A friend had suggested that I check out this house over two years ago. For whatever reason, I didn’t. Then, a few Sundays ago I dropped in at the Turner Road house and left my card with the security personnel. And last week, while I was in the area early due to the dance class, I tried my luck.
Heta, who owns and lives in Tehmi Terrace, immediately called me over. Honestly, I was quite surprised at first. I get a lot of different reactions when I invade people’s homes for the blog, but this was the first time someone called me over almost immediately and was okay with the photography and all. Turns out, she is an architectural historian herself. I had hit the jackpot.
The house, she says, has been named after her grandmother Tehmina Rustamjee Patel. “When it was built it was called Soona Villa. However, our family moved here in 1942, that’s when it was renamed,” she says, taking me around the house. She adds that it was the norm in her family to name the houses after the women – wives and daughters.
The house, a ground plus one structure with a terrace, will complete a 100 years in 2014. Hold your breath, it’s a heritage house and is going nowhere.
The first thing I notice is that unlike other houses of the same vintage, this one is not overdone with wood.
Saying that the house has been built in vernacular style, Heta explains that while the essential style of the house is inspired by British architecture, it was built by a Maharashtrian and has some Indian features. Thus, while you have the Grecian wreath at one end of the house, you have the Indian third eye (meant to ward off evil) on the other.
The house, she says, is strangely built. “Most houses of this time are symmetrical in nature. There will be two rooms on each side of the living room.” However, in this 9-room house (two of which are master bedrooms), there is no such symmetry.
Both floors have the same layout, with the ground floor opening into the inner courtyard.
The living room is huge. The house after all stands on a 5,800 sq feet plot. There are doors everywhere. Each room has three doors on an average.
Further down the first floor passage is the kitchen. Heta points to the chulha at the corner. “It’s the original wooden chulha. While we have fitted the kitchen with modern equipment, I want to keep this.”
The dining room has a table and chairs that date back to 1929. One wall is adorned with various wedding photographs. “We rent out the place for weddings on and off. It’s not like we planned on doing it, but one day someone approached us and it just happened.” The house is also rented out of film shoots. And the income from this helps in maintaining the structure.
Ask if it’s difficult to maintain a heritage structure, Heta says gives an adamant ‘no’. Being the owner of seven such houses, she should know. “The houses can always be turned into commercial ventures. But the idea is that some money should go back into the house.”
The ground floor of Tehmi Terrace has been given out to a tenant and a paying guest lives on the terrace apartment.
I bite my lip to prevent myself from asking what the rent rate is.