Soul Spaces

For a hardcore fan of the cliche ‘home sweet home’, and a perfect example of ‘I get homesick in a day!’, I have always wondered if it is possible to let oneself be carefree in someone else’s space. For me, though a good share of my comfort level lies in my relation with the hosts, it also has something to do with the vibrations of a space… with how the house talks to me. Much to my father’s dismay, none of my favourite homes are from his ‘side’ of the family. The only one that was, his ancestral naallukettu (traditional four-pillared Kerala house), was brought down a decade back. This beautiful piece of architecture was my first teacher in understanding the flow of spaces, design details and the play of light and shadow.

On days when I don’t feel inspired enough to write, all I need to do is close my eyes and take a mental tour of this house. Here’s my achamma (paternal grandmother), sitting on the large four-pillared plinth. This is the teak entrance door in whose intricate carvings I find a new wonder every time I peer at it. Beyond, is the naddumuttum (central courtyard) which brings in swathes of sunlight to the otherwise dark and introverted interiors. This tunnel-like wooden stairway will lead you to a large, light-filled space on the next level. Look around, and you’ll see teak louvered windows and solid partition walls of the same glistening, deep-hued wood. Don’t go that way; it’ll take you to grandma’s secret room with generously-proportioned wooden trunks which hide sweetmeats, made in the kitchen with its traditional chimney and stove. And when you’re comfortably numb after a meal, I’ll direct you to a large teak four-poster bed.

The house my maternal grandparents (mutashi and mutashan) stayed in — it still exists — isn’t very lavish, but it is the place I would like to retire to. It is just the opposite of achamma’s house when it comes to design details… A rectangular, modern construction, its lime-washed walls are punctuated by several windows that bring in sunlight and breeze. Unlike a naallukettu with its courtyards ringed by rooms, this one has bedrooms, storage and the pooja ghar aligned along corridors. Its well bestowed us with the sweetest water I have ever tasted. Mutashan’s charukasera (easy-chair) was incredibly sleep-inducing, while mutashi’s spacious teak cupboards held neat piles of her bright saris… As you can see, it’s quite an effort to snap back from this reminiscing and get back to work!

Somehow for me, my grandparents’ homes — their decor and the solace they offered — have always been a benchmark for what my home-away-from-home will be. These are the qualities I find in just two or three homes I have visited so far… and one happens to be the quaint and beautiful abode of this magazine’s editor, who also happens to be a close friend! But that’s another story with a lot more design details and loads of fun!

Watch this space…