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Sumita considers herself as a writer for all reasons. She has written most of her adult life starting with a book of stories at the age of eleven. After an unsuccessful attempt to get into journalism school Sumita fell head first, into advertising copywriting and that started an affair of a lifetime (at the risk of sounding a tad cheesy). Today Sumita is a not so lean and mean writing machine displaying capabilities in many styles. Check out the offerings on display and do get back to her with your feedback and requests for writing work - sumita@sumitachakrabarty.com

The verandah!

Image result for verandah in an indian home

Running along the rim of a typical Indian home is an extended porch usually covered by a roof which functions almost like an outdoor living room. The Hindi word for this piece of real estate is “baramda” and two centuries of British rule have anglicized the word to the more widely accepted – verandah.

There is even a similar sounding Portuguese word for it – ‘varanda’, but the concept of the “baramda” is very different. It nurtures a life system of its own made up of occasional visitors, potted plants and rambling conversations. Besides finding a place in the Oxford English Dictionary it has even found a place in Australian homes as way back as the 1800s. In India, the verandah is a tradition. It is the place from where children peer into the night sky and get their first lessons in astronomy accompanied by the sound of crickets and night jars.

HISTORY

History has paid the verandah scant attention but what’s interesting is that it is more commonly found in hot and humid countries shielding the walls of the house from direct heat and providing a kind of buffer zone. For instance in Australia it’s more of an extension for just sitting around or for entertaining. With the advent of apartment style living verandahs have acquired the status of ‘quaint’, though rumour has it that they may be making a comeback.

In India, the verandah owes its existence to the basic principle of living in harmony with the environment. By welcoming the outside world into one’s home a balance is achieved which the ancient texts say is conducive to good living. Since India’s tryst with tradition is several thousand years old, the verandah continues to dominate life especially in small towns where hot, dry afternoons are pervasive. Warring ants and dragon flies with buzzing wings hold their own with humans and the occasional sleepy house lizard.

The introduction of a surprise element in the architectural narrative of the verandah is not uncommon. Pebbled little pockets with plants growing in them are the most frequently used ones. They add a notion of frivolity in the overall austerity and are known to be introduced to satisfy the impulsive urges of the ladies of the household. Occasionally a verandah may be too ornate so that the guest is forced to think that the interior is perhaps luxurious, a trick that was commonly used to deceive outsiders in earlier times.

ROMANCE

Verandahs with trellis covered pillars and chandelier decorated ceilings have often been pivotal to romance novels in India by the literary greats. The South Asian hangover of the British rule is conveyed by gently swirling ‘punkahs’ in wide verandahs with statuesque colonnades. Evidently, the verandah is a strong contender for the title of ‘romance catalyst’. If there was statistical proof then it would suggest that the presence of a verandah in a house diametrically increases the chances of its residents being ardently wooed.

AND SO…

By virtue of maintaining a dignified and necessary existence, the humble verandah has made the leap from appendage to fulcrum. To think that a sliver of real estate can mean so much to so many is proof of its resilience. India’s love affair with the verandah will continue because it seems rather inappropriate to think of a typical Indian home in a small town where the door of the living room opens out into the street. Almost like a gentleman wearing trousers with suspenders over an undershirt. The verandah is all about giving people the permission to lead a private life in full view.

 

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