For security reasons, the house we moved into was not considered a good location. It routinely got allocated to new incoming school masters with the understanding that in a couple of years you could trade up when another new master was hired.
While located within a 30 acre boarding school campus of what used to be the home of the Forest Research Institute of India, our house was situated right along the perimeter, a long and narrow property, bordering a road going to the old British cantonment barracks. Only a 4 foot high wall marked the perimeter of our property and you could hear slushy drunks at night as they worked their way to close by quarters. Dad said “don’t worry. They are harmless, too inebriated to climb even the low wall,” and it turned out to be true. That said, dad did got a dog for a watchman and he reversed the orientation of the house. The front gate became the back gate, the master bedroom the living room and front verandah the back verandah and so on. At first it created flow issues, visitors would go to the back while vendors like the milkman would go to the front. We would laugh about the confusion and walk people around the house so they would get over their embarrassment and soon people got used to it and even came to say it was a better arraangement.
There was another problem with the house. What to do about those 12 tall trees that lined the property wall and cast vast amounts of shade? Jamun is a purple, semi-sweet berry but these trees were too tall for fruit harvest. My father hated cutting healthy trees so he decided they gave the house character and he planted pink, white and purple Hydrangeas in a 200 foot border underneath all that cool dampness where even grass would not grow. When in full bloom, they were a pleasing, colorful sight. We played games all around shade plants he got from obscure gardeners and in a few years our house became a garden showcase, know in all of Dehradun. Later, bees would make hives high up in the branches so that we could barely hear their buzzing and instead of driving them away, dad would harvest honey from them and our house became famous for purple-golden honey that we bottled at home and distributed all over town.
Every time a new master was hired, we had a choice to move but we unanimously voted to stay. My father would tell the school administration “maybe next time” citing the inconvenience involved in moving. By this time he had built a car-port on the property and we were the first and for a while only, family on campus with a car. So clearly we could not move.
There was always a good reason to not move and while other masters moved around, I grew up in one house – a house that came to be known as the one with 12 Jamun trees. Today there is a 12 foot wall all along the campus perimeter and the trees have been thinned all over the property but I am glad I grew up in simpler times when we were taught to face our fears, make the most of what we had and live life with laughter.
Exercise: Size matters – Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.