My village was rather small in terms of population and housing units. It comprised more or less 200 houses. It had two parts with a large pond (chappar) in the center. It was a no-man’s-land, a shamlat. The pond normally used to be dry. But during the rainy season, it overflowed with muddy water. The stagnant water used to stink after some days. But there was no way out and the foul smell had to be endured for days. “What can’t be cured must be endured” goes a saying. And the people had endured it for years. Then slowly, the people started dumping their waste in the pond, and eventually, it was filled up and occupied for residential purposes. This also led to the unification of the village after years of separation.
The village had not been designed according to any plan whatsoever. There was not any semblance of symmetry in its makeup. It had zigzag streets of all sizes and shapes running across it. Some were paved while others were not. I do not recall a single street that was straight till the end. But we were very familiar with those streets and could run across them even during the moonless nights without the fear of stumbling. (Mind you, there was no concept of street lights in the villages then).
The houses were built of both kiln bricks and mud bricks. But the majority were pakka houses (built of bricks and cement). Our own house had a clay boundary wall in the beginning, but later on, it was demolished and substituted with a brick wall. Some houses were very old and were supposed to have witnessed many generations of their inhabitants.
Then, there were some houses that were built and inhabited by the Hindus and the Sikhs before the partition. Two rooms of our own house belonged to that era. Those were quite unique in their construction and design. They had very thick walls; the outer side of which was of the baked kiln bricks and the inner side was of the unbaked clay bricks. This was said to be designed with a view to providing normal endurable temperature during both the extremes of sub-continental weather, i.e. summer and winter. And strangely enough, the room temperature during the hot sultry summer used to be quite bearable even without the electric fans. Conversely, the temperature would be quite warm and cozy during the chilly winters, when the frost covered everything under its white transparent sheet. What a science that was!
There were also a couple of old, dilapidated, abandoned buildings on the outskirts of the village. They had a spooky appearance. Those were called Maarri in the village language. Hardly had anyone dared enter those horrible ruins. They were commonly believed to be the haunted places frequently visited by genies, ghosts, and witches. Even the very sight of those ruins sent chilling shivers down the spine. We normally used to avoid going near those ghastly buildings and would take the alternative route. But if we had to pass by them under any compulsion, we literally hurried past them without looking back.
Our street/mohalla had only six houses. The street was rather narrow, but it always wore a clean look. There was a large piece of open land in front of our house—a sort of playground. It was called Rarri in village parlance. It was bounded by a nullah on the front side. The nullah was not very deep and could easily be crossed by rolling the trousers up and hence keeping the clothes intact. But even if the clothes got wet or soiled, it didn’t matter much then. The Rarri (open space used as a playground) normally had green grass on its surface. We used to play there for hours after hours without getting tired. Fatigue and tiredness were alien concepts to us. Our sports included hockey, cricket, football, Frisbee, hopscotch, Bandar killa, Kokla Shapaki, and what not. Each game had its own charm and beauty, and we were so-called experts in everything. We enjoyed ourselves with each and every sport without caring much about their rules….