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Early Houses I Lived In - Poem by Daniel Trevelyn Joseph

First I remember is Government quarters
In Madras in 1948 when I was three years:
Dad with his dhoti tied half to show knees
Putting bricks to reach our kitchen in rains.

Another day, Temple my two-year-old thambi,
Breaking a glass, and crying “kaapi kotti poach,
Aandai, aandai” the last being his own expression!
Father shaving, elephant decorated passing the street.

I remember Captain David coming with glass box
Of mithais, and Huntly and Palmer biscuits,
And my parents making me feel that these are
Delicacies even for the Englishmen – the standard.

I remember driving a tri-cycle in front, and then
Accompanying Dad with his catapult he was good at,
And Temple passing stools, with worms in them,
But I was so fond of him that I was not repulsed.

Next house was in Srivilliputtur, when I went
To Class One in a school, and my teacher
Lived close, and I would go in a red coat
With a poorie in pocket to her house.

My mom would say that when I laughed.
In teacher’s house, three or four buildings away,
She could hear and identify my laughter,
At this distance: I was her eldest child.

We had horrid cock which once sat on
Temple’s head and pecked! He rolled
From upstairs on staircase, and landed
To cry and be smothered with talcum-powder.

Next we went to Jamburopuram in Madura.
I joined Nehru school for my second class,
At the street corner was our Church. Mom
Went for Christmas, and we had crackers at home.

Next door, was the tailor who owned the house,
He had two college-students as guests,
One in medical college, and studied whole
Night on tea, and vomited in the morning!

Dad transferred to Sankarankoil while I
Was in fourth standard, and we lived in
A busy road, full of thieves’ stories,
And one night papa thought mom was thief!

We shifted to a big house, and there was
No electricity there. Papa would go with
Petromax light and check the locks on
All doors, but looking back, we had no money!

Then we shifted to Narimedu, and dad
Had a small black dog, and I had health
Problems, and people said that I got
Infection from the dog, and that was the end.

We shifted nearby to another house, we lived
In one portion of it, with dry latrine, and fields
Behind. One bedroom one kitchen and middle
Room, but a compound with a nice neem tree.

Then we shifted to another house in the next
Compund known as 35 rupee house because
That was the monthly rent! Also a portion,
But Surendran my classmate in the next portion.

By now tow of my cousins were with us,
Studying in college, and stealthily listening
On our Tonfunk radio to Tamil film-songs,
Which Mom had forbidden, films were taboo.

Then we went back to 25 rupee house on
Salai Mudaliar Street where we used to play
From football, pole vault to every game,
On day Rajiv was born in Kamla paati’s house.

Temple and I played till six and came home
And did not even ask how mom was
And that made Dad angry, sadly angry.
The only other time was when I could not sing!

From this house when I completed fourth form
He was transferred to thakkalay border of Kerala
And we had a huge house there, with lot of open
Space, and even jack-fruit trees.

Here Dad taught me how to play table-tennis
On a make shift table, he had taught me tenni-quoit
That is ring-tennis in Sankarankoil, and once
I shot with my catapult a mynah, with partner grieving!

Being dissatisfied with my school, he asked for a transfer,
And we went to Nagercoil, and we lived just above my
Scott Christian High School, with owners opposite,
And whose younger daughter Parimala Gitanjali, I liked.

We went back to Madura for my sixth form, and lived
In the last house of Kattabomman street and next portion
Rajendrans lived, and Kelley the eldest son was in IIT
Kharagpur, and his two sister lived there next door to us.

We then went to Tiruchi, and house was in Puttur Agraharam
That is where the pucca Brahmins stay, but our church
All Saints’ was also close by, and I studed by PUC
In St Joseph’s college, where Fr Ehrart was Principal.

There being no BA English Literature, father took us
Back to Madurai and I joined Br XII English Literature
In Thiagarajar College near Teppakulam for three years.
We lived in ahouse which had an open well behind.

After two years, when mom’s parents moved to own house,
We shifted to the rented house at 16 kattabomman street,
Where Rajan my friend was in thenext portion. We slept
On moon-lit open terrace, studied, and went to touring talkies!

Then to Madras behind Chitra Talkies off Mount Road,
I got into the IAS and moved to Mussoorie in Uttar Pradesh,
But would come at end of training here, and used the flush
Toilet first time in life, and travelled in taxi with Seline.

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