Living spaces Society

The house with a view

Mandapam View at Pushpavanam Lane at Poojappura.Photo: S. Gopakumar   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar



Mandapam View was named so because it was possible to see the famous Poojappura Mandapam from this gracious house. That was 85 years ago. One can still see glimpses of the Mandapam ground but only from a few places in this grand old home that was once the residence of G.K. Pillai, a medical practitioner.

At present his granddaughter Sreelatha and her husband Gopalakrishnan Nair (G.K. Nair) live in the house that is tucked away in Pushpavanam Lane, near Poojappura Junction.

Granite steps lead to a huge pentagonal veranda that was enclosed a few years ago. The capacious house basks in the mellow sun, perhaps steeped in memories when it was filled with people. Heavy wooden doors with brass hinges and locks open into a large living room filled with memorabilia collected by many generations of residents. Thick walls, about 14 feet in height, huge windows and polished wooden teak roof make the room imposing. Although the original terracotta flooring has been retiled in some places like the living room, it has been retained in the bedrooms. Four decorative teak wooden panels adorn the four walls. “My father-in-law used to fill the longer rectangular panels with framed photographs of newlyweds. Since the room is so large, we were able to put in the furniture that was there in my house and the chairs and tables my daughter left behind when she moved to the United States,” says G.K. Nair. At present, the portraits have been replaced with framed pictures.

The drawing room opens into two sprawling bedrooms and a boudoir-like room. A hexagonal, airy bedroom, again with large windows, is filled with beautiful antique furniture that has been lovingly maintained. “The sheer size of the rooms and bathrooms make it difficult to clean and dust but we try and do it as best as we can. The bathrooms were all tiled when we moved into this place in 2000,” says Sreelatha.

The master bedroom has doors leading to the veranda and a formal dining room. The boudoir leads the way to a room in which there is a spacious cellar, a unique feature of the house. G.K. Nair lifts two heavy wooden doors built into the wooden floor and presto! a wooden staircase can be seen, which leads into the cellar stacked with old furniture and odds and ends. Enid Blyton fans would immediately connect with the house.

The house has been cleverly built on an incline and the views from the rooms in the rear are breathtaking. Vistas of coconut palms swaying in the breeze, sky rises and picturesque surroundings of Poojappura and its environs are spread out at your feet.

An informal dining room is adjacent to the formal one and it leads to kitchens and pantries of different sizes and a store. A good bit of modernisation has resulted in a modern kitchen and tiled pantries. Cupboards of varying sizes are stacked with crockery, old and new, and cutlery.

From the store one can see the large compound that slopes downwards. “When we were children, there was a dairy with 25 cows, some of them were prize winning ones. My grandfather was house proud and his sense of fastidiousness extended to every inch of the compound,” recalls Sreelatha.

One side of the house was renovated by architect G. Shankar and Sreelatha rents out that portion. The same wooden floors and attention to detail are evident in that portion although couple of the rooms have a concrete roof.

However, the sturdy wooden stairs that lead to the first floor is in this portion of the bungalow. A small balcony with carved railings has also been enclosed. There are two bedrooms and a hexagonal bedroom with a wooden floor, just above the one on the first floor, is the pride of the house. “My brothers and I used to study in this room. There were no buildings to obscure our views of the main road. We could see passersby, all the happenings at the Mandapam and vendors and sellers on the main road. The breeze was so invigorating. We never needed a fan in this room. It is still a favourite of ours though we hardly come up now,” says Sreelatha.

Three steps from the other bedroom on the first floor leads to a private terrace-like space to gaze at the skies and the surroundings. However, the surprise is the cavernous attic where one can easily walk around. “Civet cats are a huge problem for us. Although we have put nets and bulbs to drive them away, they still manage to sneak in,” says G.K. Nair.

It is easy to go back in time once you enter the house. Sitting in one of the roomy chairs in the room, Sreelatha reminisces: “This house was built by my grandfather when my grandmother, Ammukutty, expressed a desire to spend her last days in the city. He was a doctor in Malaysia and the family lived there. That was when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Then my grandfather came here and the family story goes that he had the house built in three months time. My grandmother and her three children lived in Malaya cottage with her cousins, the Travancore sisters – Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini. My grandmother lived here for three months only. Later, my grandfather returned from Malaysia and lived in the house all his life. My father, S. Ramakrishnan Pillai, a former Conservator of forests, and my mother, Viswabharathi Amma, also lived here,” says Sreelatha.

For a long time, the house was given to tenants and it was only after G.K. Nair retired that Sreelatha moved back into the house.

Mandapam View, which is more than 3,500 square feet, once stood on about 60 cents. In addition to the main structure, the house had a separate kitchen and several smaller buildings used for storing firewood and coconuts. Now, the area that once functioned as the kitchen, cattle shed, hen coop and so on has been partitioned and a new house has been built there.

Looking around their peaceful home, the husband and wife say that they hope to maintain the house and keep it spic and span till health permits. “Then it is up to our children to take a decision….” they sigh.

(A fortnightly column on houses in and around the city that are more than 50 years old.)

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:34:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/The-house-with-a-view/article14553230.ece

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