The house right adjacent to our home has been deserted for almost a decade now. The last person to stay there was Sengupta grandma, who had a loud, hoarse voice – a voice of which everyone in the vicinity (including the stray dogs, cats, and crows) was frightened. I remember, once a crow was sitting peacefully on the wall, facing her balcony, pecking at something with great concentration. I was right at my window, hiding and observing the crow’s activities, imagining myself to be a budding Salim Ali (Well, I was really small at that time, and considering that, I shouldn’t be laughed at)!
Suddenly, I heard a threatening roar and a strain of abuses being hurled at the poor bird, and out came grandma with her stick, waving it wildly at the bird. Startled, the crow flew away, leaving its food behind. Seeing me stunned, her scowl soon broke into a toothless smile, and she said that the birds nowadays have become pretty ‘oshobhyo’ (uncivilized!) and they create nuisance wherever they sit.
She never allowed any unwanted sapling in her prim, treeless backyard. Even if a rebellious baby plant protruded from the soil, or from the moss-covered wall, she plucked it immediately. Her rooftop was absolutely plant-less as well.
Sitting in her balcony, on a comfortable couch, she used to shout at passers by, who probably made the mistake of standing near the entrance of her house. I guess she hated people as well. A true misanthropist by heart!
When I was in my 8th class or so, one day, I saw grandma’s daughter helping her out of the house with her baggage. I learnt that she was leaving for good. My own grandmother commented, ‘now there will be a little peace in the vicinity’.
It has been almost a decade since then. The house is still there, while nature wrapped its arms around it slowly and stealthily. Just the other day, I noticed a pretty banyan tree spreading its branches in great vigour on the roof, exactly where the antenna of grandma’s TV was once placed. The roof is now cluttered with mud, and in it are growing various plants, thanks to our gardener who casually throws away grass, unclaimed saplings of neem and succulents on the other roof.
Stray cats now peacefully make love, give birth to kittens, and sleep on the dirtied couch that is still placed in her balcony, just as she had left it.
Warblers and mongoose now nest in the foliage of the unkempt little jungle, that had once been her small backyard ‘garden’. Civets frequently make nuisance over her roof.
Within the span of a decade, I gradually saw her house being engulfed by things she always detested. Her house grew to be a haven for all those she considered ‘uncivilized’, be it the greenery, animals, or petty thieves. Whenever I go out into my balcony, to look at the tiny speck of greenery left amidst the concrete jungle growing around, I always think of her – the uncompromising way in which she always prevented any unwanted being from entering, growing or littering in her premises.