Sunday 1 March 2015

Prose500 2015 FeaturedWriter Sufia Khatoon

The House at 99 Woodburn Park

I grew up in the dingy lanes of Kolkata’s woodstreet when India was gathering her torn pieces together. Dr Rafi’s house at 99, Woodburn Park, was known to have witnessed the turmoil’s of war and bloodshed. It had sheltered stories of love and hate for so long that often my scarred heart found recluse in them. Every house is believed to have a soul; I always felt that after Rafi uncle’s death, his soul might have shadowed the now broken dilapidated building looking for lost traces of his memories.

Rafi uncle loved this solitary recluse; he loved his books and life at large. It was during one such encounter that I had managed to sneak in his massive library tempting me with the rarest of stories hidden in its vast treasures. I was caught later but uncle’s imaginations, love for books and my innocent quest had made me his best friend. 

I often look at it in the creepy silent night, standing and just observing her massive structure. I was about nine or ten years old when the riots had uprooted our historical brotherhood. Victims of this confusion often were found loitering or healing their socked senses in this house. He would generously treat them, though it was tough times, he always stood for what was right, admired by all as a man of principles.

He loved to read and weave poetry. He often exclaimed that the world of imagination was far better than the real world, bloodshed and battles were episodic in stories, and it never left deep scars behind unlike reality. 

His most prized possessions, The Jungle Book, Panchatantra, Peter Pan, an entire collection of imaginations which had left me breathless, was a gift from him. When I look back I see his peaceful nature and his books that had actually saved me from my accumulated bitterness towards life after losing my family to war cry. The curious soul of a child was lost somewhere. I remember in the dim light in the balcony hiding behind the pillars I was awake the whole night reading and devouring the tales as the ear deafening noises of death consumed our world.
“In broken rusted walls grew haunted stories of love and the mystical tree branches hide them from pain.”

I write when I feel the need to visit my past and dig out stories to make people believe in miracles again. House at 99, Woodburn Park, running parallel to my life remains fresh in my memory, its depths surfaces now and then to breathe in and live again through me. I realised that imagination if survives bloodshed and turbulence, can preserve innocence and imagination, our greatest weapon to destroy man made walls.

The misty night consumes the sparkling stars and the house at 99, Woodburn Park, across my window hypnotises me to write its deepest secrets while I hide behind her shelter once again to weave tales of imaginations.

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