Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Three generations, four decades...

...and I still exist.

I will not tell you a lie. The picture you are seeing is that of my younger days. But, don't you, the human beings, do the same thing? So, this was my picture of my prime youth. Isn't it beautiful?  I wish to tell you my story - in 4 parts, each part a decade of my existence. And covering lives of three generations, the so called my owners!
If you come to see me today, you might see my new avatar, but mostly my door locked. But then it is not the first time that I have been locked up. Nor do I believe it to be the last time. Ups and downs, I have understood, are part of existence.

So, shall we start with my first decade, the decade of 1970s?


I quickly became talk of the town. Nay, talk of the village. Major populations in India lived in villages those days. Gujarat was no exception.
I was beautiful, or would you like to call me handsome? I leave it to you. My owner, then, was a septuagenarian old man, very authoritarian, very dominating. He had lost all his lands to some Government laws during early part of India's independence. I was the only possession left in his hands! And so, he became very strict with his grand children. Dadaji, as he was called, would often tell them, ' We have no property. The only property you can build would be your education.' And, I became the only house in the village to have seen three doctors, two engineers, a pharmacist, a chemical technologist, a teacher and a microbiologist getting created under my roof. It was an era of education, and since our village bordered around an educational town, many relatives of my owner sent their children to us to get them educated. I became famous, and a name got attached to me - 'Vidya Dham', an abode of learning.

Let me give you a quick idea about the social life that I had witnessed then. One day the post man came home with a message that a trunk call was to materialise for him from the neighbouring state. He rushed to the post office and waited for nearly 2 hours. Usually people anticipated a message of concern in such circumstances, those days.  My owner's eldest son, known as 'Bade Bhaiyya', was traveling to a new and upcoming township in Madhya Pradesh, a neighbouring state, by train. And the trunk call message indeed was of concern. In no time the whole village knew that Bade Bhaiyya had suffered a heart attack and was pulled out of the train at a small railway station near Nagpur People started pouring in offering emotional, and monetary support for Dadaji to leave by the next available train.

Communication, and commutation means were few, and far between, but people were close to each other.


Came the decade of the '80s, and I started seeing mass exodus. All those doctors, engineers and technologist sons of Bade Bhaiyya moved away, along with Bade Bhaiyya to foreign countries (USA, Canada etc), and one son moved to South, Bangalore. The only days of hustle and bustle I experienced were when these grand children got married one after the other.

It was a strange experience. All these youngsters, who had accepted all my short comings of space, darkness and 'old' fashioned looks during their formative years, started finding faults during those short visits. Some even would stay in other people's homes.

I became an empty nest for Dadaji. He was alone. Yes, I was obliged by getting a phone installed within my premises. Dadaji did not have to go to post office to receive disturbing news any more. But then, I was not alone. Many homes in our village had gone through similar phase of emptiness.

I was looking depressed. Dadaji left this world, alone, in my lap. I cried silently.

People left mechanically soon after rituals ended, and I saw a big lock being placed on my main door.

I became a mute witness of the 'growth', and 'development' around me. The greenery you see in my picture of youth was gone. New homes next to me came up, made of cement and concrete. Money was coming from abroad. The new houses were physically very close to each other, but their doors did not open into each others'.  I could sense people becoming jealous of each other.

Phones were installed in many houses, and streets started buzzing with the sounds of motor cycles. But the people were talking in hushed tones. Hearts of the people were shrinking. Society was witnessing progress.


In the early '90s suddenly my locks opened. Bade bhaiyya came with pots of money from abroad. I was in a bad shape. He bought over a neighbouring dilapidated house too. I was curious. Some maps started coming in with people of new era. I thought I would be given a make over...

No, instead, I was mercilessly demolished, so also the next door house. And our combined new avatar came up in a few months time. I was officially given the name - 'Vidya Dham'. A two storied, spacious, modern house with ample light and breeze, made up of cement and concrete. Was I happy? Can't say. I had to change with the times. May be I had become old fashioned. Modern needs had to be embraced.

 I thought all those youngsters will now come back, as all their complaints were addressed. But it turned out to be a mirage. Instead, a totally stranger moved into my second floor, and I learned a new terminology called 'tenant'. The solace was that the ground floor was occupied by Bade Bhaiyya. But he would lock me up often for short periods when he would visit different towns. He had acquired a vehicle of his own and practically every home had a telephone installed.

People looked strangers to each other. They all had their own vehicles and nobody needed to go to post office or for that matter even anyone else's house to make their communications.  India was growing in stature. People were becoming independent!


The new millennium had opened with a bang. I had accepted my fate of remaining locked for almost 11 months every year. Bade Bhaiyya would come for 3-4 weeks every year, do some good to the strangers by offering scholarships, or medical assistance, or even some monetary help for marriages etc and then pack up. The stranger at the first floor has become the care taker. 

The village has got roads, everyone is flashing their mobile phones, and people are competing with each other in spending more fossil fuel in their cars and motorcycles. Their homes are also filled up with variety of electrical and electronic gadgets in kitchens, study rooms, drawing rooms etc. But the truth is also that more people are filling up the hospitals and temples, and mosques and churches, and ashrams...

To my mind, people have become neurotic, robotic, heartless, greedy and selfish. All in the name of progress!

I still exist, even after Bade Bhaiyya has gone forever, in a hope that the third generation will returns with a breeze of simplicity one day. I will wait for that day.

Dilip Patel

This post is part of the contest Tell a Tale on

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