Chainpur Bungalow

In a far away place in the state of Jharkhand, India, stands the grand old, Chainpur Bungalow, by River Koel. It’s not just a house but a sacred entity – proud, resilient, dignified and unbent, reverberating with forgotten old songs, chants, conversations and emotions of long gone residents. Vibrating with some ancient energy, which only exists in holy places, it might appear mystical place to many. For me, it is home!

According to my father Patait Baldeo Narain Singh (the owner), this house was constructed under Raja Bhagwat Dayal Singh, my great-great-grandfather. It is many, many years older than my grandma (Rajmata Prafulla Manjari Devi), who is more than 100 years of age. Our family belongs to an illustrious Royal family, Raj Chainpur Estate, and the house is certainly a part of history and architecture of the region.

Despite all later additions, original architectural elements of an English Bungalow, are intact in the house. The Bungalow style homes originated in the Indian subcontinent, having design elements of long verandahs on each side, low roofs, chimneys, fireplaces, eaves, shuttered windows and rooms flowing into each other for easy accessibility and comfort. The rooms opening into adjacent rooms as well as innumerable doors and windows still confuses many, who often get lost while finding their ways to bathrooms or verandahs. Earlier there were no boundaries around the house and the gurgling river could be seen from the backside but security issues led to making of boundaries. There was a tennis court, many outhouses, servant quarters and a thick forest surrounded it. Much has changed, some things still remain! The house is history in itself and I feel so proud to be a part of that history.

The real beauty and magic of the house lies in the fact that it has always been all inclusive. It has belonged to everyone, including visitors, guests, tenants, staff, house helps, who proudly got associated with it. Whoever stayed in the house, felt at home. Everyone has a story to tell in the backdrop of the house! Some scary ones too, mind you! For me, it has always been magical to see the house swelling and accommodating huge family gatherings in one big embrace.

I am sure my ancestors and descendants have their own interpretations and memories of the house. My father in his short story ‘Kadamb ki Atmakatha’ has alluded to the house, in his own way. But for me it always appears to be a living person – a deeply caring wise man – who makes you feel deeply at peace…at home.

And whenever I visualize the house, these images flash, overlap and make me nostalgic –

  • a meditative old lady in white saree
  • a lady knitting colorful sweaters

  • a man intently listening to the radio

  • an old lady feeding a bunch of kids

  • a girl teaching kids

  • a girl reading a book in a secret spot

  • a girl dancing on popular Bollywood number

  • a mischievous boy running around

  • elders cracking jokes and discussing in the verandah

  • boys playing cricket

  • kids running after the school bus

  • girls munching guavas and planning theatrical shows

  • everyone joining for evening prayers

  • ladies chatting and catching up

  • group visitations to ancestral village and car races

  • cold wars and disagreements

  • Cooks announcing meals

  • kids laughing and running around the house

  • emotional outbursts, disappointment and anger

  • illnesses and tears

  • crazy-sweet pets

  • chats on guava trees

  • winter evenings filled with made up stories

  • affectionate staff members

  • modeling around in new dresses

  • getting ready for marriage functions

  • teasing about teen crushes…

  • religious discourses and discussions in family gatherings

  • joyous evenings while playing games

  • midsummer nap in the comfortable hall room during family gatherings

  • puja ceremonies

…many, many more…images, feelings and emotions….

All long gone, never to return! Today, Chainpur Bungalow stands alone, yearning for the familiar sights and conversations of all those who once resided here. But it is also happy about the future, eagerly looking forward to a happy occasion – a celebration owing to new addition in the family. New generation… new beginning, new start for the family and the dearest house! I am sure my parents and brother (Kumar Vikram Bhawani Singh) have great plans in store.

As for me, I yearn to once again embrace those ancient pillars and find peace. I hope that someday, I take my kids to meet the wise old man so that they know those stories – of endurance, royalty, integrity, dignity, love, inclusiveness and spirituality – which were once whispered to us.

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