When thinking about my growing up years, there are a few homes I recall with much fondness. Homes I never lived in, but where my brother and I spent hours with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
59 Langford Road was one. Close to Norris Road/Rose Lane where we lived, we would often walk up or cycle there. On weekends for sure, but also on weekdays after doing homework. Sometimes mom would leave us there if she had things to do on her own, and sometimes she would come along.
The house was built in traditional British style, with a frontyard and a backyard. The house next to it, on the right was its twin, a mirror reflection, with a common wall. The left side of the house had a narrow unpolished granite passage between itself and a compound wall, that was shared with Elgin Flour Mill. This wall was really high. In fact, all the compound walls were high. We needed to stand on a table to see the neighbours on the right, but we could never see over the Elgin Flour Mill wall.
The gate was small, but wide enough for my uncle’s Falcon scooter and aunt’s Suvega moped to enter. There were ledges on either side of the gate, where we would sometimes sit and watch the horse carriages, cycle rickshaws, cycles, red BTS buses and occasional cars (usually Ambassadors, Fiats, Morris Minors, Heralds) go by. It was a relatively busy road even in those days.
Creeping up the front wall was a hardy Woodrose plant. We would wait for the flowers to bloom and dry before plucking them off. Breaking the top of the flower would release the velvety black seeds. Dry Woodroses were in demand for flower arrangements in those days, but they would have to be proper and not broken on top.
A tall Christmas tree occupied pride of place in the front compound. We would sometimes think about how nice it would be to place a star on top during Christmas, but it was way too high to reach. My Grandpa loved roses, so there were a few of those, that he caringly nurtured. One large bush of small pink roses stood apart from the rest.
When it rained heavily, the entire front would get flooded, and we could sail paper boats. As soon as the rain stopped, the water would gently soak into the earth. It would become slushy in the mud, but that’s why there were granite stones laid out from the gate to the house.
Tall narrow-leafed croton plants were on either side of the granite steps to the front door. This was the entrance to the verandah that led to a large high-roofed hall. Another door opened from the verandah into a small side room which was used as a bedroom. There was another large bedroom with a bathroom attached. This bathroom could be entered from outside as well, for it had a door near the Elgin Flour Mill wall. The kitchen and one other room, and one toilet were located at the backyard, separate from the rest of the house. It was a great place to play hide-and-seek.
Once, my uncles had an encounter with a thief in the narrow passage between the house and the Elgin Flour Mill wall. They had found clothes missing periodically from one of the rooms. The thief had been entering the compound and fishing the clothes with a hooked wire through a hole in the window mesh. One day, they waited for him. He was caught and thrashed, and put in the Shoolay Police Station lock-up. Subsequently, Tommy, a lovely black dog, came to live with the family to ward off such thieves.
There was a time when the “other” room at the back was where the rooster, hens and all their chicks lived. We would scramble in the hay, looking for newly laid eggs. The rooster would sometimes fly up on the high wall, or venture into the neighbour’s compound, only to be chased right back. Then it became my uncle’s HAM Radio shack. I used to sit around and listen to him “rogering” people around India and the world. Once, he connected with a school in Australia on HF, and I sang ‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’ for the children there. It was good fun and we could hear the children sing the same song too.
As we played in the backyard, waiting for grandma’s dosas and tea, we would sometimes see the shining silver chimneys atop the red flour mill building, swirling to and fro, indicating that flour was being milled. Sometimes we would see the operator at one of the windows and wave out to him. He would usually wave back.
Grandma had a coconut grater seat, where one could sit and grate the coconut on the cerated blade fixed to the end of it. It was fun to help grate coconut, but the seat could be a killer! I think most of us would have had the odd graze on the leg while squeezing past this seat.
There was a small tank in the backyard. It was used to store water which was used for many purposes. Sometimes water from here would be pumped up to the overhead tank using a small motor. Cannot remember what was so interesting in the tank, as these pictures of my brother and cousins indicate…
The old house at 59 Langford Road was knocked down many years ago (in the late 1980s probably) and in its place was built Anand Villa, which still stands. It is now prime commercial property with basement and multiple floors.
Different buildings stand in the neighbouring plots as well. The next door twin house went earlier than 59, and the red Elgin Flour Mill building made way for The Elgin apartments.
The road is now a very busy one-way artery and continues to provide crucial connectivity between Double Road and Hosur Road. Many of the trees that lined the road are no longer there. It is not such a nice place to walk, but for those in the neighbourhood, walking would be quicker than driving.
More than anything, walking evokes pure nostalgia.
Wow Brings back old memories.Thats pradeep and sunitha alright at the door. Nice write up arathi