I walk around my home, my iWatch tracking my steps, urging me to walk 11 minutes more at a brisk pace so my move goal could be met. I walk, my arms swinging, my eyes tracking my children as each play in their own way. Laddu is astride her soft, stuffed unicorn, urging it to go faster. She keeps time with its imaginary hoof beats. Ammu is sprawled on the sofa, her legs higher than her torso, her hands holding a borrowed Geronimo Stilton. Pattu is crouched on one of the air vents, her arms wrapped around herself.
It strikes me somewhere around the eighth round that the house we bought is lived in, broken in. Every room of what seemed an impossibly large home is occupied, its occupants leaving traces of themselves. Notebooks, crayons, stuffed toys, bags stuffed with inane things lay claim to space, silent, waiting for their owners to take over.
My mind harks back to the house I grew up in. A single-family home noted by its location as the corner house. A five-foot concrete compound shielding its inhabitants from the busy road yonder. The wraparound poured concrete patio, a million cracks crisscrossing its length and breadth. Ants forming steady lines, going nowhere in particular. The huge badam and neem trees competing to provide shade, the yellow leaves forming a carpet when summer winds down.
The house itself stood, two benches on either side of a grey metal door. A navtal lock promising security by its weight. The creaky door opened into a sloping mosaic floor, the walls a now forgettable color, the faint echos of a hand-drawn Varalakshmi Amman on one side. The solid wooden doors and windows painted a dark shade of grey, the paint feeling like plastic, which if you nicked somewhere would peel to reveal layers behind.
The cool, dark interiors stretching endlessly as you pass the hall with its rexin sofa, random towels on chairs, the swami ull with twin lamps casting eerie shadows, the tiny dining room eaten up by the table, a corner cupboard with bottles of Seven Seas cod liver oil and Benedryl. A trusty Panasonic player and rows of meticulously recorded cassettes. The kitchen, a tiny room with an L shaped work area, a corner ammi and a tiny sink. Memories of four of us sitting on the floor, eating dinner rise up to the fore.
The images are ghostly, without substance, a faint recollection of what once was. The back door opening to yet other sitting benches, lines of sun-dried clothes and the outhouse, a tiny home with three rooms. Standalone bathrooms with windows to the street seem reckless now. A water tank by the side door, the washing stone and the sounds of soapy water running off into the ditch along the other side of the compound.
I later learned that this house which is palatial in my memory was under 700 sq ft. It makes me wonder how spaces work, expanding in real time, constricting in memories. It seems like Maya, illusions that trick you into believing things that aren’t.