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HindustanTimes Tue,30 Sep 2014

The house that built me

Pallavi Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, April 15, 2014
First Published: 09:00 IST(15/4/2014) | Last Updated: 09:06 IST(15/4/2014)

What is it with the houses we are born into and spend our childhood in? I often wonder why my eyes well up as soon as I remember the house I spent the first six years of my life in. I don't recall much but the fountain in the garden still stands out vividly in my memory.

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Trails of colour, the aftermath of Holi and small details like the name of my maid and the lone swing on the roof with a wooden seat haunt my dreams. They are enough to make me crave to go back, again and again. The song, 'The house that built me', by American country artist Miranda Lambert tugs at my heartstrings whenever I hear it.

"I know they say, you can't go home again
I had to come back one last time"
And the final stanza
"Won't take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me."

My parents moved house a few times before I got married but somehow I am foolishly attached to the house I was born in. In a large city of Uttar Pradesh, it was a rambling house with a factory on the ground floor.

Our family manufactured and exported brushes of all kinds, made from pigs' bristles. Sacks of the bristles would be lugged in to convert into fancy brushes for personal use and for artists and painters.

I'm certain the trade must be banned now or it would have animal lovers up in arms against the senseless cruelty! There was always a lot of noise with machines clanging. While going about their work, the labourers would invariably smile and call out to me on my way to school and back.

I recall wrinkling my nose while going down to play every day as the air would be full of dust from the cleaning of the bristles.

A few years ago I got the opportunity to pass through the city of my birth and I again felt that strange pull and wanted to feast my eyes on my old house. With a thudding heart I walked down the street, looking left and right for familiar sights.

To my dismay, I was confronted with a huge, modern apartment housing numerous flats. Gone was the colonial house with its ramshackle garden and fountain. There was no clatter of machines or the din of workers.

Devastated, I stood there, stock still, for a long time while a multitude of emotions went through me and the realisation slowly dawned that the only thing constant in this journey called life is change.

I was a different person now but that house and everything connected with it had shaped me in many ways, good and bad. I was grateful, and I think I grew up then and finally laid my old ghosts to rest.

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