Where Talent meets an audience…

The Old Lady and The House…

on May 3, 2014

Nothing remains of that old house and nothing remains of the old woman. This isn’t a story of the house but of the woman. Not about the house being razed to rubble to be replaced with a two-storey, landscape hogging, eye-sore of a construction either.

It was that 5 am history studying that woke me up with her. I needed an alarm, she needed the cold of our hilly geography to alert her to the arrival of dawn. And with seeing her run the pipe-chilled water from the government tap to do her laundry, it never failed to remind me of the story that the village served up about the woman whose Sunday best’s had a plight worse than a common kitchen rag. Nonetheless, she cared for them the only way she knew how. Coming to the village gossip.

Her story started out like any other, living the village dream with her husband and son. It became one-dimensional with the passing of her husband and her world and all became her only connection to him-her boy. But when that cursed serpent took her son from her, he robbed her of all the treasures life had presented her with because with her son, she lost the house as well.

That’s when I met her. That quaint old house stood locked and bolted for the better part of the day and I never glanced at it twice. Stray dogs strutted through the property at will, mating and birthing in cycles. Weeds grew green and brown through the monsoon and summer respectively, not a force in play to hinder their progress. The tiled roof stood proudly blackened, a testament to the years it had borne the brunt of the winds and water that lashed it during the rains. White paint stood steadily stroked with the light brown dust kicked up in a delicate caress, like a painter would have on his blank canvas. The windows that surrounded the place stood forever shut and when I first moved to the neighbourhood, I was certain, in all the wisdom of my eight years, that the house was positively haunted (mind! the stories I was fed with did no good to change that misconception). The rust kept eating away at the iron bars that clung stonily to the aged concrete of the windows and the doors creaked with the weight of termites that were burrowing into the beams that held up the roof.

A well sat bang in the middle of the compound wall that parted her land from the next plot and it seemed to be her only functioning object linking her to her former life.  On better days, when the lunch hour had worn dry, you could see her painstakingly draw from it, her bony frame cringing from the effort and exhaustion of her other menial work. In the hot and humid Mango months, she would go the extra mile to pluck a mango or two from the tree in the next property. That I would assume would go towards satisfying her hunger at dinner. Common sense predicted no other choice.

As the sun would turn into an orange disk in the distance, she would then gather up the thin cotton shards of clothing she had left to dry on the tall weeds that grew unabashed beyond her wall. I honestly could never decide if the weeds tore holes in her clothes because the fabric had worn thin or they were just worn before the weeds got to them.

As the day would wind down, she would lurk in the balcony and never once enter the house that I always assumed still belonged to her. It was one fine Sunday afternoon when that gaudy blue hatchback drove up into the compound and made her beat a hasty retreat did I put two and two together. Like I said, the serpent had stolen her son and her house. She was homeless and living on the cold floor of the balcony to her former house. The world turned on and nobody seemed to notice.

Sometimes she would notice the young me next door, sneaking a peek at her while she went about her activities while the blue car owner was not around. The look in her eyes, now fixed in my brain, was the saddest form of resignation to one’s fate I had ever seen.

Years crumbled by and the old house had grown weaker with every passing season, its former owner meeting a similar fate. But all that came to an end when one morning, around eight years ago, her house no longer stood to fight its losing battle with the elements. The blue car man had made his presence felt and on the foundation of the old house now stands a big blue building. And the old lady disappeared without a trace. Whether death claimed her as his own or the heartbreak of losing the last of her worldly possessions drove her to a distant land. The village gossip mills have dried up about the old lady and the house now……

 Old Lady

My salute to the old lady….



2 responses to “The Old Lady and The House…

  1. A Mashruwala says:

    Love it !!! Very well written. Kept my eyes glued to the story.

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