After walking around the familiar places of Malwan for two days and feeling quite at home, I finally decided to venture into finding Mami's house. I had come to Malwan on a whim, without much of planning, without even a proper address of the house. My recollection of the road from the house to the beach was clear but soon it became clear to me that that road no longer existed. There were many new major roads connecting different villages to Malwan. Only thing I could go by was that, there was a big Pimpal tree on the corner and the house was in a part called Revtale (Lake of sand), true, the yard was like a big white soft sand box, lot of fun to play in. I remembered the compound wall made of locally mined red stone, but then again, many houses had those walls. People knew how to use the locally available materials and used those resources wisely, without any waste and in an environmentally safe way. Respect for Mother Nature was high as they would say in modern language; people did not leave any carbon foot prints behind.
Mami would diligently pick every fallen leaf, twig and a branch with a rake. At the crack of dawn she would heat up her bath water with dry leaves and twigs. I sniffed the air delicately for that imaginary sweet smell of burning leaves. Every morning before her bath she would sweep the east facing aangan (patio) with a broom made from the veins of coconut leaves. It was an art to make the broom by skillfully tying the base with a rope made from yet another coconut palm product called jute. Aangan was made with mudpack, it was cool to the bare feet, even in the midsummer. The concept of modern day cement patios had not reached Malvan yet. Every part of every fruit tree, palm, bush and flowering vine served a purpose. While providing Mami an income, and fresh flowers for puja, it also shaded the yard during those hot summer months. A very colorful Tulsi Vrindavan (traditional planter for Tulsi, made from packed mud) stood at the other end of the Aangan. Tulsi Vrindavan identified every Hindu Home, size and colors, even the designs were as unique as the artist who made it. Modern day Tulsi Vrindavans in many parts of the country are made of cement by a mason or factory made ceramics. After her bath Mami watered Tulsi with fresh well water and said her prayer facing east towards the Sun. As every Hindu ritual is based on scientific reason, facing the Sun for ten minutes, while praying, provided the woman with much needed vitamin D which she would otherwise not get.
My memories of the house were very clear yet they were no way sufficient to identify the house even in this beautifully preserved place called Malvan. It turned out that the friendly young lady named Snehal, the receptionist at the Sagar Kinara happen to live in Revtale. I was already excited to know that someone lived in that beautiful part of Malwan with cozy homes of red tiled roofs, adobe walls and yards with fruit trees. After inquiring about the house with Mami’s name, she knew the house. She explained how to get to the house which sounded lot more complicated than I was willing to admit, yet I ventured out hoping to explore rest of the Malwan along the way. Snehal also told me that there was a care taker who lived in the house.
I set out to find it. Roads were unknown but the houses along the way were old. Colorful old fashioned Tulsi Vrindavans were still visible. Houses near the beach and market were built closer to the street, devoid of any yard and many appeared to be multi-family dwellings.
I turned at the Banyan Tree as instructed by Snehal but found myself on one of the major roads. Traffic was not heavy but it was clear that the road did not lead to my destination. Not willing to turn around, I stopped two elderly gentlemen walking along the side of the road, with open umbrellas to shelter themselves from the midday Sun. They definitely knew where Revtale was but before sending me on my way they asked who was I visiting? I suppose my yoga pants, sunglasses and a hat gave it away that I was not from their neck of the woods. I told them who the house belonged to and quickly said that no family lives there. It turned out that they not only knew Mami, they were neighbors of hers and distant relatives of mine. They enthusiastically explained our relationship in detail. I was somewhat surprised to see the joy on their faces to discover a relative who they had never met. I remembered my mother talking about her family tree, though she was just one of the two children, she had many uncles, aunts and cousins. I wished I had paid more attention and had remembered all these relatives. I suppose, older you get, more important families become. I added my newly met relatives to my sparsely populated family tree.
Feeling excited with anticipation and with clear directions, I headed towards Revtale and finally reached the house. What I saw was a desolate house surrounded by an unkempt, weed-ridden yard. Parts of the house were visible thru the weeds and the spaces left open by the dead and gone fruit trees of my memory. Big old tamarind tree had also fallen victim to the time. The compound wall was in ruins, it had lost many of its stones, and a flimsy rope was tied to keep the stray cows out.
House was clearly neglected. Knowing full well that neither Aangan nor Tulsi Vrindavan will be there, I did not look for them. Even the Pimpal on the corner had suffered the lightening damage and was now showing the signs of aging. With tears in my eyes, I just stood there when a friendly lady next door came out to ask who I was looking for. I only said "I am lost." Rickshaw stopped near the house and a lady got out, must be the care taker or non-care taker. I had lost the desire to see the house from inside.
Was I expecting the house I remembered? After all, the person who loved and cared for the house is long gone, she has left me the memories to last a lifetime. With a heavy heart I turned around. I will not visit the house anytime soon but will always love and visit Malwan where Mami lived, where people still remembered her and talked about her fondly.