Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nani ka ghar

Like many other children my age, summer vacations meant going to my nani's home for a long period of time (more than a month). So till I was around 12, I would spend a month in this really really old house, which was built sometime in the 1920s (or the date on it claimed).

My nani lived in the Hazratganj locality of Lucknow, which is a commercial area. There were no playmates for me in the nearby area, so I spent a whole month each year just roaming around the house and visiting other relatives. Coming from Delhi, with its entertainment channel DD-Metro, Lucknow used to be a huge culture shock. With no TV and no friends, the house itself was the only place where I could amuse myself.

So onto a description of this house. Like I said, it was a very old house, and reflected the prevailing mindset at that time. The fact that rooms did not have attached bathrooms was one of them which struck me immediately. All the electrical fixtures too belonged to a by-gone era. The wiring was all visible, the switch-boards were mounted on the walls. The fans were of a breed which I saw next in my hostel room!

But apart from these changes which were visible, I was fascinated by what I couldnt see. There were many rooms and cupboards all over the house which were locked with big heavy locks. My vivid imagination ran wild with their possible contents. After alot of pestering, I was able to get some of them unlocked. And was I right about their contents!!

Old dusty toys which were mostly broken. As someone who had spent a large part of his childhood playing with GI Joes (which I regularly got on each birthday) and other electronic wizardry, these toys without even a clockwork mechanism appeared to be from other planet.

More addictive than this was the treasure of old comics which I dug out from somewhere. The were stashes of them all over the house and each time I thought I had found the last of them, there was another one waiting to be found. These comics too were quite old. They were the Indrajaal comics, containing the mythical tales of the Phantom and the magical tales of Mandrake.

Of these, Phantom was my favourite, although that may have something to do with the fact that there were more Phantom comics. The stories of the first masked hero, who was respectfully addressed as the chalta firta pret or the "ghost who walks" had a very vivid description of the whole Phantom mythology. Most of the stories concerned the current Phantom (the 21st one), but in many the exploits of his ancestors were recollected, usually by the Phantom reading old family records or by Old Man Moz, who was probably as old as the records themselves.

The Phantom had a skull cave, which contained many treasures that had been lost for centuries ... Excalibur, Charlemagne's crown, the asp that bit Cleopatra, Alexander's diamond cup etc etc. In addition to these, the Phantom possessed the gold beach of Keela-Wi (made of gold dust). There was a jade hut there in which each Phantom spent his wedding night (although I did not realize what this fuss about THE night was ;) ). At home, my parents mostly tried to steer me away from comics and each summers, this was a welcome break.

Of course, these comics were at best, a temporary solution to my loneliness. There was an element of mystery about some rooms on the terrace, where I rarely went. The huge terrace was a place where I was not allowed to go alone. After doing the same things, exploring the same places and reading the same comics, I still was BORED.

Once some cousins of my age shifted to Lucknow, I would spend little time in this house where I had spent many magical moments. Playing cricket or computer games or cards was definitely more appealing than moping around indoors. Soon I stopped going there altogether.

One fine day in college (almost 10 years later), when I was supposed to make a quiz, I thought that I will put a question on the Phantom. After some researching on the net, all my old memories started rushing back. All that I had read in the comics made more sense, as I had a complete picture of the Phantom myth now. And with the comics, I remembered about the times I had spent in the house. A time, when summer vacation meant VACATION; where there were no board exams or summer projects of MTPs to worry about.

I sometimes miss that place which I have all but forgotten. With no one living there now for years, it would probably be in a dreadful condition. I have no desire to see it again. I want my last childish recollection of it be a happy one.


Blogger atish said...


9:45 PM  

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