Visiting places of your childhood can be of absolute delight. It can bring back cherished feelings and emotions of years gone by to the fore.
It was a breezy October morning last year that I arrived at bungalow number 9 of the tea estate “Tyroon”. My earliest memories of this place are of a sprawling double story bamboo structure with lush green lawns surrounding it on three sides. My family and I lived there for ten years, from 1985 till 1995
Nothing much had changed, apart from the fact that there was no sky blue “Ambassador” car parked in the porch and there no longer were a pair of Labradors barking up a tree somewhere. Even after almost twelve years the bungalow looked unchanged .The bamboo structure was still painted Cream and the wooden seams joining the blocks of woven bamboo still olive green. Everything was so unchanged that I could almost see the impish smile of my younger sister, winking at me from the far corner of the house in invitation for mischief all those years back.
The house is a beautiful example of old British bungalows built for tropical regions. A winding drive from the main gate brings you to the twin car porch, which my mother had kept surrounded by benches of beautiful seasonal flowers. On the left of the porch is the main entrance to the house that brings you to a small seating area on the left leading to the stairs for the first floor, a door to the guest bedroom on the right and a small gallery along the stairs, leading to the dining room and the pantry, followed by the kitchen. The little seating area had a pair of small white wicker chairs and a coffee table that my father used as a writing table to send off notes to the tea factory at all times of the day.
The stairs leading to the first floor open into the drawing room or the sitting room. They run parallel to the room and open with a two feet small wooden gate. It has a dainty latch to keep the dogs out and the toddlers in. The sitting room is typically British, with its huge mantle piece and an equally huge fireplace. While we were living there, my parents had these soft oversized couches with footstools and polished drift wood scattered artfully all over the room. The walls were covered in ethnic Indian painting by my mother and antique pieces gifted to us by my grandfather. My mother's prized possession was a pair of ancestral swords that he had given her when she got married. My father’s liquor bar was always at the far right corner of the room, which my mother covered in flower arrangement despite his protests. Despite the size of the room, it was always warm and inviting, tempting you to curl up with a book or your dog. I can never dig out a memory when I felt cold in that room.
A door on the right side of the room leads to a veranda overlooking the porch in the front and the lawns on the right side. The veranda gave us a beautiful view of the lawns beyond the porch too. I can still picture the flower bed bordering the grass on all sides and my father bent down to pull out the occasional weed from his carefully landscaped and tended lawns. In fact weeding the lawns was quite a regular activity for my parents, which they went through together religiously while sharing their evening cup of tea. The veranda by the way was surrounded by mesh to keep out the ever present mosquitoes.
In the veranda my mother had a set of very comfortable cane chairs. I remember I could hide in a chair for hours. They were so big that one could disappear in them. Apart from the cane chair, my sister and I also had tall racks of our toys at the bottom of the veranda, right next to the door that led to the drawing room. My father’s writing table was placed on the right, overlooking the lawns where we had our swing.
The left side of the veranda led to the master bedroom of the house that was used by my parents and beyond that the dressing room was converted into the children’s room (used by my sister and me) with an attached bathroom, connected to the drawing room with a shaded corridor from the outside spanning the master bedroom. The same corridor also led to the servant’s staircase. It could also be called the rear exit for the first floor.
The bungalow is now surrounded by lawns on three sides. The fourth side holds a fish pond, a kitchen garden, the dairy, a chicken house, and an old cook house with a meandering path leading to it from the old pantry that has now been converted into a kitchen.
The three sides of the lawns are surrounded by a two-meter high hedge with a string of mango and litchi trees just inside the boundary. The mangoes mostly cannot be eaten since they spoil even before they ripen due to the humidity in the atmosphere. That, though, is not the case with the litchis. They still stand witness to the hours my sister and i spent sitting under them peeling them with our hands and getting the sticky juice all over us in our hurry to eat as many as we could. Apart from eating them our other favorite pastime used to be taking revenge on the monkeys that hit our dogs with half eaten mangoes, which caused them to erupt into a barking frenzy. We would pelt the monkeys with the leechi seed till they ran away to take shelter in other trees.
Along the boundary of the bungalow grounds was a cinder lane that led to the main tea manufacturing factory. Beyond that a person could see acres and acres of green tea bushes. The greenery went as far as the eye could see. It was beautiful and it still remains unchanged.
I see that the pond still has fish, hens in the hen house and cows in the cowshed. I still see the mango and the litchi trees and there still are monkeys. The only things I don’t see are an old blue “Ambassador” car in the porch and a pack of barking Labradors.