One day after my father’s funeral in India, my two uncles took us to go see his childhood home where my brother and I used to play. Now someone else owns it and rents it out. We hadn’t seen this place in a few years. Much was different.
When I was five is when that stone wall was built. It had been just a little bit of wire fence (if you could call it that) and open fields before. And of course, the customary gate with the family name was added. The new owners never changed it.
In the old days, there was a cow in that white barn with the clothes hanging from it now. I always dreamed of petting the cow or riding on it, but no one ever obliged, wisely. On the back side of the house were numerous cashew trees, with cashew nuts hanging from fruits. Sometimes we would collect the cashews and roast them. Too bad I didn’t appreciate the taste of cashews back then!
Behind this grove of plants in the front yard was a rubber tree farm. Now it’s overgrown and weedy. And behind that was a fence of bamboo plants, which separated the yard from the clean green rice paddies.
This little dip in the road, it used to be a huge gap that connected the rice paddies on either side. It was always full of water, like a big ditch but right in the middle of the road. Even when we drove over that road by car, it had to drive through the water to cross.
One night, in the pitch black, my dad walked my brother and I across this dirt road to go somewhere. We waded through the water. He shined his flashlight. Just a few feet from us in that water, was a skinny snake lifting its head six inches above the water and peering at us. And we kept on sloshing through the water.
This is the well we got all our water from.
After my dad died, we stood here by the well with my two uncles.
My dad’s older brother said, I remember when your dad fell in, and I had to get him out.
Then my brother said, He told me you fell in, and he had to get you out.
It’s amazing how stories shift depending on the storyteller. I think after my dad died is also when I first started to realize he was probably two years younger than I actually thought he was and than all his paperwork said he was.
When I think of this house, I think of how big everything looked when I was 3, 5, and 9. I think of sleepovers with my cousins. My cousin Rolson once did pushups with his bare knuckles on the front steps. My grandma once held me, patted my back, and said, “Baboooh, Baboooh,” and that was the first time I remember hearing that word.
We had a pet monkey in the yard, in a cage. Her name was Seethamma, after a mythological queen. She was not happy in the cage, as you might imagine. That’s when I learned that monkeys had their own language to cuss in. It always sounded like she was screaming curse words. We fed her fruits. One time she reached out through the cage and ripped a part of my brother’s shirt with her claws.
I don’t think we had her for too long.
There are many more memories, and I hope my mind can hold on to them. It was special to go back and see this house at age 26.