A recent visit to the bangalore palace and the courtyards there reminded me of the inner courtyard (called Muththam in Tamil - the atrium in English) in my grandmother's house where I spent many summer evenings as a child. And in a recent mail asha reminded me of this too - nostalgia made me go back to this post and the courtyard.

When they lived in joint families, the houses were always built with a private space for women . This was the inner courtyard. I remember the inner courtyard in my grandmother's place . It was after the kitchen - a squarish space where two thirds of the roof was covered by wooden rafters supported on pillars sloping into a open space with a well and a large space for cleaning utensils covered by grill work which let the sun light into the space throughout the day.

This was the space where the women of the house spent their afternoons, many times joined by relatives and friends from the neighbourhood to make spicy pickles and papads accompanied by spicier gossip. this is where they created beautiful lacework, embroidery and other handiwork as they shared their happiness or vented their anger and frustration and bared their souls and offered and sought comfort.

My favorite memories of this space are of those late evenings when grandmother sat with two large bowl full food. Moonlight flooding through the grills and forming patterns on the floor and the cool breeze of the spring evenings . About 12 of us - three of her daughters and six of us her grandchildren would sit around stretching our palms out where grandma placed balls of food in turn. Simple food, mostly left over from after noon meal accompanied by those divine summer pickles made from tender mangoes and fresh papads roasted on a coal fire placed on Mandara leaves before each one.We exchanged jokes, solved riddles, bantered with one another and before you knew it, the enormous bowls are empty and you feel fulfilled in more ways than one.
I have not found one restaurant, in all the places i have travelled to, to beat the ambience or the quality of food that we had in grandma's inner courtyard.
Sometimes you wish you had stayed 10 and not grown up at all!

P.s: Pictures are of a space in our house inspired by memories of grandma's courtyard.

And here is the atrium at the Alliance Francaise Bangalore where I have spent many happy hours in the recent years.
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16 Responses
  1. rads Says:

    I miss old homes. Ive spent many summers at my great-grandma's and loved the high ceilings, the atrium, the courtyards.. a travesty to be replaced with so much rick and mortar. :(

    Elite school in Madras where I did optometry - the school building is built such away - with an open air atrium [if i may call it that, with lush green puffy lawn where we;ve spent many hours just idling...

  2. noon Says:

    Commenting on posts after a long long time. Enjoyed the post. Brought back wonderful memories - my grandmother (actually my mother's aunt (chithi)) didn't have children of her own - she adopted my mother and my mother grew up at her place. All of us/cousins used to go to her place for summer holidays - she used to do the same thing ("Kai'le tharen saapadu") and really over feed us.
    Brought back all those memories. In the light of recent events in my life - I completely identify with - wish we could just remain 10!

  3. Fuzzylogic Says:

    Old houses certainly have a charm of their own,I remember my grandmother's old house had a similar atrium with high ceilings and it was very beautiful.Unfortunately they sold it later to buy one in the city,I however still remember playing around in that house.Grandmom's rice balls,haven't we all grown up eating them:)such fond memories!

  4. Wish I had been there too, Ush. Sounds like such a wonderful place!
    And there's always a special bond with the place where one spends one's childhood, no?

    Love the space in your house, btw. And love the Atrium at AF too!

  5. Hip Grandma Says:

    The post took me back to Gobi where I spent my adoloscent years.We did have a mitham there and many an evening were spent where the ladies would try out different 'pinnals' (Plaits) on us and what to say of the way an aunt or grandmom would sit down with coconut oil and two combs-one to take out knots and the other to comb and plait the hair and finally the minnuchi when the lady woukd run her fingers over the childs fore head as a sign of blessing.....will those days ever come back.Closed up in rooms of their own these children find our gentle knock at their door an intrusion.

  6. aangan!! creates vivid pictures of yesteryears

  7. Mahadevan Says:

    You are at your best when you go nostalgic. I go into ecstasies when I read your lyrical prose. One of your lines read:

    "Sometimes you wish you had stayed 10 and not grown up at all!"

    Can feelings be truer,words more expressive or memory more faithful than these lines?

  8. Usha Says:

    Rads:Elite school, where is it? must visit next time.

    Noon:You have got to have tghe experience to know what I mean - something my younger cousins and the next gen missed out. I guess in today's age and time even 10 is not a worry free age.

    Fuzzy:indeed such fond memories - un recreatable moments.

    Vaish: the house is gone now and last time I visited the town a modern building stands there.:{

    Hipgran:OH yes, this was the scene of so much activity. I have had this experience too. and those thazhamboo pinnal days! I am sending u a longer write up on this by email.

    ITW: angan it is. You still se eit in some films right?

    Mahadevan: Thanks and of course you have read this before!

  9. It's one of my dreams, if I can call it someday buy an ancient(not just old) house in Udupi (where I hail from originally) with all the bells and whistles- the courtyard, the back yard with coconut trees, the well, the wood pillars, the stone platforms on either side of the main entrance, the grand main door with the huge iron knockers (y'know I am talking about my grandfathers home which was sadly totally remodeled, right ??)....someday, when I can!

  10. ranga Says:

    I stumbled upon this blog while looking for info on the recent massacre of dogs in B'lore.

    And ended up reading lots of your posts - there was something simple, yet alluring about your posts..and there were too many that I enjoyed to actually point them out here...

    After reading your post " Un Kannil neer Vazhindhaal", I started wondering if you had posted anything about your own kids.

    and the icing on the cake was to find that Sidhartha Vaidyanathan's your son!!! Now I know where the genes come from!!

    Guess now, I have to make it a point to follow the writings of Mom and son!!

    Loved your writings!!!

  11. passerby55 Says:

    Usha,I loved this clean, neat post.

    How does one manage to clean the blades of those ceiling fans? They are too high yet They look very clean and white to me.


  12. Usha Says:

    orchid:I hope you will invite me to this house sometime. all the best for the dream to come true. (I posted the bargain tale, I think you missed it. It is the previous post.)

    Karthik:Thankyou. Do you know siddhu?

  13. Usha Says:

    Passer:Thank you. I clean it standing on a ladder on top of a table. One problem with tiled roof is that it lets in a lot of dust -and it is worse with all the cosatruction activity in the neighbourhood.

  14. Beautiful post.
    I remember grandpa's house in Chamarajanagar where I have spent several 'summer holidays' as a kid.It also had the similar atrium you describe. Wonderful experience. Brought back memories. Thanks for the post.

  15. Sigh! Yes. Old homes are indeed gold. My Mom's house had a verandah(its version of a courtyard) where all of us would gather in the evening. We'd have a wonderful time gossipping, watching children playing in the maidan in front, and people going for evening walks on the road further ahead. We were close enough to see them and yet far enough for them not to see us. Even in the hottest summer months, the trees ( mango, jackfruit, guava, chickoo, lime and the ubiquitous coconut -i'm talking of Kerala)would keep us cool, with their scented breeze. Now the maidan is non-existent, the house is sold and the plot being dug up... all that remains is the road,and there too there are more vehicles than people these days.

  16. Usha Says:

    Ober: I am so glad you liked it and could relate to it.

    JLT:guess what! even before I got to that part where you mentioned Kerala I knew it was from the description. Sigh...They are all going and we dont have the means to preserve them. Only memories!