Unlike today where working youngsters in their twenties easily get loans and buy a readily made house, we know it was difficult to build a home in olden days. Infact, there is a saying in my mother tongue “ Veetai katti paar, kalyanam panni paar”. It translates to “Build a house and see, conduct a marriage and see”. The amount of challenges one faces while conducting a wedding and building a house is what it proverbially states.
Long long ago, Salaried class people who had no easy access to bank loans and hiring building contractors had to face lot of difficulties while building a house. My husband’s grand parents house in Lalgudi near Trichy was built with a few such challenges. They did’nt compromise on quality but they did save costs. To save costs, it seems even grandma used to pitch in with the work along with laborers. Sometimes the laborers would fight with the contractor and refuse to work and then patti and thatha would try to play the mediators so that their house could be built on time. The best wood(pillai marudhu) for making doors was brought specially from across the border Kerala. The members of the family would pitch in to paint the house. No branded paints those days. They used to buy the boiled seashell pieces which was available in the shops. The boiled seashells when immersed in water would bubble up and become lime pulp. This would then be mixed with the “blue” used for whitening clothes and painted on the walls by the family members. Limestones were also available but these seashells my mother-in-law says imparted a sheen to the walls. I have spent my vacations in this beautiful house called “Madhurambika Ashram”. It had a huge frontyard where creepers of jasmine arched the entrance. There was a lemon tree which yielded golf ball size lemons in one corner, while the other corner had a parijatha(coral jasmine) tree.
The entrance to the home was through a grilled verandah. The grills were held by plastered walls which were painted with lime and redclay alternatively like in temples. What would arrest one’s attention would be the shining walls of the home where sepia toned photos of the family lined on the walls. The shine and the whiteness would ofcourse be the courtesy of those seashells.
The backyard with a well, washing stone slab, grinding stones, tulsi brindavan, swaying coconut,mango, tangerine trees and kitchen plants completed the picture. A simple, warm home sans frills. But patti, would often say that the smiles, chatters, and laughter (galagalappu) of her children and grandchildren are what made it a happy home.
That was patti-thatha's home(grandparents). Now read, the making of my present home. I don't want to miss any detail, so a very long post by my standards but i would appreciate if you read till the end.
Around that time, most of my husband’s colleagues decided to invest in an apartment complex. We too went with them but my husband was not happy with the construction. He wanted a home without common walls, a house that is spacious, airy and had lot of bright light. He did not want corridors which were similar to hospitals or hotels. In short, he was not happy with the construction of flats too which were built with hollow blocks and not bricks. Independent villas in gated communities were not to our budget.
Having lived in a township at Neyveli in a duplex house which were airy and naturally lit and had huge front and backyards, My husband found it difficult to think of such flats as home. Even for me although, I did not live in airy and spacious houses, I have lived in independent houses. In Bangalore, most houses were built on BDA property which came in the dimension of 30x50 feet.
Apartments were not our liking and so we dropped the idea and lived in an independent rented home in an enclave built by employees of an international research institute which had a lovely play area. A very lovely enclave but not lively I must say, because most of our neighbours were retired employees of that institute and though we had company in other tenants, we were at the mercy of our landlords who did not like the children running and playing. They would scare the children saying there are snakes and would always hush the children or take away the ball.
Meanwhile another set of friends went to buy apartments. So another opportunity came our way and this time my husband liked the second phase of the same builder. We saw the plan and screened the houses that were not booked. My husband studied the plan to see which house was airy and bright. The way he was studying the plan and dismissing the flats annoyed me. What was acceptable for me was not acceptable for him and vice versa. Finally, we came to a consensus and blocked the flat on the 5th floor which was still not built, but in the air. And, I must say, I am happy with his choice today. This is one of the premium flat of our complex, airy on all three sides which are open to the space above the gazebo, amphitheatre and the main road. The 4th side is our neighboring flat which is a good 10 feet away with no common walls. No common corridor, we walk from the lift to my home which has an independent feel. Today we are happy to have made apartment as choice, because in the past 8 years, there is a lot my children and we have learnt from this joint family called condominium.
