A home for parents
Chettinad, Tamil Nadu
Chettinad, Tamil Nadu
Narayan is a software professional currently stuck in his urban life, planning for a reverse migration to his village. He desires to gift a humble natural home to his parents in Chettinad, on the occasion of their wedding anniversary. They are now stepping into their 60th age, the auspicious time when a couple moves from Grihastha (household life) to Vanaprastha (retired life) as per Hindu traditions. He wants them to experience the ambiance of a traditional Chettinad home in their retired life. The home will be of modest size that an elderly couple can look after. This is an attempt by Thannal to bring back the indigenous Chettinad house typology to life at present.
A home for parants
It was those birds which gave those elderly couple some respite from the boredom of
the city. Two lovebirds. It was the female bird which first showed the courage to peck at the
grains the old mother placed at the window. The mother laughed for a long time saying that
the bird was like little Sophia in England. In the next few days, the male bird also came and
began to peck and eat the seeds. One day he flew to that mother’s finger and picked a few
grains from the packet in her hand and flew off in a hurry. When she thought that Rahul too
had liked the big seeds, her eyes filled with tears. Each day with her hands full of grains she
waited for those feathered friends. The birds came every day. Sometimes the female went
into the kitchen along with the mother and pecked at various things. At times the male whiled
away his time sitting on the clothesline in the room and listening to the father’s tales.
One day, on seeing that it was time for the female bird to lay eggs, the mother began
to collect and keep aside various twigs and such materials in the room. The male bird took
them one by one each day. The strings from her own daughter’s clothes that she had carefully
preserved, the cotton from the first socks she had worn, and the broken frame of the father’s
spectacles. The birds plucked off everything that old couple had saved for their children.
Then for days together the male bird was not to be seen. They began to get perplexed.
Would anything have happened to that nest? Those poor eggs…
One day, a letter arrived in the post, perplexing the couple who sat watch by the
window every day from morning till evening.
“For the information of dear grandpa and grandma,
Our dad and mom told that this coming Wednesday is the sixtieth wedding anniversary of
grandfather and grandmother. How eager we are to see you! As both of you have always
wished, dad and mom have prepared a Chettinad house in our village as a gift for you. As this
is supposed to be a surprise, dad and mom haven’t told you about this yet. But we felt that we
should tell you before they do. We are longing to see grandma and grandpa…
With thousand kisses,
Achu, Ammu, Priya, Sona”
That elderly couple could not contain their tears. Before their journey, they kept open the
whole pot of grains for those birds. They also attached that tear-stained letter with it.
On the return journey, a thousand memories enveloped them. The wastelands where
their old houses that had once stood lined up beside the red-soil paths. Their sparkling roofs
made of ochre and lime. The rooms where sunlight and darkness streamed through. Games
with friends that stretched till late evenings. The fishing during the rains. The vehicle stopped
at a place where it seemed that their old house had sprung up from the soil. Their children
and grandchildren and friends welcomed them with embraces. They could not believe it. On
the sixtieth anniversary of their wedding, they were again transported back into the marriage
hall, and they glittered with music and ceremonies.
When the rush had calmed down, the mother called the father aside and showed him
the wonder. Above the alcove where no one would see them, those two lovebirds had built
their nest. The female bird who was brooding over her eggs looked at the mother with
gratitude and winked.
Translated into English from Malayalam by Obed Ebenezer. S.