When we moved out of my childhood home in the summer of 2009, I was 13. Moving into an apartment was an exciting idea- a new house, new neighbourhood, new room, new furniture, a new fan whose blades would move fast enough to produce sufficient breeze, and a place to play in the evenings.
Old houses are dark, the wooden staircases and high ceilings and leaky faucets are the perfect environment for horror movie settings. As a kid I was positive that it was haunted. All the more reason to be happy about leaving.
After finishing my second year of college, I came back home for two months of rest and re energizing myself. On my way to one such day of re energizing, my car stopped in front of my old house due to traffic. My house was still there, the same maroon and green plastered walls, the large wooden panels covering the windows, the small grill gates and dark green doors. Suddenly I wanted to see more. I rolled down the window and leaned out to look at the second and third floors. The creepers breaking out of the hundred year old structure. The only form of life in the now abandoned house. Suddenly my chest felt heavy- like the money plant was trying to break out of me instead of the bricks- and a sob escaped my mouth. I could feel the salty taste of a tear that rolled down my face. I blinked a few times and my nose started to itch, like when one has a bad cold. As the car started moving once more, I looked out, stretching my neck out of the window as much as I could, and I could see the balcony, which used to be mine, the room where I was protected from the monsters if I had my stuffed chimpanzee sleeping with me and my blanket covering my feet no matter the season. The home, where my mother and I had spent days and nights waiting for my father to return from his stay in Germany. Suddenly I wanted to get off the car- it was suffocating inside. Like being stuffed inside a box with no escape. I wanted to run- press the rewind button and go back to the memories that was my childhood. I felt ashamed and stupid for being so irrational. It was just a house- your childhood is over anyway; stop being dramatic- I told myself. But I knew that I was lying to myself. My memories were fading- my palms started to sweat and I could feel a chilling sensation down my spine- how could one feel so hot and cold at the same time? I miss home ma- I whispered, so that only my mother could here me. Somehow she knew what I was talking about. She held my hands and I could feel my chest pounding against my skin less and less.
We came back to our house after eating out and I rushed to my room. My insides were trying to escape from my body. And my heart wanted to go back home. This wasn’t home- all I did here was eat, sleep, study and watch tv. What kind of memories was I collecting from this house- there was nothing worth keeping. I looked around my room and saw only a desk, a cupboard and a bookshelf with books I hadn’t touched in years and a cardboard box where my toys had being lying dead for years- and I burst into tears. There was a knock on my door- it was my mother, holding what looked like a really large spiral bound book. She sat down next to me and handed it over. It was filled with pictures from my childhood. My very first steps the first day of school and all my best and worst moments captured and preserved forever. My head suddenly filled up with the most colourful memories, which I thought I had forgotten. I was still crying, but some of the tears were happy ones. I closed my eyes and tried to picture every crack in my house and cover every inch of it- I could feel something build up inside of me- how could sadness be so happy and happiness so sad? It was like watching your favorite movie over and over again without getting bored. I could smell the rusted windows during monsoon, hear the gulmohar tree rustling outside my window, my grandmother and great grand mother fighting about the lunch menu, the pandit chanting away during durga puja and the sound of the conch and the bell, my mother running down the stairs to open the door to my dad- home after years. And I felt light- not just my head or my feet- but my whole self. I felt like a child again- full of energy and eagerness, looking forward to endless possibilities. There was no burden on my shoulders, no responsibilities and no sorrow. I knew that this feeling was temporary, but somehow it was all I needed.