Often in conversations people bring up the difference between the words “home” and “house”, or in our case, the difference between “bari” and “basha”.
In my teens and as a young adult, I found it difficult to make out the differences. But now as a mother of two young boys, with a few experiences behind me, I have decided to sit down and write of the differences that make my childhood house a home and everything in between a house.
My house on busy Eskaton Road is where I was born some 40 years back, where I have spent my entire childhood with over 15 relatives, where all the happiness I have known is concentrated.
In the four-storey, white house located in the capital, we used to live on the first two floors, complete with seven bedrooms, a big hall, a dining room, a living room, and my favourite place of all, an open terrace. Here, we played hide-and-seek, ful toka, ranna-bati, with my sisters, cousins and aunts, everyone in tow.
The terrace was big enough to house a beautiful garden, which was surrounded by large trees like coconut, bay leaf, betel nut, jackfruit, lychee, guava and jamrul. Under the shadow of the trees, my dada (grandfather) used to sit on a chair to spend time before lunch. Dadi sometimes kept him company, but on most days, she was always busy with something or the other, like cutting vegetables or cleaning rice.
I hardly remember having lunch or dinner without guests, which would mean both my maternal and paternal relatives. The mood in the house was always festive, especially if it was Thursday. All our aunts and cousins would stay the night at our house. Amma sometimes had to send my choto kaka and his gang to the rooftop as the house was full.
In that house, there was never any way to get some studying done, which was a great relief for me as I was the classic “fakibaaj”. My mother would make calls to all the relatives to ensure nobody visited after I got my exam routine. But that surprisingly never stopped anyone from coming to our house anyway.
Every activity in that house was a public affair. Afternoon tea would be served on the terrace where all the family members would gather and sit on shitolpati (mat) and engage in raucous adda.
These were times when we had no generators or IPS, not even a charger. We used candles and hariken during power cuts, or as we Bangladeshis call it, loadshedding. As soon as the electricity went off, we would close our books and move to the terrace. We particularly loved power cuts after 10 pm because that was when baba would sit with us and recite his favourite poems. The one I most vividly remember now is “Kobor” by Palli Kabi Jashimuddin. With tears in his eyes, he would recite the seminal poem. A mysterious feeling would grip us when we saw him like this.
Till the age of three, I slept in the same room as my parents. But once, two of my sisters got married, my younger sibling and I finally got the chance to shift to one of the biggest rooms of the house.
I occupied the “best” side of the room and set up my table in front of a window from where I could see the backyard of the neighbouring house, with its multitude of trees. I still cannot forget the Eucalyptus, which emanated a minty clean fragrance every time it rained.
After I married and moved in with my in-laws, who lived near by, I used to go over to our house frequently. And every time I entered my room, I got nostalgic as pictures of my childhood rushed into my mind.
Then finally, a few years back Baba called a meeting to discuss a very important issue: the reconstruction of the house. One by one, each of us tried to discourage Baba, saying he was too old to take the hassle of constructing a new house.
But was I really worried about his age? No, I said what I said because I did not want to lose my childhood home.
I never felt like going to our house anymore once Amma started packing to move to a rented house nearby. I did not go. It hurt too much.
After they shifted, my niece and nephew fell sick often. Their health deteriorated more and more. My four-year-old niece used to tell my mother, “Dadumoni chlolo amra amader ager bashay jai. Ei bashata ektu o bhalo na.” My sister used to say that she was upset every evening.
After four years, the newly constructed house is now ready to move into. Everyone is relieved. I am too. For them. I can feel the joy of getting a new home.
I went to visit the new house for the first time recently. It is well-designed, with a beautiful terrace as well. But as soon as I stepped inside, I felt that it no longer belongs to me.
I got frustrated and left. I didn't say a word, but could feel an empty space in my heart. I felt like I had lost my home.
But maybe it is time for my niece and nephew and the younger generation of my family to spend their beautiful childhood and make a new home and new memories in their hearts.
Farhana Ahmed is Deputy Web Editor, The Daily Star.