I lived the first few years of my life in Guwahati, in the house that my grandfather built . I think my father made renovations, added on a room or two. It was an old-fashioned house with a tin roof, wooden windows (no glass panes - as far as I remember!), a small veranda in front and a little garden where we had roses and chrysanthemums and a small backyard that had a mango tree and beds of vegetables. A bamboo fence that just about kept out goats and dogs. A large rose bush that grew large red roses with the sweetest scent. Orchids grew on the mango tree in spring. I spent much of my holidays playing in the garden and the backyard. I must have been happy. I remember little of that time now - I lived there till I was about eight.
Then my dad got appointed the superintendent of a boys' hostel, in addition to his teaching duties in college. So we moved to the superintendent's quarters. A house built by the British - wide verandas, a kitchen that was some metres away and to be reached by a covered passage through the backyard, a couple of rooms near the kitchen for the staff (we didn't have any, apart from the hostel gardener who looked after our garden and backyard too and a girl who sometimes came in for help, so we used them as storerooms and as a home for our ducks, when we had them - and I claimed one to play in). There was a little lawn in front and a garden that appeared large to me. The mali wasn't very good with vegetables (we got nice brinjals and okra, but the tomatos and potatoes were the size of cherries and the cauliflowers hardly bigger than roses), but he grew magnificent dahlias as well as roses, pansies, and other brightly-coloured flowers. There was also a bottle-brush tree that parrots favoured - they often pecked away at the seeds and left the bottle-brushes severed, lying forlornly on the ground. There was a tree - not very tall - in the garden that I used to climb, though it didn't seem to be a good idea doing this when the college was in session, as we lived right in the middle of campus. My mother had made me a swing in the backyard, with a piece of wood and a sturdy rope. This and the other attractions mostly occupied me - there were no children nearby to play with, except the hostel staff's children in makeshift huts nearby, and I was too shy to approach them. Besides, they were younger. Then we adopted two kittens. One of them left home after he grew old enough to fend for himself, but the other remained with us for as long as we lived there.
When I was about fifteen, my father got appointed the principal of the government college in Diphu, a tiny town in a hill district. We had an even larger house and garden there. And we lived right next to a lovely public garden. Diphu had long power cuts, and every evening when the power went off we would sit out on the verandah and gaze at the stars. The stars seem nearer in the darkness, seen through less polluted skies.
I was there for about two years: by then I finished school and left home to go to college in Guwahati for my 'higher secondary' studies. I was seventeen, naive, scared and painfully shy. I lived in the hostel for nearly two years. I grew to enjoy my time there, had lots of fun, made many friends, and paid hardly any attention to studies. By the time those years were over, my dad retired and we all moved back to Guwahati. The old house had been sold off, and we moved into a flat that we had bought some years ago. I had a nice little room with a balcony all to myself. I loved my room. There was a laburnum tree right outside my window, and I would draw the curtains and open the windows to let the light, colour and breeze in. I would sit and do my studies and write my stories. In the evening, I would often sit with lights off, the moonlight streaming in trhough the window. I was doing my BA then, and those three years was the last leisurely time I have had for any length of time.