November 28, 2014

My first story on Medium: The House with the Mint-Colored Walls

I love the idea of Medium and have enjoyed reading many stories that have appeared on it; in fact, I always look forward to its weekly digest every Friday, which features the best from the week. I thought it would be a great platform from where to start sharing my stories as well and so here I am, reproducing the first of my stories. And given my constant preoccupation with homes these days, perhaps, it's appropriate that my new house with its mint colored walls was the focus of my debut story. 

It's bit of a long read so sit back and enjoy...


Pink and Mint

The first thing that I saw when we walked into the apartment was its mint green walls.

We had just arrived in New Delhi two days ago. Since June, we had moved from Pittsburgh, traveled across the United States, and divided time between Bombay, Bangalore, and Rajasthan before finally making up our mind to come to India’s capital city. I was both utterly exhausted of being a nomad for the past many months and apprehensive about calling Delhi home. Actually, more precisely, calling India home.

Apart from annual holidays to the homeland while growing up in Oman, I had never previously lived in India before. I was becoming increasingly disconnected to the idea of calling it home over the years. In fact, the label itself was becoming a complex abstraction for me. Was the home in homeland actually home? What was home anyway? I could worry about the semantics of home later though. Right now, I wanted a house: a nice, comfortable house, where I could anchor myself and start fleshing it into my space again.

I fell sick hours after landing in Delhi. On our first night, we went to a mall where there was an indie rock concert going on in a huge open-air court. I remember sitting on the edge of a white marble planter, simultaneously listening to the crowd sing along to the music and feeling a dreaded itchiness invade my throat. Every time I had previously visited Delhi, its notorious dust and pollution had not been my friend. The following morning, I woke up to find that the itch had snowballed into a cold: my eyes watered continuously, my nose was on fire, and I had little desire to do anything but remain under the covers for the next day.

I couldn’t, of course. I had a house to find.

Our apartment was the second one that the real-estate agent showed us in what would be a long succession of potential homes. Seeing the green walls after a day of battling a burgeoning cold, consuming cold, dessicated sandwiches, and dodging dusty, traffic-clogged roads was like stumbling head-first into an oasis. I wanted to camp out on the sofa itself, refusing to budge further. Afterwards, once we were done with visiting the other apartments (good, terrible, and ugly), the only one that remained with me was the green wall apartment. In the morning light, it would be mint-green, I thought, by dusk, it would assume the shade of pistachio ice-cream. I like the green wall apartment, I told my husband at dinner that night, as we listened to three college-age musicians sing Bob Dylan, let’s take that one.


The Tree Whose Name I Do Not Know
We arrived in the apartment. My cold became a fever — and I spent the first week in our new house, ensconced in the bedroom, either staring at the ceiling or the windows bracketing me. On one side, the shadow of a massive peepal tree and its spreading, embrace-like branches and numerous leaves dutifully dappled the balcony while the other tree — whose name I still do not know — was framed within the window, like a minimal black and white photograph. During the day, their leaf shadows stenciled and overlapped one another upon the green walls, the walls fluid canvases. The leaf-shadow dance lulled me into sleep; the green soothed and calmed me.

The house swiftly became a welcome sanctuary after all those migratory, mobile months.


We are still in the process of turning our house into a home. In fact, we are still befriending the city, understanding its costume, its dialect, when it sleeps, when it wakes up, the art of razoring through its traffic jams. We potter about in the house, migrating from one room to another, wondering where the guest room should be, what color flowers will look good against the mint.

A river of traffic flows behind our house. We hear people’s conversations, dogs fighting, and ambulance and police sirens. I was accustomed to a soundtrack of silence in all the places that I had previously lived. This is the first time my ears are constantly negotiating the overwhelming barrage of sound, the sheer plurality of it; my mind is learning how to filter, distinguish one sound from another. However, I don’t miss the silence quite as much as I miss peering above into the nocturnal sky, glimpsing the dense population of stars studding its surface. Here, in the city, like any other city, they are just as invisible as they are during the day.

Our landlord’s art work meanwhile still dots the apartment walls. In the living room, you can see camouflage-hued tapestries of Paris, a bright bird water-color, an Ancient Egyptian god and goddess in dialogue, and a mountainscape sparely executed in oils. I have decided that these works will continue to hang there on the walls until we discover and introduce our own to them. In any case, they are strangers no more; our daily engagement with the works has made them familiar to us.
There are three paintings though that that we have decided to never remove as long as we stay in the apartment.

These paintings are portraits of three distinguished women hanging upon one wall in the living room. I call them distinguished simply because that’s exactly the sort of air they exude. I have no idea who these women are. I don’t even know the names of the artists who painted them. What I do know is that these portraits define the house as much as the walls themselves. And like the tree window-photograph in my bedroom window, I am content to see their framed selves on the walls.

