Banker Nivas

Banker Nivas is a house in Tellicherry - a small, coastal town in Northern Kerala. It's where Dad spent his childhood having first entered the place as a 6 month old baby, soon after it was constructed some months before the second world war began. It's also where he passed away 80 years later. He didn't live there all his life though. Those two events - of having been carried in for the first time and later carried out for the last time - bookended a life of some decades as part of the diaspora outside Kerala.

The diaspora. Migrants. Tellicherry natives. Keralites. Indians. Others. People who leave home seeking a better life.

Returning later. Returning older. Returning 'home'. 

Or maybe not.

Growing up in Hyderabad, Banker Nivas was where we spent our summers. That annual ritual centred around school breaks in April when middle class Indian parents - of the 1980's - took their children to the 'native place' to meet the grandparents. For us, this meant a trip to Tellicherry every summer to meet my grannies. I looked forward to those trips. A break from school was always welcome. A break with a train journey even more so. They made for vivid memories. First the train to Madras. A break there gawking at the steam engines pulling into Madras Central. Then the train to Tellicherry. Arriving early in the morning. The air crisp. The place impossibly green. Then the cab ride. The smell of the sea. Then the sea itself. Then those bridges. One after the other. River on one side, sea on the other. Finally Moidu Paalam - the last bridge - and we are there. You can't see it from the roadside though. You need to get down. Walk towards the trees, and then suddenly you get that first glimpse: through the green, above the treetops, the walls and tiled roof of Banker Nivas.

The house my grandfather - the Banker - built.

As a kid from Hyderabad, these were two weeks well spent. These were also two weeks soon forgotten once I was back in Hyderabad. It was only in my late teens at university in Southern Kerala, that I began engaging more deeply with the place and the stories of those who lived there: dad, his siblings and their parents. 

Mum and Dad would eventually return to Banker Nivas. A move that took me by surprise though it meant a lot to Dad - he insisted that he wanted to be there when he died. And so it was. By now I was working in Bangalore and would make trips to Tellicherry. Trips to see my parents. It was on one of these visits that I came across a stack of albums. Page after page of neatly attached photographs. Several old pictures, some old post cards and even some old newspaper cuttings. Pictures that spoke of journeys, college, friends, family and home.

I finally got around to creating a digital archive to preserve them and this site is a curated selection of these pictures. These photographs are a window into an era long gone - the 20th century - and through them I explore this period and how my family navigated it.

Through it all, I try to explore the meaning of 'home'.