We tried to trace the landmarks with the help of my aunt’s memories and reached a wide lane, a Chai stall in the corner, a closed office-like building, and a black gate adjacent to it, looking like it would open to a house, but there was a school signboard above it.
The door was open and we could hear the enchanting voices of kids inside. It was almost evening and kids were there for tuition after school hours. We stepped in and saw two ladies in their early 40s tutoring the kids. We explained to them why we were here and we just wanted to see the house from inside and take a few photographs for memory. They refused at first. But then I remembered carrying a digital copy of an old photograph of this house, in which my father and mother along with my aunts and uncle are sitting right on the rounded entrance steps, at the same spot where the teacher was standing holding a book.
We somehow got her to agree on giving us a little tour from inside.
Most of the rooms were locked and there was no light there. The back of the house was inaccessible as well, but to my astonishment, there was enough to spark my aunt’s memory who recalled every detail of their lives in that house and as we walked from room to room; who slept where, how the stoves were placed outside the kitchen where my mother used to cook in summers, and how my brother used to peddle on his tiny bicycle all over the outside corridor. The trees of custard apple, lemon, and papaya covering one side of the house were no longer there. There used to be a garden in the front, which was now replaced by a tiled floor. The stairs leading to the roof were now blocked by rustic furniture and were off-limits.
As my aunty recalled, “The doors and windows are still the same, even the floor inside the rooms is the same. We use to have a garage at the back of the house and a back door. It was a very peaceful time. We use to play and go to schools and colleges from here.”
I noticed irritation and agitation on the faces of those two teachers when my aunt spoke to me in Sindhi particularly. I couldn’t help but notice the disapproval in their gestures and expressions. They even asked me at one point not to take any more pictures of the house from inside. So, I kept my camera away from my shoulder while I tried imagining the better old days, my father, mother, brother and grandparents and the rest of the family had in this very house. I tried listening and absorbing every sight of this house as my aunt kept sharing pieces from her memory. But later, I couldn’t help but wonder, if the reservation was on us visiting suddenly in the middle of the day or the fact that we speak Sindhi!