Diagnosing Our House—Examining the Body – Parul Tayenjam : Bonus Winner | Season 5

– Parul Tayenjam

Our house looks good in Sepia. It has the afterglow of a well-lived house. Its corners are dipped in algae stains, and the underside of its sunshade is darkened and whitened with mildew. Every brick of this house is impressed with our footprints. Once known as the yellow house in the middle, it now wears mostly white and cream.

An edifice of the early 60s—this house that my father grew up in—I am ageing with it in its post-dated resonance. Every corner is a vessel holding my hoarding mother’s assortment, which will be of use someday. One room, facing the southern wall of our fences, parks all the debris of defunct appliances stacked in shame, hesitant to show its face out in the sun. Climbing along its walls are the many, many pothos that germinated from one stem in our courtyard. They have proliferated and have coiled the house in their nest.

The old dog house in our courtyard lies vacant. Its upcycled tin roof weathers the assails of rain and unforgiving times. Its crusty bits, browning with rust and chipping green paint, are disintegrating before our eyes. Our dogs now sleep inside the house under our watchful eyes.

All along the length of this house are a number of tubs of varying sizes, made of rubber and plastic, containing duckweed, water moss, and pennywort, along with an array of swordtails, guppies, and goldfish. They don’t taste as good as pomfret; we learned that the hard way on an adventurous summer afternoon.

Further back, a little mossy tank at the back of the house contains the lore of fishes who lived under my father’s care. He divides time between this tank and another pond located a few metres from our compound. The pond, which is also an extension of this house, carries abundant life—tadpoles, frogs, catfish, dragonflies, snails, and countless algae I don’t know the names of. It has existed before my time and feels innately born with this house. During winter, this little pond provides water for our *leikai residents, a watering hole where all gossips collide.

This house is not complete without its plants and trees—the mango trees that unfailingly bear fruit each year, a stump of what once was a lychee tree, a boisterous palm swaying with wind, an old guava tree bent with age, the many bonsais pruned with shears and bent with wires, and the little patch of makeshift vegetable garden our aunt keeps in the yard. We bear witness to generations of oriental magpie robins born in one mango tree and generations of swallows cupping mud to the leaves of an areca palm. These tenants pay us every day in chirps.

The pictures inside of its residents are not too colorful either. We look good in sepia. Our cupboards, an extension of this well-lived house, are full of existence, of time, and of space. They are filled with scented sachets kept unbroken and sealed, left leaking scentless under piles of collected clothes like compost, to compost inside their time-eaten wooden box. Stacked along are blouses and shirts, gifted and unworn, gifts too polite to be refused. It is an immaculate composition of collectors’ impractical hoards.

The kitchen flanking the northern walls is infused with scents of smoked fish and bare-skinned vegetables left prepped on the counter for tomorrow’s meal. Its chimney is coated in grime from yesterday’s dinner. The malfunctioning fan whirrs ever so slightly to remind us of its presence. Its regulator knob reads unintelligible numbers, and even so, it demands precision in turning.

This house shakes in the aliveness of the spirits it possesses. It lives in every being it holds in its space, from the army of ants that eat off its foliage to the many, many mortals that shelter in its shade.

This house is not sick. This house is alive and well. It will continue to live as long as it lives in love, nurtured unbroken by an umbilical cord that runs through all the living and inanimate objects it shelters from the cold, the heat, the wetness of the rain, and the hotness of the sun.


*Leikai means neighbourhood in Manipuri.

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