The rusted iron gate has lost many of its bars. It swings open with a lot of effort and noise. I step onto the hard baked earth. The garden is overgrown with weeds and wild plants. From betwixt, small nameless flowers peep, greeting my arrival with a vigorous shake of their stalks. Long gone are the jasmine plants and the marigolds, the champakams and the rhodendrons...
I stand here, looking at the road trundle past the house. A bus gorged with passengers shoving, jostling, talking animatedly, dispenses some of them at the corner and makes its way. Twelve years it has been since I last saw the bus.
The 4 stairs that lead into the house are broken. The cement peels off like old nail polish. Beneath my feet, one gives way, and I almost fall to the ground. Regaining my balance I look expectantly into the house. My Grandmother’s ghost hovers, benign and smiling. While my Grandfather’s frets at having bought no snacks to give to me. I can see him now, readying to go to the nearby tea-shack, announcing to the world that, his granddaughter has come.
I step inside the hall and throw open the large, heavy wooden door. Twelve years of being shut down, fettered, unused. The smell of decay and years of shuttered up rooms is perversely pleasing to my nose. I can almost hear the termites gnawing their way through the wood. I take in the smell, the claustrophobic, clamping smell of damp air, termites’ crap and decaying wood, the smell of oil stuck to the lamps, incense long gone but with the dust from it, stuck to the stand. The faded pictures of various deities hang as they did all those years ago. Faded, they are beginning to crumble and disperse. Blues, Blacks, Reds, Green, and Yellows are all now the same color – faded brown. From behind the brown screen, bright colors try to peep out, only to duck behind in thwarted efforts to display their gaiety. The gods look on, smiling, listless. If they had only bothered to bless our family, this house would have been in a better shape.
On my left the staircase to the upper storey winds up like a coiling python clutching onto its last breath. I am afraid to climb up, but curiosity gives way and I go up. They seem small now, unlike the giant-sized steps when we were kids. The door boards are long gone; in their places are gaping holes from which the wind whooshes in. The bedstead creaks as I sit on it, the mattress smelling of memories of long ago. The floor is covered with fallen plaster and limestone cakes from the wall.
I look out of the wooden screen in the verandah, peering at the world outside, desperately trying to push time back to when we were together and happy and carefree.
I feel like I am murdering someone.
Stabbing, beating, smashing a living thing.
Until all its bloody entrails come out into my hands.
Until I smell death.
Until mashed to a pulp, it dies with a final shudder…..