Sunday, February 13, 2011

Once upon a time....

This is the home of my grandparents. It would be more appropriate to say that this WAS their house. Neither of them are alive today, nor does the house now belong to any of their descendants. The house was sold off almost 20 years ago. Usually old buildings in Pune (or for that matter anywhere) have a standard fate, that of being razed to the ground and a new apartment complex coming up at that place. But this one has had to face a different twist of fate. For reasons outside the purpose of this note, the house (& adjoining Bhanuvilas movie theatre) have remained in a state of limbo for nearly twenty years.
This is the home where my grandparents lived, brought up their 11 children, witnessed the ups and downs of life together, saw people come and go for over 50 years. I have spent all my summer vacations here. Every wall, corner, window, broken door-frame - everything - is a living memory for me. Countless moments of joy, growing up with cousins, being doted over by aunts and uncles, and the omnipresent feeling of 'being at home' that my grandparents exuded.

I do not intend to go on a nostalgia trip here. That would be a never-ending venture. All I want to say is - I have paid attention to living beings - people, pets, plants. I have a habit of maintaining inanimate possessions very carefully - books, old pens, old pictures, my grandfather's pocket watch, and so on. But I don't think I have paid enough attention to structures which have sheltered me from the forces of the world. I may have taken them for granted, in fact. Seeing pictures of my family home has brought about this stark realisation, do I love my home enough when I am in it?
This wada at 343, Narayan Peth, Pune and the adjoining Bhanuvilas Talkies will also become a part of history sooner or later. They can't remain like this indefinitely. But I shall forever be grateful to this place for showing me what a home is all about. Most of all, this space provides me with the answer to the existential question - where do I belong? Yes, I belong to this soil, this is where I came from, this is who I am.
My grandpa must have sat in this very place when he dreamt of the countless business ventures that he started. And then seen many of them go bust, one after the other. Through all this, my grandma would have kept the home fires burning, often by selling one by one her family heirloom jewels, must have sat here and written those letters to him. The letter would reach him when he was in jail, where he spent half his working career, just because he decided to follow a path that Gandhi showed. Yes, this is where I have come from.
Every time a space beckons to us, tugs at our heart and asks us to stay back, we resort to saying the good old इदं न मम. (This is not mine.) But a day comes when you take a pause in the race, and say to yourself, "Yes, this IS mine."
Kabir must have realized that "this is not mine" when he said उड जाएगा हंस अकेला . Yes, a day will come when I too, will fly off. Like my grandpa, my grandma, my father, and now my mother has. This bird will fly away too, not knowing where its destination is, but surely knowing where its roots lie. And therein lies a surety that we often seek.
(Note - All photographs by Aniruddha Bhate. I am sure he doesn't mind me posting them here. His roots lie here too, after all.)