In this personal essay, Anwesha Basu dwells on the courtyard of her childhood home in which she has fond memories with her brother and how as they grow up those memories become distant.
The first fifteen years of my life were spent at our rented apartment in Amherst Street, Kolkata. The façade of the hundred year old building was almost peeling away, while intertwined telephone and electrical wires crisscrossed across it. It resembled your average Central Calcutta buildings; aging early due to lack of maintenance. Our ground floor apartment in this building was nothing like the 2 bhk flats we see today. Think of an inverted-U shaped apartment, with a corridor running around its borders. The two vertical arms of the inverted-U housed the rooms, whereas the horizontal strip on top was the small ‘uthoon’ (the common Bengali word for courtyard). For both my brother and I, this uthoon was our favourite part of the house. It was the only place from where one could see a bright blue rectangular portion of the sky.
From early childhood to adolescence, the uthoon was the centre of most activities in our family. As babies our red, plastic bathtub with colourful beads on its sides, was carefully placed in that part of the uthoon where sunlight streamed in abundance, Ma acutely aware of the importance of vitamin D in the otherwise damp rooms. From the photographs carefully preserved by my parents, I can gather that the one year old me did have a gala bath time playing with those sun kissed bubbles. The first vivid memory I have of my baby brother was the day I was allowed to push his pram around the uthoon. I have always been able to recall that moment so clearly: his gurgling laughter, Ma’s anxious face and even the strong smell of ‘panch foron’ (Bengali five spices) being fried in mustard oil wafting in through the kitchen. I wonder if it had actually taken place or was it a dream constructed conveniently by my brain from a concoction of myriad related memories.