My Auto was crossing a busy street in crowded Malad in Mumbai and I suddenly saw a home. Nestled amid tall buildings, there was a home.
"Martha's Home", the nameplate said. A nice quaint little home with banana trees and gardens, bang in between claustrophobic tall apartment complexes, with peeling paint and monsoon eroded walls, ugly ACs jutting out and meshed windows to keep the world out. But this little house was standing its ground there. I don't know what it was about the house, but it got me thinking.
What was the story behind Martha's Home?
Maybe there was a lovely, happy couple that bought land here in the 1960s. Maybe the lady, Martha, drew out a plan for the house. Maybe she stood there in the heat everyday with a toddler kid under her arm, as laborers struggled to bring her dream to life. Maybe she handed them nice lemonade once in a while, to keep them on their feet. Maybe she touched a brick once in a while, and drifted into a dreamland. Maybe she told her crying 2 year old, that one month from now, he will have a garden to play in! Maybe when the house was completed, Martha stood with her hands on her hips, surveyed the place and thought to herself, "This is perfect."
Maybe Martha and her husband moved in there. Maybe her husband lovingly carved out that nameplate with his wife's name on it. Maybe they had another kid. Or maybe two more. Who can say?
Maybe, Martha's home became a noisy little playground for all the kids of the neighborhood. And later, the place where the kids gathered to study. Maybe, just maybe, that toddler kid grew up to become the go-to guy of the area. Maybe kids dropped in, to learn Algebra from him. Maybe his sister hid behind the curtain and watched the elder boys study and joke and giggle and hide magazines behind notebooks. Maybe Martha's daughter made that orange wind chime that hung outside the door.
Maybe, the son went on to become an engineer. Maybe the daughter studied Economics at Xaviers. Maybe Martha and her husband found a nice Christian boy and the girl became a bride, at Martha's Home. Maybe, Martha's husband wiped away a few tears behind the coconut tree in the courtyard, when he had to give his daughter away. Maybe, Martha's daughter went into her bedroom in the corner of the house for one last time, sighed, hugged her pillow and left.
Maybe, the son decided to go the crowd's way. Maybe he got admitted to a fancy college in the US. Maybe, Martha and her husband discussed if mortgaging the house was the only way to pay. But, maybe, it turned out, the walls of the house had indeed kept away distractions and gotten a scholarship for the son. Maybe, he left the house promising to come back.
Maybe, Martha and her husband found solace in the nearby church. Or the sea. Who knows? Maybe the beautiful banana trees in their compound. Maybe their life was then filled with happiness when their daughter came for summer holidays, with a bunch of munchkins. Maybe the house was filled with peals of laughter and joy as Martha's husband sneaks in ice-cream everyday. Or candies. Or coconuts!
Maybe the son sent a photo of his girlfriend. Maybe, she was pretty and the best possible choice their son could have made. Maybe, once again Martha's home was decorated. For another wedding. Maybe, the son gifted their parents that nice little Maruti 800.
And then, maybe, everyone moved on with their lives. Maybe her grandchildren grew up and didn't have time to come for summer holidays. Maybe, her son was too busy to come every year. Maybe, Martha became old. Maybe, that house she loved so much, was suddenly too big for her. Maybe, life had moved on so much, it was difficult to cling on to parts of it.
Maybe, one day, the son dropped in, helped them packed their bags and took them to the US for 6 months. Maybe, Martha and her husband decided life was easier there. Maybe they never came back. Maybe, noone sold that house because it was and will always be Martha's Home.
Maybe, a car drew up beside mine, in the middle of all traffic, amid all the ugly tall buildings and a young man pointed to Martha's House and told his 2 year old child sitting beside him, "This was Home. My Grandparent's Home. Martha's Home."
Who knows? :)
PS: I really don't know why I wrote this story. When I saw Martha's Home in Malad yesterday, I just knew I had to tell this story. Its the story of so many families and so many homes..Felt nice to see that place stand its ground and fight for its spot in the middle of all those tall daunting buildings. It just felt like a story that needed to be told!