Rana Preet Gill
I spent most of my childhood in a rented house on a busy street. My home was painted cherubic yellow. The street teemed with speeding bikes that honked all through the day. But once you shut the door, there was absolute silence, giving the place a sanctity of its own.
It was a two-storeyed building named ‘Chandanwari’, belonging to poet Amarjit Chandan who lived in England. For me he was a stranger who used to visit once a year. He used to roam around the house, much to my chagrin, and leave chocolates in the drawing room, much to my glee. He was my dad’s friend and had given the place to us on rent.
The house was built in a strange fashion, with numerous stairs. By the time you reached the second floor, where we lived, you would be huffing and puffing. It was spacious, nestled in the heart of the city with a peculiar name that brought me a lot of attention in the class. The name was inscribed on the front in Gurmukhi in bold letters. My classmates found it funny.
‘She lives in Chandanwari,’ they used to shout, and convulse with laughter, whenever any teacher used to ask my address. I used to come home angry. ‘Can we live someplace else? They make fun of me all the time!’
Despite everything, my home was comforting in special ways. The drawing room was adorned with books. There was a pair of cushiony sofa set and I used to pick up a book and sprawl myself on it and read. There was a window giving a view of the busy street. When I was not reading, I would be sitting on the window sill, watching the maddening rush. There was never a dull moment. Even when everything seemed so still inside, there was a world in continuous motion outside. You just had to open that window and peep outside.
When I joined college, I packed my stuff and went to Ludhiana to live in the girl’s hostel. After a few days, I got a call from home informing me that a new place had been bought on the outskirts of the city. I could sense the jubilation in my mom’s voice. The proclamation of a victory; finally, a home of her own. But I felt strangely empty of any emotion.
When I went home, I saw that my mother had started setting up the new place in her own way. It did not have any name, just a number. The books had been brought and kept in a room but there were no windows to peep out and no stairs to catch your breath. I looked around with vacant eyes to find a tinge of familiarity but there was nothing I could relate to. They failed to extricate my memories which still lay entwined with my home Chandanwari.
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