The standard

George’s house in Mysore was constructed in 1826 by the British. It was like most colonial buildings constructed at that time with huge halls, high ceilings and bay windows. At the back of the house was a separate servant quarters and it was connected to the main building by a paved pathway. On one side of the pathway was the thulassi thara .

Since Amma didn’t have to cook, she woke up late. I didn’t have anything else to do when I woke up, so I used to drink my tea ( perfectly brewed each and every time) and sit on the steps at the back of the house, facing the servant quarters and the thulassi thara to my left. I could see the Chamundi hills in the distance. There were occasional horse riders going up the hills for their morning ride. But other than that, all was quiet.
Servants haven’t come back from the market yet, the gardener should be coming out from his quarters any time now to cut the flowers for the vases kept in each room. His wife too would come shortly, tying her long hair in to a bun as she walks to iron George’s clothes, while her son would polish the the shoes for the master!

It was the perfect lull before the storm moment and for a 16 year old, more than the tranquility the early morning offered, I was impressed. It was as though someone opened the doors to  a fairy castle. A world that was within my reach..

Until then life with my mother was all about saving money. Amma owned a beautiful dinner set, but we never used it, because it was saved for the “right” occasion that is bound to come in the future. We had two Godrej cupboards full of electronics and kitchen gadgets that my father brought from overseas over the years. All saved for the future.
She even took all of my dad’s collection of books to Chengannur. It didn’t matter to her that I was still reading them. ( She had the audacity to tell me that she was saving them for the future!)

While my mother was on a mission to  ensure that our life was in a ‘ pause’ to be activated to ‘ play’ at the ‘right’ time in future, George was living each day to the fullest. But not like most Nouveau riche gulf Mallus. When the rest of my family were decorating their newly built concrete mansions with Kerala junk ( brass para, nilavilakku etc, that kept getting bigger in size over the years to symbolise the prosperity of the owners), George was collecting paintings by M.F Husain! He even travelled to Kashmir to buy the carpet, so he could ensure that it was silk on silk and yarn was mineral dyed!

I realized then that my mother was wrong..If I was going to live, it is going to be NOW.
George raised the standard..very high..
and I paid a price..very high.

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