The portrait of a house She was coming back to her ancestral home after a long time.. The house stood silent and majestic nestled in the coconut grove.....it was a thatched two storied house which had housed 4 generations of her ancestors...a house which was once much loved and prided by all...but now it looked brooding and unwelcoming...abandoned as it was a long time ago.... She drank in the sight of the house knowing that, after a few days the strangers who bought the house would demolish it bit by bit and rebuild it somewhere else...nothing would then remain except the memories and a few bricks they may leave behind...she had come here to collect those memories.... She felt a deep sense of loss and wondered whether others of her family might come to have a last glimpse...but thought that it may be unlikely..they shunned this house... The once well tended yard was overgrown with weeds now...the long verandah with its redoxide floors which once shone was now strewn with leaves blown in by the wind...the whole house worn a look of neglect,.. She sat on the balustrade and gazed sadly around...this house has come to this desolateness...this neglect..the abandonment and soon the final act of demolition...this house which was once so vibrant ...as alive as something living and breathing....the silencein the house was near total except for the rustle of the coconut leaves... There was no sound of children playing boistrously rushing in and out of the house ...no sound of grown ups admonishing them...no sound of laughter as the women gathered in the central courtyard after a long day of work...no sound of the men always in the middle of some endless arguement on politics....no sound of soothing lullabies ...no sound of laughter which always echoed from this house....no sound of constant bickering of the servants ....this was now a house shrouded in silence...a house of perpetual mourning...shunned by alll...holding painful memories......and she was to be blamed for the desolation of the well loved house...she , the prodigal one...the nonconformist.. This house where she , and her mother ,and her grandmother before her ,had been born and raised....which was the very fibre of their existence.... She walked along the verandah... the arm chair where her uncle used to sit and lord it over the labourers in the coconut grove now stood rusty and broken in a corner of the verandah..she ran her hands along it lovingly...she used to sit on his lap as a child and listen to him narrating stories of their glorious past...theirs was family to reckon with...a family of feudal lords of yore who still held onto familial pride and honour....he had told her and other children a countless times that was upto them to uphold the traditons of the family... She crossed the portal and entered the hall which was awesome and regal even in the present state of disrepair...the portartaits of her long dead ancestors looked down at her...their gazes steely and unforviving...accusation writ large across their faces...she bend her head in shame and guilt and begged a thousand pardons.... She left the hall and wandered into the dining room where the family had conferred for most of the time...they used the hall for the most sober of occassions only..it was here that the women had held court and laughed and chatted and gossiped and argued....she sat on one of the chairs and longingly caressed the table .... She then closed her eyes and conjured up the images which were forever imprinter in her mind...which she furbished and refurbished a thousand times...these images were her only solace in her restless and moorless wanderings.. that of.her grandmother wise and old with her constant admonishings about how the house should be run ...her mother always harried ,always a little breathless , busy in the kitchen , managing the small army of servants but with the kindest eyes and the sweetest smile....her uncle awesome and authoritarian but with a mishchious twinkle in his eyes ...her aunts quick witted and chatty, as noissome as the mynahs in the courtyard...her father ,unwordly and ill at ease among his inlaws ,always reading his endless books but always besotted with his wife and daughters... from whom she might have inherited the artistic nature..... .Her family...her home....which she had once broken up mercilessly with her rash act.... She went up the rickety stairs ..a sense of doom creeping up on her.... The upstairs verandah was cold and unbidding ....she gazed at it for a long moment....it was here, that she used to have her painting lessons ...even as a child she was passionate about painting...her artistic talents were a surprise for her feudal farming family and a source of great joy to her father who was a professor and an author..he had realized that his daughter had it in her to be a great artist... it was he who had arranged a painting teacher for her much against the wishes of the rest of the family who considered art a waste of time...her father had argued that she was talented and that she would make it big..may that was his act of dissent in this house where he was always an outsider... Here in this room she used to have her lessons.....day after day in the hot summer of that last vacation...it was here, that she used to sit hours together spellbound as her teacher worked his magic on the canvas... gazing into his brooding eyes and falling hopelessly in love with him.....ignoring the fact that he was twenty years her senior and a ,married man... It was a sweet agony to be mesmerized by him...to be in the throes of that first love, which , even she knew was doomed...she could even now, recall