Saturday, February 24, 2007

MY PARADISE LOST

I rightfully belong to a sprawling house bending with the weight of many monsoons. It is a few hours’ drive away from Palakkad, in a sleepy, inconsequential village called Shoranur. Parathody House. I have been there about thrice in the course of my life, yet it is the place I derive my identity from.

The family estate. An ancient house with mysterious whispers and unknown shadows in its dim interiors. Old, mouldy photographs jutting out of the walls, trophies of forgotten glories and past achievements. Cold stone floors. Damp walls with cracks like the river basins of the north. A wooden ladder leading up to an attic with rooms barely big enough to hold a bed. An ancient house with ancient furniture thinking ancient thoughts.

A courtyard with a jasmine tree drooping over the entrance gate. Red soil that paints my feet when I walk barefooted to the cowshed, while voices from the house warn me about the snakes around. The cowshed has always been a source of delight to me. A city-dweller’s eyes adjusting to soft chewing sounds emerging from the gloom of swishing tails and doleful lows.

The Smell Of Hay. The indescribable smell of hay.

The Great Kerala Monsoon. Enveloping little villages with ancient houses and breathing a voluminous misty vapour over them. The spell is cast. The green fields bow under the onslaught of the raindrops; a stone temple in the middle of nowhere with a red flag on its crown stands like a warrior dwarf, facing an army of clouds.

A place I have explored as if it were an undiscovered continent. Feeling like a stranger amidst the coconut smells of the ancient kitchen and the musty parchment smell of the porch. The novelty of history. A place I have loved only as a city-born child can love wild, wide spaces. A place that will soon bend under another monsoon and finally sink to the ground, presided over by an aged man and two ageless women who only occasionally complain of arthritis.

My grandfather is fond of telling stories about the family. About how we are descended from an ancient race of warriors who once protected the king of Kerala. I smile. The family hasn’t been able to protect itself against time. He tells me about how his fair skin and grey eyes have been inherited from a distant Portuguese great grandmother. We Have Foreign Blood In Us. Hallelujah. I smile again. At the end of it, we are as brown as the wood of the trees, with thoughts as red as the soil that we walk on.

Today the house is in danger. The last of the Parathody Nairs are being chased by mortality. A clan of warriors discovering the chink in their armour. And the house, the sad, drooping, eerily beautiful house will be fought over by four different families wanting every mouldy photograph on its walls. The house that I have forever been reminded of as giving me my identity, will lose its own, casting us out to fight our way to a new identity and a new inheritance. What is known as Restructuring will happen to it. It will ultimately become one of those heritage hotels housing overstressed hippies in search of nirvana in the green fields.

And I, miles away in this city that I call home, will mourn the loss of a place that I have visited only thrice in my life.

3 kindred spirits have swallowed my rambling:

new age scheherazade said...

'it is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we've outgrown them.'
that's in anne of the island. I suppose you'd know. anyway, it doesn't really compare, but I feel the same way about old books, clothes and such like.(with the unhappy result of my home becoming a fit abode for the Empress of Blandings.)

Anu said...

I enjoyed reading this posting - even more so because I know the house and the people that you have described very well. I am yet another long lost relative of yours (I wonder how many you have heard from after posting this!)

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ anasua: my room bears testimony to a similar fate, fear not.

@ anu: two, so far. its strange to discover relations because of a blog post, but hey, i'm not complaining. :)