Although this apartment was built by the builder, To turn it into our home, it had our personal touch. We were there from day one to supervise and inspect our house. Initially every 15 days, then every once a week, and finally it narrowed to almost daily when it got its finishing touches. We did make some design changes in the structure of the house which had the approval of the builder.
We were happy with the construction materials used for the house. We were equally happy with the extra fittings, though I changed some of the fittings to add our personal style. Wood work was left to our choice. Like our grand mom’s home we wanted the best and we were ready to cut the cost of the middle men by sourcing it ourself. We did a lot of study on this during the nights to find the right type of wood, the veneer, polish , hardware, the design etc., Finally, we entrusted the job to one of the Rajasthan carpenters who were rustic but the best. It is already 8 years and I am yet to find a nail out of place, while our friends who went with MDF have had multilple repairs and refurnishes. For tiles, although the builder provided good quality ones, I wanted to have some signature spaces and so we traveled to Troop bazaar, sultan bazaar and other places in old Hyderabad which is famous for tiles, awnings and bathroom fittings.
There was another thing that I did not change that is the painting. We were happy with the ivory color emulsion of Asian paints Home solutions used for the interiors of the house. I did’nt want textured walls simply because this is a dry city and dust would fill in the crevices and it would be tough to dust out. The simple ivory color makes the house elegant and rich. We can always accentuate the walls with colors. Even their buckets which holds the Asian paints are sturdy and stronger than the regular washroom buckets.
But do material things make up a home?
If ever I move out of this home, i will not remember those material things, but like patti said, the precious growing years of my children, the little spicy fights, the togetherness, smiles, chatter, the voices that echoed around the house when we had the family reunions with relatives, the warm conversations over a cup of chai with our friends in our drawing room, The painful partings when they leave. The corner that was alloted for the PC from where i blog,Not the sheer curtains that allows sunlight but the reflection of the dust rays, the gentle cool breeze from the lake behind , the balcony from where i see the moon, birds flying in a pattern, that little birdie making its nest. I will remember the comfort, solace and serenity that this home gave me. All these are the heart and soul of a home and convert a brick house into a cosy home.
This kitchen where we cook our daily rice, rasam, daal, roti. the platform where we wash with sudsy water and the floor where we sit down to eat our brunch or our daily meal will go down us a memorable place one day.
The drawing room (forefront) which witnesses many reunions and partings. The beauty wall divides the space. At the back the dining hall which opens into our back balcony, to give me a view of the shining moon, watch the children play in the ground , the clean blue swimming pool, the amphitheatre, a glimpse of the lake which is named after the lake of Shiva's abode. So many memories made and are in the making...........
Yet again, our children's choice of wall painting for which we sought professional help. A double decker bed which was designed by my husband and executed by the efficient carpenters. A space saver, the bed under has castor wheels. But more than all that,we are grateful, the bedrooms gently put us to sleep each night and takes care of us as we sleep soundly.
The corner where we showcase some of India's artisans. The earthy and handmade artefacts are warm fillers of my home against the backdrop of Asian paint emulsion.
The front balcony frames the historical Gunrock and the sunrise which I enjoy with a cup of chai and the birds flying out of the greenery around.
My little ornamental and herbal garden in the front, not as big as patti's home but gives me immense joy when a small bud flowers or a leaf sprouts from a plant which i give up as dead. It adds to the micro joys of our life.
A multi colored rose which changes its shade from pink to yellow blooms in this little garden along with many little flowers which we offer to God.
Again, not a big kitchen garden, but we have made niches like these in our back balcony, where we harvest potful of joy in the form of methi, coriander, curry leaf, haldi,mint etc.,
This post is written for "The beautiful home blogger contest" @Women's Web in association with Asian paints and ripple links