The House No More

“The house at the corner of my gali was demolished last evening (the one whose photos I’d sent). The memory of an age finished. You can write in the current status. That this house is no more; demolished last night.”                                    

                                                     (Biplab Goswami)

hopptnk

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

In the morning I got a message from Biplab. He was in the Garib rath to New Delhi then. Must have got the information from home and passed it on to me. He had mailed me the photos of the house only two days ago. He had told me then, that the house was in the endangered houses list and his might be its last photograph. He had the knowledge of its demise and I, naively, like an ostrich, kept wishing well for the house, while doing nothing all the time.

To my eyes, that house appeared beautiful: painfully so.

Allow me to address the house that’s present in the images below, and not the one that can’t be addressed to anymore. Let me talk about its features present in the images in the present tense.

dmhs side arch

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

Look at the false columns and the decorated arches over the windows. And look at the state in which they have reached. The wooden frame, and the hollow space indicating towards the absence of the glass panes have remained only in one of the three. The other two, ironically, have semi and totally vanished. There’s nothing unique in the architecture of this house. It’s like many other houses in Kasi.

demhs col full

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

Like those many other houses of Kasi, this house too, was Kasi. With it lived a part of the architectural and cultural tradition of Kasi. It’s not an exaggeration when a house is said to stand for the cultural tradition. What is culture anyway? A cake of time that’s not exactly frozen in time but is in a dynamic state of thawings, additions, alterations, deletions and fusions.

The railing of the verandah of the house can, be seen even today, in  many old houses of Kasi: in the houses that once belonged to a Bengali gentleman. These houses belong to the age of the ascendance/hegemony of the Bengalis over the intellectual and cultural spheres of Kasi. Yes, there used to be a time that may be called the Bengali Golden Era in Kasi. My conjecture is, that it’s from that era we can trace the introduction of large scale public ceremonies in the central Bengali festivals of Durga and Kali Pujas. It’s also from the same era to which we can trace the abundance of the houses and temples of the Bengali style of architecture in Kasi.

demhs column

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

The columns that support the chajja and arches are of different types at the ground and first floors. The ground floor has plain looking utilitarian kind of columns, whereas, the first floor columns are of the ornamented and carved kind. What might have been the reason for such kind of architectural discrimination?

Places, buildings and cities are characterized by the presence or absence of a thing that may be called their character. I’ve read that there are metro cities, the big cities of the world, that lack character. I don’t feel that it’s true about Old Delhi or Kolkata, but I agree about that lack in Greater Noida, or large sections passed on the unending roads of New Delhi. Varanasi, the old city, has a strong and definite character for sure. Its identity and character depend on certain factors, in addition to its people: the Banarsis. The buildings, ghats, temples, galis, launglata, jalebi, Gangaji, the Banarsi dialect etc. are some of those factors. Removing any one of them will affect the character and identity of the city.

dmhs parapetfrnt

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

By character I mean things that distinguish one person/place/thing from the other. The parapet above, for example, is the surkhi-lime type that’s pretty characteristic of the architecture of either a period or a region, or both.

The loss of even one building of the olden days in Kasi is the loss of one essential element from the body of the city.

dmhs prpt side

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

dmhs prpt frnt full

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

demhs arch side

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

hopptanki

(Photo: Mr. Biplab Goswami)

Why do we feel about this house that’s no more? Neither of us had ever lived in it. Nor had we, in any way, in any material relation with the house.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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