out for that dream house, it is time you made friends with the walls, cracks and crevices, not to forget — ruin the settee as well.
— Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman