One may wonder what is so unique about this black and white photograph of an edifice? If this image sustains the reader’s interest long enough to take a closer look, he or she will be able to see a little boy standing in the doorway of this haven. My sibling may not cherish memories of this awesome abode as I do, for his comprehension of the world and the emotions attached to things and people were not well developed and perhaps a little abstract. However, to me it was a fantasy land where most of my fantasies materialized, a utopia where nothing ever went wrong.
The draftsman of this distinctive residence is my father who has become one with god. It was his dream to design his own home without the assistance of an engineer or a hired draftsman and hence the name ‘Jovilla’; Jo represented his name Joseph and villa as we all know connote a larger and luxurious house. During his bachelor days, especially during the weekends, my father used to walk for hours through the prosperous streets of Coimbatore, admiring and appreciating the front elevation of beautiful, spacious residential homes simultaneously wishing that one day he would be fortunate to live in one such home. I was regarded as a bringer of good fortune by my father as remarkable things occurred in his life with my birth. He purchased the land when I was nearly two and his dream of living in his own self-designed home materialized when I was approximately three years old. My memories of running through the length of 1000 sq. ft area of the ground floor, which was the only floor then, and being boisterously playful are still vivid in my head. Daddy’s little princess was always pampered with gifts, toys, clothes, chocolates etc.
Growing up in Jovilla, surrounded by friends on all sides, was not only fun-filled as I participated in all sorts of games or activities ranging from hide and seek, hopscotch, snake and ladder to storytelling, skipping and musical chair etc., but it was also revelatory. My brother was born, Jovilla became a two storey house, I learnt about a new culture with Bengali tenants residing upstairs, frequent visits from relatives and family friends, nursery school and primary school experiences, school bus rides; few unforgettable experiences such as paternal and maternal chastisements, mother’s temporary illness, neighbourly disputes, friends became foes and so and so forth.
When my father took the heart-wrenching decision of selling Jovilla and relocating to a different suburb, I recall being upset about leaving a companion behind whom I had known for years and who had harboured my secrets, had witnessed my happy and tearful moments, tantrums, my growing relationships with people and declining ones. The negative emotions associated with my separation from Jovilla were short-lived, as being a child on the threshold of adolescence, I quickly adapted to my new surroundings and new things, experiences and new people gained my interest. Jovilla had left an everlasting impression on my unconscious mind, a realisation that began to dawn on me, when I accidentally discovered this long forgotten photograph while sifting through myriad memories captured on camera.