This afternoon, I was reading an article by Jhumpa Lahiri about her childhood. There was a lot of books in the piece, which is not surprising. So I started thinking and realised there are some things I guess almost everyone has in common. Well, at least for those who like to read.
To quote Lahiri here, “There was an arbitrary, haphazard quality to the books in our house, as there was to certain other aspects of our material lives. I craved the opposite: a house where books were a solid presence, piled on every surface and cheerfully lining the walls.” And that is what I have wanted for myself for as long as I remember. Everything else in my house would come as an accessory – an additional one which does not serve a purpose as such, but is just there to increase the comforts of reading.
I think of the guest house my family took us to in 2003, as an ideal place to retire to. An old wooden cottage-bungalow in Jayanti Hills, North Bengal – the cottage was surrounded by trees and stray dogs. A little lane, after the garden, took you towards the Jayanti river. The river, a ghost of its past, dried up after a flood in 1999. And now the little stream can be crossed on foot, if you don’t mind the pebbles that is.
On the other side of the river lies some hills, which the locals described as Bhutan. And scared me off by saying there are tribal terrorists (are there any such thing?) hiding. The lane, on the other hand, can also take you back to the village – a house which triples up as the grocery store, a tuition and the village’s sole STD booth, a sweet shop which somehow always had hot rasgullas being made and a few huts.
However, the house in itself was the one place I would be when it starts raining. (Yes, this is a fall-out of the 3-day continuous rainfall in Mumbai). Although infested with weird potty-coloured lizards (cannot be politically correct), the two floored structure had the most amazing balcony I have ever seen. It ran the entire length of the house, and broadened out just in the middle to fit a big cane-chair set. So once it starts raining, I would just sit in that balcony, on one of those nicely cushioned cane chairs with a nice smelling book and a cup of tea – not the ones my parents drink – without milk, without sugar.. But the way it is supposed to be. Lots of sugar, thick, smelling of tea leaves. The ones you get in earthen cups while travelling in trains. And the bedroom inside would have a big bed – four poster ones of my grandmother’s time. And in ever room there would be cases, shelves and little tables with books. And some photographs. And an ice cream tub in the fridge. And framed photographs on the walls. And wind chimes somewhere out of view.
Yes. That would be the house Ill live in.