I sometimes see it in my dreams! The spacious rooms, the massive balconies & the enormous terrace garden that we had on the first floor of a 10 storey building in Kolkata. I’d buy that flat in a heartbeat but the irony is it’ll never be on sale as it’s the property of the defence ministry at the end of the day. Moving from a 2 bed to a 4 bedroom apartment is probably the most fun thing that can happen to a large family, three-legged dog included! It was also a good change to be living on the first floor as it meant that I could get to the playgrounds and the school bus stop more quickly. I had even planned ‘escape’ routes. I was 12. My imagination overactive!

I got to have the smallest room in the house which barely fit a bed. It was my study room & my getaway from my older siblings. It was all mine! Over the couple of years we lived there, I managed to fill the walls of my tiny room with hand painted posters of cartoon characters, slogan banners & random craft pieces. My study table was actually 2 tin trunks stacked atop each other & I used an old tablecloth to cover the cold surface. The tiny window overlooking a pump house & the terrible smelling Tolly Nullah(a rivulet of the mighty Hooghly river) provided many an inspirational moment specially during the monsoons when the nasty smells were drowned by the flood waters. Blissful! Occasionally one could spot boats sailing down to the Hooghly. Narrow boats carrying bamboo to some yet unknown destination. And the boatmen sang. They sang lilting tunes of the river and worshipped the mighty goddess Durga through their songs.

The terrace was the family favourite. Never mind it was overlooked by all the residents in the opposite building. My father really toiled over the little garden he created there. It was the talking point of all the neighbours which made my dad rather proud. He grew some humble vegetables & many ornamental flowering plants too and it was a haven for the local birdlife and bug life too. I’m convinced he’s blessed with the greenest hands. The terrace and the balconies were verdant and always overflowing.

The living room was a sanctuary for all our friends and it served as a diner, a cafe, a dancefloor, a plotting room, a doll house, a theatre et al. Many hearts were broken there & many hearts came together too for it was in this house that my older sister first met her then sweetheart and now husband of 18 years! I remember the huge Naga spears displayed on the wall. They were fierce looking guardians with their red, black & white central holding fabric covering. I used to think that they were meant to protect us from everything. Perhaps they did.

I miss that lovely flat that was our home for 3 years. Someday I hope to go back to Kolkata to see the flat again… I wonder what its current residents think of it.

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