The first and the most lingering memory of the house is of a big iron gate with creepers over it blooming with flowers of myriad colours and a tall dark handsome gentleman with a baritone voice standing behind enquiring from us --- me and my parents--- whether the Tata Patna express was behind schedule as usual. If my memory of about 35 years back serves me right, the month must have been May.
Why that particularly non- exciting routine inquiry from my grandfather remains etched in my memory defies normal logic. For I have visited that house three times every year for the next 32 years without fail!! Whenever, I have had school vacations, we rushed of to that house in Jamshedpur. Is it possibly because that was the last time I had seen my grand father fit and walking? Maybe. Or is it possibly that I had reached that age when one tends to recognize the yearnings and love in the voice of ones grand parents? Maybe.
My grandfather, or Dabhai as I called him, died of cancer within 2 years of the above incident leaving behind his large family, a lot of difficult to emulate legacy and a lovely house, aptly named ‘Mitralaya.’
The house became part of my growing up. My father worked in another steel city and we would look forward to going to this house in during each vacation. Built around a facade supported by huge Gothic pillars, the house housed all sorts of interesting things for my growing childhood.
First of all my cousins lived here.
Then there were the circular rooms with 12 windows, a huge kitchen garden filled with fruit and vegetable trees, a flower garden with a manicured lawn and a stately Magnolia Grandiflora tree presiding over all of it. Add to the above umpteen bookcases filled to the brim, a dining table fit to serve 12 covers, a bathroom with red floors, winding marble staircases to the roof and the roof itself—from where one could see the rolling Dalma hills in the horizon.
The wonders were many and so was the flow of love and affection.
12 years back, a burgeoning family and sheer economic considerations forced the unwilling family to do away with the dream. Now, there stands a mid rise multi-storied apartment block -- very modern, updated and without any history and character.
Each of us are successful in our little way but we all pine for that house which took away our childhood with it.