One of the Distinguished Ladies

What is remarkable is that each of them wear an identical expression of contemplation in their portraits. They look as if they were mulling over a problem or a puzzle or a query — and were about to unpack their thoughts to the artist. The thoughts would quickly spill out, raw, unadulterated, like paint gushing upon a palette from a newly pierced open tube. Yet, the women would just as swiftly incorporate them into the bigger picture, the larger idea, connoisseurs of both the macro and micro. These women are constantly editing themselves, their thoughts, striving to be better, fuller, richer persons. But they wouldn’t bite back their words, that’s for sure. If they have something to say, they will say it.

When we say goodbye to the house with the mint colored walls, I already know that we will miss these three ladies. In the next few months, we will be constantly overlaying the house with our presence— paintings, photographs, furniture, objects, books, our conversations — and by the time we leave, the house will have become an alternate version of itself, a new draft, so to speak. Perhaps, by that time, I will have even figured out how to solve the mathematical-like conundrum of learning to call my homeland home. But what these walls and admirable ladies will remind us of will be those initial paint-strokes, those first words on the computer-screen, a freshly new time, when blankness was exciting, when anything could become everything.


You can read the original version here...and in the meantime, why don't you too think about sharing your stories there?


  1. this is beautiful Priyanka! loved reading it :) -spink_bottle/vidya

    1. Thank you very much for coming by and taking the time out to read the piece, Vidya/Spink bottle:) Am so glad to hear that you enjoyed reading it!!

  2. I have been a nomad (khanabadosh) myself ever since I was 2 years old and have lived across 5 cities in India in my twenty something years. I have changed many houses and each house makes you feel different each day all the time you live there. It even smells different. And those bits- those smells stick in a corner of your mind. They would be always there no matter what. After a period of around 6 years I moved back to the house where I had grown up as a child. It had the same paint and the same interiors as when I was a child. When I stepped in for the first time - I felt for a moment that I was feeling the same way I felt as a kid. It was a quaint feeling. But the most strange thing was that everything appeared to be so small. Loved your piece! Keep writing.

    1. First of all, welcome to the blog! I really appreciate that you took the time out to come by here. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed reading the piece:)

      And thank you for such a thoughtful, beautifully written response to the piece in form of the comment. You indeed are a khanabadosh (this is the first time I have encountered the word and what a lovely sounding one it is!) and would know much about what it takes to create a home each time you move. What you say about how each house makes you feel different, how it smells differently, returning to your childhood very nicely put!

      I am looking forward to exploring your blog too:)

  3. Since you don't mind my ramblings I will drop some little more.

    Of all the houses I have lived in, most were rented - at some point in my life I would love to build my own home. That doesn't mean to buy a piece of land then hire a builder, an architect and so on - rather build it on my own brick by brick, plank by plank and window sill by window sill. I have had that desire for as long as I can remember and no one voices it for me as well as Thoreau: "There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?"

    I believe until a man does that he is living a leased life. Imagine baking your own bread in your own house in a oven you made yourself. All forms of dependence must be shunned and can be done without.

    All these thoughts of settling down are a manifestation of a basic precept I believe in, that every nomad dreams of being the rooted shepherd and every shepherd of being the uprooted nomad. :)

    As for the word khanabadosh it comes from khana - food and badosh - dependent. It is borrowed from the ever so graceful Urdu.

    Thanks for your kind words. Have a nice night!

  4. As a rambler myself, I always welcome fellow ramblers: they are kindred spirits;)

    However, I would not call these ramblings, rather, you have thoughtfully brought my attention to something which I honestly had never given much thought to: the notion of building your house with your own hands (as you so wonderfully put it, baking your own bread in your own house...) At the most, I have created one's unique space *within* the house but actually building a house? That's something to certainly contemplate about!

    Interesting thought too regarding settling down.I mention that the nomadic existence exhausted me but it's been barely a couple of months here in Delhi and both my husband and I are gripped by a wanderlust again! Of course, we will escape and travel for few days/weeks at the most before returning to our rooted existence again...but it does make me wonder if there are few years of a much more nomadic existence for me before I completely gravitate towards becoming the rooted shepherd again:)

    I appreciate you telling me about what khanabadosh means...the meaning behind it is befitting the grace of the language it comes from.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. Beautiful post... I can totally picture your words. I used to call Delhi home for a couple of years and its still close to my heart; we moved a lot because of my dad's work and there are some moments where I miss the fact that there is no window ledge from a childhood home for me to return to but most of the time I enjoy the challenge and thrill every potential move brings.


    1. First of all, thank you so much for stopping by, Shalini! Hope to see you here again.

      I appreciate your kind words about your post - glad to hear that it resonated with you! I like how you nicely articulated about the absence of a window ledge in a childhood such cases, it seems that all we can rely upon are our cache of memories.

      I have only moved often in the last couple of years...but as you said, I am now beginning to understand and appreciate the challenges and joys of every new move. Each move teaches you a new thing about yourself and your strengths/weaknesses!


Thank you so much for taking the time out to leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!