In the early 1900's, a mansion panning over an acre, with a vast backyard, a hand-drawn well, a cow shed and a poultry farm was built in Chirala, a small beach town in Prakasham district of Andhra Pradesh, by Rao Bahadur Ravula Subbarao, a leading businessman and his brother Ravula Hariprasad Rao, an established advocate.
'Hariprasad Gruham' has been serving as home to the Ravula family ever since.
A rooster cackles at 4 AM. A distant sound of clattering utensils and a pungent smell of garlic fills the air. On the second floor of the mansion is a secluded bedroom. A railway track lies opposite the mansion. Trains pass by every half hour casting shadows that glide across the bedroom throughout the night.
Ravula Hariprasad Rao and his wife Annapurna Devi had 14 offsprings. The family grew up in Hariprasad Gruham before eventually moving to different cities after marriage. As in most Indian families, the paternal/maternal home was a summer getaway to the 37 grandchildren of Hariprasad Rao.
Summer, to these kids, used to be two months of rural Indian games such as 'aa metlu ee metlu' and 'donga police'. A major part of their childhood comprised waking up to roosters, milking cows, being fed by grandmom - finding joy in familiarity, unbounded attention and pampering.
My father is one of them.
A rooster cackled at 4 AM. A distant sound of clattering utensils and a pungent smell of garlic filled the air. I had spent the night counting the number of trains that casted shadows in the room on the second floor. It was August of 2015, a century since the mansion was built.
Four generations got together to reminisce their special little corners, sulking spots, secret spaces, scribbled walls, escape routes and folds of memories neatly hidden in the cracks of the walls of this 100 year old building.
It was a 48 hour celebration of various versions of home.
Home as in a kitchen you know your way around,
a beverage that starts your day;
a darkness that is never intimidating,
a mattress that feels right, afternoon naps a vindication;
a favorite nook, a daily routine;
Home as in boundaries within which strangers, acquaintances and friends become family.
'Hariprasad Gruham' is currently being renovated by Ravula Hariprasad Rao's son Chakravarthy who left behind an oil business in the Middle East to move back to his home town. Today, a swimming pool is being built next to the hand-drawn well, the cracks are being mended and the quintessential sea-green walls are being repainted.
A piece of land being given a new life, meaning and power; a treasure chest of comfort, intimacy and peace.