Sunday, December 16, 2007


This is about my first home. The place where I have spent my first 10 years.

It is (yes, part of it still stands) in the busy street of Janakganj in Gwalior. A small dusty lane (large enough for two bikes, I suppose) connects it to the main street. It had (or probably still has) a red wooden door, visible from the main street. Interestingly, this small lane also has a huge wooden door (I remember this closed once, during Ayodhya times or was it something else).

The thing that I remember most distinctly is the 'gachh-ya' (terraces). These were some 8-10 in number. All of them at various elevation from the ground and interconnected by 'jeene' (stairs) or had 'mundher' between them. The stair would either be closed with no light source at all (making them 'haunted') or would be shaky wooden ones (lakda cha jeena) or slabs fitted in the wall. There would be stairs you'd be advised not going on to (making it all the more fun to climb!). There was one 'tulsi chi gacchi' that faced backside of the house, there was one 'mothi gacchi' which had a small divider in between. You can hop over from one to the other and you can do this all the day! I used to spend a good deal of my summer vacation trying to get my 'patang' to fly from one of these 'gacchis'. I was the only young boy in the whole house (of 10 people and many visitors) and was left all by myself to get that kite thing to fly. Occasional help from my sisters came after a good deal of pleading. I hate to admit it, but I was a loser at that. If I did manage to get the thing to fly, there would be 'sharks' around to claim the aerial territory. I forget the term used for this war of supremacy over the skies (patang ladana or something). The terms that I remember from the kite terminology .. patang, dagga(bigger patang), manja(the stronger thread used for flying), reel(the white one, which was used mostly for extending the length), charkhi(the designer wheels that had thread wrapped around it), jote (the knots that you'd tie to your kite) and there were many more.

As with gacch-ya, there were innumerable number of rooms in the house. One leading to another, which leads in two more and so on. These rooms were filled with trash from God knows how many years and carried that damp smell. And, thats what made them more interesting. If I were to ever dare venture in one of these rooms (which would not be too often), I would find an array of things to play with! One of the rooms I remember had a some swords, which I could barely lift. The most common item used to some books/documents wrapped up in a soft red/blue cloth.

We also had a well in our house (yes!), that direction used to be referred as 'kuya kade'. That made our house an attraction for many people in our 'galli'. People would come from all over the 'galli' to fetch water. Seeing the water glimmer in the well from the light coming through 'khidki' (window) was simply amazing.

Just after you enter the house, on the right side there was a long wall that went till the highest terrace. This wall had a plant of some kind growing on it, right in the middle of it. As a part of cleaning up, it'd be cut every few months.

The walls used to have 'konade'. These are small grooves in the wall where you can keep stuff. The walls on the 'gacchis' though were not as smooth and I guess were made by keeping rough stones one over the other, making the less amenable to any 'ball and the wall' kind of games. The swayapak-ghar (kitchen) had a chimney of some kind. It covered the whole width of the wall and went up to the terrace!

The house was messy, the house was big, the house was beautiful, the house was home.

* sighs *

Now? A quarter of it still stands. It is heart breaking to look at its current state. The house died really, at the hands of warring brothers and greedy neighbors.

I dont think I'd ever get to live in a place like that ever again and that ..... is really very sad.