“Where ever men have lived there is a story to be told.” Thoreau
This is Mylikakunnel. The literal translation is ” The hill where the peacock sits”. All my life I have not seen a single peacock around the place.
This is where my grandmother grew up. This is where my dad and his ten siblings grew up. This is where I spent my childhood. To all of us who grew up in Mylikakunnel it is more than a house. It is a treasure trove of memories.
Myliks as we affectionately refer to the house tells a story better than any book. Each and everyone room in Myliks is a chapter from the story.It is difficult to walk in to a room without a wave of nostalgia sweeping over you.
All chapters in this story share a commonality, booming resounding laugher.Let me give you a sneak peek into a few of the chapters.
Prelude : The facts
My grandfather was the architect and the engineer. He renovated the existing house and extended its area and usability. He studied for civil services exams, was ranked third and found a lifetime of peace tending his estate.
My grandmother never made it for the house-warming. She was in the hospital having just given birth to my uncle.
The house is as old as my dad’s third brother, the 9th child in a family of 11 children.
Chapter One: The Entrance
The most permanent feature at the entrance of Myliks is the round table. Invariably there will a couple of newspapers on the table. Over the years the number of cigarette butts in the ashtray have reduced with three of the five boys having given up smoking. Which brings me to the point that my granddad strongly forbade smoking! Is it a wonder then that all his sons were chain smokers at one point in time.
On one of the tiles near the round table there is a broken bangle piece embedded inside the marble. Ask anyone of us , we will tell you where to find it. If you were to look by yourself,one lifetime would never be sufficient.
Chapter two: The side office
Supposedly this is where my dad and his siblings were taught by my granddad’s good friend Padipikkuna Sar ( the sir who teaches). Sar, a gentle and patient man has taught even the grandchildren, me being the last and he has used his stick on only one person,my dad. Is it a wonder?
This is where my aunt knelt and prayed to St.Martin when she got news that she has not passed her ninth grade. All her siblings sat around mocking her. But my aunt a strong woman ( well after the exams) kept her faith and what do you know, the education minister revised the curriculum that year and as a result all ninth graders were automatically promoted to the tenth grade.
Chapter three : The formal dining room
This is where my grandmother would sit while my sister sat under her chair, tangling my mothers crotchet. My grandmother would let down her sari end to cover the bottom of the chair when my mother passed by. Thus my sister was spared from my mother’s wrath.
Chapter four: The main dining room
My favourite chapter by far . Every meal is a cornucopia of choice. When I was growing up there was a ‘children’s section’ of the table which served less spicy meats and curry. Pillachan was the cook. Feeding 11 children and their children is by far no easy feat. But my grandmom and Pillcahan did so with ease.
This is where my uncle coined the word ‘breading the butter’. He would simply sandwich two slices of bread between hundred grams of butter!
I do not favour the dining room for its meals only. Delightful though they are I am more partial to the conversations. At our get -togethers our meals extend to a couple of hours of eating and talking. I have heard all the stories of my dad and his siblings but I never tire of hearing them one more time!
Chapter five: The Kitchen
Pillachan worked his magic here. There is a huge storage box that contained rice to feed an entire army. When her wedding was fixed my aunt was sent to Pillachan to learn the basics of cooking. Dutifully she took a book and pen, sat on the rice box with her legs dangling, taking notes from Pillachan. He taught her how to make a chicken curry. He told the measure of the ingredients and his tips on making a tasty chicken curry . It was a one on one cooking class.
Later on after my aunt married my uncle she decided to make him a chicken curry. My aunt had all the ingredients and Pillachan’s recipe and his step by step instructions. There was however a tiny problem. All through the cooking lessons my aunts back was facing Pillachan and so she had no clue as to what the texture of the cooked chicken should be!
Norman Mc Clean wrote that if there is a river flowing somewhere in your childhood you tend to hear it for the rest of your life. Growing up in Myliks, I think something similar can be said of laughter.
If there is booming, resounding laughter in your childhood you learn to sleep through all the noise.