I grew up in concrete house. My home, located in Thamel, used to be made up of mud and bricks and timber like most of the houses in older part of Kathmandu but since we had a large family consisting of my grandparents and their five sons-three daughters, it was decided to demolish the house to build a new one made up of concrete, right after I was born. After all, four of my uncles would get married in the future and each of them would have kids.
My mamaghar, on the other hand, was made up of bricks and mud and timber with a jasatapata roof. As a kid, I was told not to jump around the house and dance because the dust would fall off from the floor I would be staying. That sometimes made me think that maybe, new concrete buildings were better than the old traditional brick houses. But of course I would forget about the thought, the moment I would sit in the falcha with Maa, basking the sun and listening to her friends’ gossips. Located in Bhaktapur, I still think, mamaghar is the only private house with its own falcha. A real falcha where old women would come to bask the sun in the winter as it faced south and children would come to watch processions of Gai Jatra.
Coming to think about it, that falcha was the reason why I started to fall in love with traditional structures, mostly homes. Mamaghar meant sanctuary. A place where I would shut the world down. A place where no one could reach me, and I would be all by myself, pampered with love. It was like a farmhouse – where you would go to live in every other vacation for few days. To lay down and forget about the world, your school work, friends, exams. Because it was old (the house was still standing after the 1934 earthquake and was mildly renovated before the 1987 one of which I was totally unaware of till now), at one point, I started becoming scared that Baa will one day decide to demolish the house in favor of a concrete ones. When I expressed by worry, he assured me that it won’t be the case, as the municipality won’t allow it.
When Maa passed away, mom was first diagnosed with cancer and my cousin moved to Australia, mama would joke about how they would leave the place and move somewhere else near to mom. Maiju would also agree with him. Despite knowing it to be a joke, I would immediately ask them to give me the house. “I would turn the buigal and chota into apartment while maata will be an art gallery and I would combine chelli and falcha and turn them into a nice café”. I used to share my plans and they would all laugh at 15-year-old me. Later on, I started a casual reminder on how I don’t want new concrete buildings in place of our old mud and brick house.
There was something about the place. The chowk. The warmth of rooms with tall windows where you could sit and stare at people passing by. And sit in the falcha and remember your childhood days. There was something about the orange-colored brick paved road. Brick houses with wooden windows of all kinds. About the pond in middle of the square. I found solace in this view. I found home. So I didn’t want a concrete neighborhood here. I wanted old men with wrinkled faces singing bhajan every evening at the falcha in front of our house. I wanted old women basking the sun and gossiping. I wanted to sit in the windows and write about how I feel calm and in peace.
The last time I was there, for Bisket Jatra, Maiju cautiously told me that maybe they should demolish the place. It was an old house that now shook every time a jeep drove through. And she was afraid. I told her that it was the last time I was saying no. If they built a concrete house, I will never step in ever again. Twenty five days after that threat, top two floors of our neighbors came crashing down after the earthquake. The walls then got cracked and made a hole. A week later, my beloved house was given red card. “It’s better if you don’t live here” the engineers said.