Society

A house full of children and a rose garden

HAPPY TIMES Today 12 houses stand on the land around the family house PHOTO: H. VIBHU  

The single, most endearing image that 76-year-old twins Sethulakshmi and Radhalakshmi have of their six-decade-old Kuttikat house is one full of growing kids and of their aunt ‘Kochuvava madam’. The house was built by their father, Manikkath Balakrishnan Menon, after he retired from service with the Cochin State. He was the District Magistrate of Cochin.

When it was built, in 1949, it stood on 50 cents of land and had a beautiful garden with a variety of trees. “Our father was fond of Edwardian roses and the garden was full of them,” remember the sisters as they sit in the small ante room of the house. They were 11 when the house was built and was used by children only for sleeping. They ate at their grandmother’s house that stood adjacent to this house. When the girls were in standard IV their brother was married off from this house. Memories of the reception excite the women even now. “It was held outdoors in the garden. A live band played the song, nacho, nacho maan ke more… Ice-cream, which was a novelty then, was served. It was not the readymade ice-cream,” they say.

The house as it stands today, without any alteration or addition, except for grilles that have come onto the windows, is a typical construction of its time, the forties. Its period style, inviting, friendly though small, cement stairway leading up to the house is a characteristic feature that gives it an old world beauty. It leads to a small veranda that enters the ante-room. This has three doorways leading to side rooms and a large room, which is now the dining room adjacent to the kitchen. The same setting of rooms is replicated on the first floor. A wooden stairway leads upstairs. By way of testimony of the good times the house has seen are sepia family pictures of weddings and garlanded couples. A few pieces of furniture from the past – a writing desk, straight line sofa, teapoys, poster beds – are vestiges of the old times, now used by the present family. For Govind Kuttikat who grew up in the house its high ceiling and red oxide floors are its most outstanding features.

“There is no particular architecture that was followed. A local carpenter did the woodwork. The pillars were made by masons who came from Guruvayur. There was no one to do mosaic work in Cochin then,” say the sisters delving back into time and ferreting out from dusty memories. It is the garden and the trees, more than the house that stirs them. “There were two mango trees, a jackfruit, jathikka, gooseberry, mangosteen, cocoa and many others.

When acchan lived here, food would come from outside. Our children were raised here,” they say. Radha worked in the Central Fisheries, while Sethulakshmi was with the Export Inspection Department.

While the women had full time jobs their children were raised in this house by their aunt, Kochunarayani.. “She was my mother’s sister. She lived with us. She monitored the children; we had plenty of help then. All our cousins too were raised here along with us. Kochivama madam lived to be a 93. She was very special. The important thing about the house is that it has always been full of people and growing kids.”

Today the 50 cents of land on which Kuttikat house stands has 12 other houses on its premises. Nothing of the garden exists but a few Asoka trees, remainders of the past, stand against the wall on Chittoor Road. Almost all the present members of the family have memoires related to the house, memories mostly of growing up in the rooms, of chatter, prattle and happy times together.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:41:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-house-full-of-children-and-a-rose-garden/article6574780.ece

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