the first accidental brush of their arms as he taught her the strokes...her skin burning at the first touch...him fixing her with his bottomless eyes and she falling and falling deeper into them till there was no escape...every moment without him was a torture...every moment of their togetherness a perfect bliss....and as this drama played out in the room upstairs ,all in the family was totally unaware of it... She now drifted back in time to those hot afternoons as they stood in front of the easel and he whispered undying love into her ears and she melting melting and melting ....Youth!!!!the folly of it...to be seventeen years old and to be in love...and she was always the restless one...the one craving for the world outside the rigid confines of her world...yes...it was inevitable.... She sighed as she was pulled back to the present and was once again back in the musty room which held so many memories of love and pain... She wandered to the room which she had shared with her sister..her elder sister who was as different from her as if she was from another planet...her sister bookish and studious and unimaginative. She entered the bed room and sat on her bed which was bereft of any adornings...the room which was once girly and bright, now had the same desolateness as the rest of the house...it was here that on opposite cots she and her sister used to sleep...they were hardly separated by one metre of floor but the chasm could have as well been that of an ocean...they were so unlike each other...her sister could never understamd her or her desire to paint... .her yearning to wander beyond the confines of the house ....her restlessness...her dreams.... It was her sister who had chanced upon the letter that her painter lover had written her...that letter which disclosed her plans to elope with him to Paris...that mecca of artists....and then all hell broke loose.... She could recollect that afternoon when the door was forever shut in front of her painter and she was banished to the upper story of the house with no means of communicating with him....her schooling eneded abruptly and she was an outcast , a pariah...in her own house.... Those last days that she had spent in this house was fraught with painful memories which even now seared her....she walked slowly into the last room along the verandah...the room her father had converted into a studio for her...and where she had spent her last few days in this house.... She now stood in front of the closed door of the studio and summoned up the courage to enter...it was here that she had spend day after agonizing day painting endless canvases but not even finishing one in the last days of that hot summer....her anger making bizarre patterns on the canvas as her frenzy kept on building up....and as the day drew near, when she would have left for Paris, she was barely holding onto reason with a flimsy thread of sanity which was fraying fast....those last few days had long gaps of time which she could never fully recollect later..the grey areas of time when her thoughts seemed to be disrupted...what must she have been thinking ....those last few days of summer ,when days and nights merged into one gray pallor.....and heat was becoming unbearable... Now, in the stilness of the doomed house she stood scared and restless in front of that small room...summoning up the courage to open the door and enter......she had come here to find out what had happened in the last few days that she had lived in this house , and for that she must enter this room....this room which held her paintings and canvases....her hazy memory conjured up the image of her last painting which was that of this house, done in tortured and twisted lines ....this house where she had been a prisoner. That last afternoon of summer was very hazy in her mind...she strained to remember...she could now visualize her sister bringing her the news that her lover had left for Paris , with a gloating look on her face, and then the last thread of sanity snapping... She now pushed open the door to the studio and was once again blinded and scorched by the flames that engulfed her ....tearing life away from her , bit by excruciating bit...the scorching pain which seemed to build up into a tornado....the panic as life ebbed away from her.... the blind thrashing to hold onto something....the maddening desire to go back to life....the screams of her relatives merging with those of hers , as they tried to break open the door...that last sight , as the door opened and people rushed in....that last sight of her mothers face, her mouth open in a scream , which dissoled into the inky blackness of unconsciousnes..... her last thought that her mothers face might have been the first ever sight that she had seen too.....that last sight which was forever seared into her mind as she wandered eternally among the undead.... She was now a shadow , drifting noiselessly with the wind ,always out of sight of the living....wanting to come back but knowing that she never can....dying a million deaths of pain and shame...watching her mother becoming old and brittle in a single day..drifting in and out of sanity...her father leaving home and never heard of again...her house ,branded as haunted and left abandoned .... her family , uprooted and scatterred in the wind..realizing that she was just a summer fling for her lover...a toymsoon to be discarded.....and she helpless......always out of sight of the living...waiting and waiting....and waiting..... Now she drifted back slowly ...carried with the wind ...her eyes painting a loving portrait of the house to be carried forever lovingly in her mind.... .