Riniki Sanyal
Published: October 2016

Houses are continuously being given up in favour of apartments. Will they survive this test of time?

There was a time, a few decades ago, when men considered building a house or buying a house a sign of establishment. Families often discussed getting the daughters married to men who had a roof on their head, before weighing the other attributes of a prospective groom. In those days, this roof implied having a house of one’s own or an inherited one. The house occupied a place of significance in the society. Cut to 2016, while owning a house is no longer an indispensable prerequisite for an arranged marriage, the word house in itself is on its way to becoming obsolete.

I have always felt that a house speaks volumes about a family that inhabits it. The paint on the walls, the style of architecture, the spacing of objects in the rooms, the floors – everything has a story to tell. And those that built it, are extremely attached to this otherwise structure of concrete, as it symbolizes one’s struggles to start a family together under a single roof. For those that inherit it, there are some who value the efforts that went into building a home, trying to maintain the building as is and some others who find a way to sell it at the best possible price. Of late, the latter kind has grown exponentially. Notwithstanding the difficulties in maintaining a house, most people, specifically the nouveau riche, move out and buy swanky apartments to keep up with the trend.

lostWith the exodus of the new generation to different cities and sometimes different countries in search of work and in pursuit of dreams, the elders are left behind at the same house which was once bustling with activity. Unable to cope with maintenance at regular intervals and frailties of old age, the parents find it easier to move to a two bedroom flat, while the house goes up for sale. Or sometimes houses are sold as the parents relocate to where their children are residing. Either way the houses don’t survive beyond a point. The smart couples in this age foresee these problems and avoid the efforts of building a home at all, either buying a ready-to-move-in house/apartment, or staying on rent all their lives.

Cities are now teeming with high rises, with only a handful of old archetypal homes in forgotten corners. The long verandahs and terraces with patterned railings, the slatted windows and the thick walls are hammered down by the profit-hungry builders mercilessly. As a witness to the demolitions across my city, I’ve often wondered whether every blow on the wall seems like a heavy blow on the one individual who spent tireless nights supervising the construction of that very house. Thankfully, those that built these houses are either senile or long gone.

If houses keep disappearing in alarming numbers, will the cities look as beautiful without these pockets of history in every lane? It’s a question each of us needs to mull over. Somewhere, with the loss of these beautiful structures, a part of the city’s heritage is lost as well. Although, many would agree that this is either not worthy of importance given a dozen other problems our society is mired in, or cannot be helped. The only way a house would then survive, is in frames that capture the most beautiful moments of our lives.

 - Riniki Sanyal is a student of Journalism and a freelance journalist.