Most of the time a place is in the mind, for instance my mother’s house – I say my mother’s house because it went away after her. Now the house is in my mind, the rooms, the furniture, and the colour of the walls.
The walls were at one point painted blue, the blue chosen very carefully from hordes of shades of blue. I fancied blue because it is the colour of sea, skies. In those days, people went for lime washed walls, or coloured each of the rooms in different hues or chose blue just as one of the colours and not because they wanted to bring the sea and the skies indoors. My mother partook in my dream of bringing the sky into all the rooms – the living room, the bedrooms, even into the kitchen.
The blue we chose seemed the right colour on the shade board. Prior to that we had an apple green living room, sea shell pink dining room, and washed down lavender bedrooms. Slowly as the first coating was given, the blue paint washed out the multiple colours that I had grown to hate. After the second and final coating of blue, I did not know what to do with my blue house. It was a disaster. I reckoned that the skies and seas were the best where they were. I do not know how my mother felt, but the blue poured into me through the pores of my skin. My father wouldn’t have had any opinion about the colour of the wall. It would have been a job well completed for him, and for another seven years till the walls became blotched with dirt and oil stains there was nothing to worry.
My mother and I went shopping for sofa covers and curtains. We chose a fabric in blue with a spray of pale white flowers. We used the same print for the curtains as well. Once the wall gets painted blue, nothing much could be done, we felt. We could only add more blues. Now after all these years, I think I can handle blue walls more imaginatively. I might throw in whites to give a stately finish, or bold pinks and purples to create drama. But not so in those days.
On a holiday to Dehradun I bought a beautiful lamp made of seesham wood. I found in one of those dimly lit and subterranean antique shops that Dehradun was famous for. A shade in raw silk made the picture perfect. I packed the shade and the lamp carefully. I visualized the lamp at different places in the sitting room, visualized the warm glow that the light would throw.
On our return to Madras, I cleaned the house that had remained locked for the three weeks that we were away in Dehradun – swept the floor, cleaned the thick layer of dust on tables and shelves and polished the glasses and mirrors. I wanted my blue home to be ready to accept the new lamp. It did accept the lamp — it took the lamp in so much that the seesham wood and the raw silk got drowned in the howling blue of the walls. I gave up after that.
And so memories of my teens float through a mist of blue!