Even now, in my dreams, I go back to the house where I spent my childhood. The house and the garden are etched so deeply in my memory that I wander the house frequently in my mind.
The house I grew up in was large and rambling. The rooms had high ceilings, with plenty of light and air. There were many nooks and corners where we put down our books and playthings and made up our stories.
The house had a wooden gate, painted blue with one slat missing, which meant that a lone sheep or goat from a passing herd would sometimes slip through and skip about so that the shepherd boy would have to run in to take the errant animal back.
There was another gate, a smaller one that we used all the time and which led to a curved driveway to a grand portico with pillars and red bougainvillea.
There were spiked plants in the flowerbeds, that we children sometimes decorated with egg-shells. There were trees, bushes, plants with exotic fruit that we spent many happy hours plucking and eating straight from where it had fallen.
We walked precariously on the slanted bricks that demarcated the flower-beds and the vegetable patches. We played in the sand pit that housed the tandoor, an earthen oven, till our hair and skin were covered with a fine layer of sand. We were then dragged off to the baths.
The shady trees were the burial grounds for many of our pets and the other little birds and animals that frequented the grounds.
The house itself had rooms in a haphazard manner. The front door opened into a long corridor opening out to rooms on either side. The iron bars on the tall windows were closed with the help of wooden shutters. But even though we had the run of the place and had favourite corners, we still loved the standalone cluster of rooms at the back of the house, best of all.
Here, no adults headed. It was once the servant quarters. Now, the one room that served for sleeping became our playroom. The kitchen was always locked and we flattened our noses against the screen door to peer inside. The washing up areas were accessible through a brick paved courtyard and overgrown with wild plants and weeds.
There was a pile of mud in front of the room which once held an imprint of a man’s single foot, possibly of an imposter in the night.
If I could, I would still wander in my childhood home and reclaim the innocence of my formative years.