Society

A home in the sun

Krishna Mandir

Krishna Mandir   | Photo Credit: S Gopakumar

Sunny Krishna Mandir at Kannammoola has been home to five generations of the same family

Golden yellow flowers crown the window of the ground floor of this sun-lit bungalow at Kannammoola. Neatly trimmed bushes frame a stately two-storeyed house built in the vernacular architectural style of Kerala. Built in the thirties, by Rugmani Amma, Krishna Mandir has been home to five generations of the same family.

“It was built by my great-great-grandmother,” says K Pramod, pointing to a stately portrait of a proud matriarch in white that has pride of place in his living room. Pramod and his wife, Srilatha, made Krishna Mandir their home after Pramod’s mother, K Shyamala Devi, passed away about two years ago.

“Since my father, N Karunakaran Nair, was an engineer in the telephones, I grew up in Bengaluru and this was where we used to come for our summer vacations as my grandparents used to stay here. In those days, it was a quiet place and there were hardly any cars on the road. Over the years, the character of the place has changed. After my mother passed away, we wound up our work in Dubai and decided to return to Thiruvananthapuram,” he explains.

Showing portraits of his grandparents in the living room, he points out that the distinguished man in formal dress is his maternal grandfather Captain VK Prabhakaran Thampi, who was private secretary to Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last monarch of erstwhile Travancore, while an oil of a serene woman holding a child on her lap is his grandmother, L Kanakamma.

“The child on her lap is Pramod. In fact, he was born in this room next to the living room. Apparently, it was a difficult labour and so he turned out to be the last baby to be born in this house,” says Srilatha.

Kanakamma’s parents were Krishna Pillai and Lekshmi Amma and Pramod feels that was how the house came to be called Krishna Mandir.

Date with the past

Along with the house, Pramod seems to have inherited a great deal of antique teak and rosewood furniture, portraits and old photographs from another era that lent an old-world charm to the living room.

Doors on both sides of the sunny portico lead to a study and a pooja room on either side of the house. The door to the pooja room is tucked away under a wooden staircase. A door that opens from the garden leads to an office room that was used by Captain Thampi.

“His visitors did not have to step into the house to meet him. They could have access to his room from the garden itself,” explains Srilatha.

A tiny room from the living room leads to a study that Srilatha now uses as her studio to paint. It was used by her mother-in-law till her demise.

White-painted windows and wooden shutters with glass panes frame the cheerful garden while Srilatha says that there is a breeze all through the day when the windows are left open.

The red oxide floor has been replaced with tiles in most of the rooms on the first floor and renovations were done to make the home more in with the times.

Spacious and grand

Since their children are studying and working in other cities, the sprawling house is quiet but for the steady drone of vehicles that whiz by on the road.

Sunlight streams into each and every airy room with high wooden ceilings. A modern dining room, kitchen and attached bathrooms were later additions, adds Pramod. “The dining area was an open space and then there was an old fashioned kitchen. Before an aunt’s wedding, my grandfather made some additions to the house and enclosed the dining area and built an bedroom adjacent to it,” says Pramod.

The formality of the well-maintained garden in front of the house gives way to a neat backyard filled with coconut trees, mango trees covered with pepper vines and the odd custard apple bush or two.

The backyard is accessible from the dining room and a modern kitchen that has a store and a bedroom next to it for the domestic help. Rooms to store coconuts and firewood, commonly found in houses of those days, are situated away from the house and so is a car shed.

The bedroom next to the dining room is attached to a small ante-room that is next to the pooja room. Filled with the fragrance of joss sticks, the pooja room can be accessed from the portico as well.

Srilatha opens a locked wooden door fixed on the landing of the wooden staircase with wooden newel posts, balustrades and handrails.

Stepping into an open balcony that is flooded with sunlight, Srilatha says apologetically that the rooms on the first floor are quite dusty as those are not used all that much. But the warm space with a view of the road below makes you want to linger to watch the world race by. The three bedrooms on the first floor and a smaller room have warm wooden flooring and high wooden ceilings. With plenty of windows on all sides, each of the white-painted rooms exude warmth and homeliness. An open terrace has a view of the greenery in the backyard and in a corner there is a staircase that goes down to the kitchen.

Pradeep says that the attic can be accessed through a trapdoor but there are no steps and one would need a ladder to reach the trapdoor. “One can easily stand on the attic and it is as roomy as the rooms below,” he adds.

Srilatha admits that she did take time to get used to the spacious home and compound after living in a modern apartment. “Every day is an adventure in this house. One day, there is no water, another day, there is some drainage problem... all the issues one faces while living in a nearly-100-year-old home,” says Pradeep with a laugh.

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

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 4:39:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/grand-old-krishna-mandir-stands-tall/article18508138.ece

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