Memories at Sara House

30 Jun…/memories-at-s…/article7342979.ece… Memories at Sara House THEHINDU.COM|BY THOMAS PAUL

My article published in The Hindu [Open Page] 23.6.15


Last night, six years after we sold our old house in Nagamalai, Madurai, I woke up in a sweat, dreaming about that house we grew up in.

The proprietary feeling never leaves me; and the guilt, too, for not having held on to the house, at least in memory of mom and dad. But it is what sons do, don’t they, and regret later. My brother and I, both city boys now, talk about it wistfully, once in a while.

The house is in a time-warped colony, unchanged for all the decades that we had known the place. Compared to the laidback pace of my parents’ life there we, the sons, lived our lives in the frenetic metros, in a blur, fast-forwarding in dog-years.

A few years back, dad and mom had moved out of the house, one after the other, reluctantly I am sure, being dead, and all. Their cemetery is about 2 km away, holding them alongside other old-timers of their colony fraternity. I am sure a lot of chatting goes on in that cemetery, maybe in the dead of night. All their talkative friends are there.

After dad died eight years ago, mom had lived alone in that silent house, outliving dad by a good two years, listening to eternity itself in the second-to-second rasp of the quartz clock in the drawing room all morning, all afternoon and late into the evening; reading the Bible and drawing solace from what the good lord said. All day she sat in her favourite chair, under the row of wall-hung, electric pseudo-flame lit, black-and-white, framed photographs of dead kin. Two years later, she joined them too, going peacefully in her sleep.

The cemetery is a mile away. And I am sure at odd hours mom and dad visit the house, together, or separately if they happened to have had a quarrel. Mom does the rounds more frequently, I am sure, watching where they spent more than half a century of their lives.

After the sale, all signs of the previous occupancy of the house have been obliterated — unless you looked carefully and saw something that couldn’t be obliterated, where mom insisted on staying on, visibly. One of these is ‘Sara House’, words designed into the grill of the front gate, indistinguishable unless you take a second look. You wouldn’t notice it unless someone pointed it out for you. That is mom’s name — Sara — and yeah, it is there to stay, till the grillwork rusts and falls off.

Now, the present owner lives a hundred miles away, and there are no tenants. It’s better that way. The house is not tended. Leaves have blown into the compound, through the Sara House grill gate, swirl around, with nowhere to go, and settle down amongst the coarse grass and nameless weeds. The gates are locked.

We, the sons, are drawn back there, once in a couple of years, arriving during random visits to Madurai to attend some function involving relatives. And we make a trip there, to Nagamalai, drive past the house in a car, slowly, the tyres rasping on the gravel, spooky in the colony’s baking summer afternoon silence. It is hot here, notwithstanding the irregular shade of the trees that line the avenue. Not a leaf moves. And much as we would like to get off the car and walk inside the house, it is not going to happen. Wrenching though it is, we stop the car and stare at the house. That’s when we remember to see the front grill gate with the ‘Sara House’ design, like a codeword, telling us whose house it continues to be.

Soon, a soft breeze blows, whirling the nowhere-to-go fallen leaves inside the compound; and that’s when we know mom and dad have quietly appeared by our side, seeing from the outside, in.

How come, they want to know, we stand outside our own house like strangers? Doesn’t it say there on the grill gate, ‘Sara House’?

My Front Yard Has Mange

6 May

Webner House

During the cold, dank, seemingly endless winter, forces of evil apparently attacked my yard.  Under cover of darkness and blanket of snow, terrible lawn creatures invaded and ruthlessly displaced our attractive carpet of velvety grass.

IMG_1171Spring has brought the unwelcome realization that our front yard appears to have a serious case of lawn mange.  Where tender shoots of pleasant green once grew we now find bare spots, crab grass, spreading sawtoothed dandelion leaves, and other unsightly, weedy characters.  The yard has a distinctly clumpy, uneven look to it.  And in the center of one of our lawn sections there is an angry-looking, purple-topped plant that appears to be the youthful version of the man-devouring miscreant from Little Shop of Horrors.

Having an ugly spring lawn is embarrassing, but it can have its advantages.  Dogs find our yard so appalling that they refuse to even answer the call of nature…

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Eating Fast Is Destroying Your Body. The HAPIfork’s Buzz Can Help

6 May



Modern day eating habits are making us fat, stupid, and sick. Even for those high-octane health-nuts with the discipline to have a salad, rapid eating between meetings can cause weight gain, brain fog, illness, and fatigue. Now, a high-tech fork has bottled the “don’t eat so fast” wisdom of our mothers in an everyday object that buzzes whenever it detects users eating too quickly. While much has been written about the HAPIfork, no writers had taken it for a test run. After only a few minutes reviewing the HAPIfork, it retrained my overly anxious subconscious eating habits to take more time in between bites.

Two Problems With Eating Too Quickly

The body was not meant to shovel down huge mountains of food. Normally, nutrition slowly disperses into the bloodstream; when the body is overloaded with food, it has to reroute the resources of the mind and body to dealing with…

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These planted themselves!

6 May

Piggybackr Launches Its ‘Kickstarter For Kids’ To Let Youth Get In On The Crowdfunding Wave

6 May


Crowdfunding has changed the game for many grownups who need money to achieve their dreams, whether that’s making a film, building a unique new gadget, or becoming president. But sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are for adults. When kids need to raise money for their schools or extra-curricular projects, they’re often still using decades-old methods like selling candy bars or wrapping paper.

A site launching to the public today called Piggybackr wants to bring kids’ fundraising out of the dark ages (or at least the 1980s.) Piggybackr is a crowdfunding platform that’s specifically targeted to the needs of kids, with educational tools, game mechanics, and age-appropriate directions, and parental controls. The site is focused on efforts, rather than physical products — kids ask potential sponsors for donations online and offer “thank you gifts” in return such as volunteer time.

Piggybackr’s founder Andrea Lo tells me that she…

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Founder Stories: Snaplogic’s Gaurav Dhillon On The Importance Of Timing

6 May


[tc_5min code=”517720095″]

Founding a company is both lonely and challenging – I know. Guarav Dhillon first went through this journey almost two decades ago when there were fewer support outlets. Now today as Dhillon is running Snaplogic, a company he started a couple of years ago, he is applying learnings from past experience – but also levering the infrastructure available to founders that did not exist before.

Dhillon founded Informatica in the mid-90s, first taking the company global then public. At the time there were only two books available about how to run a startup. To overcome this, he convened a trusted group of fellow founders for monthly dinners to discuss recruitment, how to manage their boards and funding.

Twenty years later, Dhillon is now the co-founder and CEO of Snaplogic, the cloud integration solution that helps enterprises connect data from the cloud, SaaS, and local applications into a…

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Breaking and entering (Karbala, ~April 17, 2003)

6 May

Setting up for a post retirement job as a burglar