The concept of a ” Thinnai” was a very important one in the architecture of Tamil Nadu when pace of life was slower and space allotted was larger. All houses were built with a “Thinnai” – something like a sit-out at the entrance of the house.
The “Thinnai” had its own advantages –
1. It filtered out unwanted guests.
(Usually the host would come out and greet you, probably sit there with you have a long chat, give you some refreshments and see you off. You would not have realised that you actually had not set foot INSIDE his house. )
2. Many a time – the lady of the house, would sit there, with some petty jobs on her list of things to do (cleaning vegetables,folding clothes, grinding her cooking ingredients) , maybe with her child/children playing in the same area. It gave her the security of staying at home, and a chance to directly see what was going on with the outside world. Well if a neighbour drops in with some hot gossip – she need not have budged a muscle, or missed out on her chores.
3. It was the seat of the “accountant” in a typical entrepreneur’s house. Functioning as an office and still with a quasi-link to his boss’ family matters, the accountant with his “kannakku pillai’s” (accountant) table would sit here, hunched up, trying to tally his daily accounts or coax his boss to make a wise investment.
Whatever the size of the “Thinnai” – it was an important part of any house . With multi-purpose fuctions that fulfilled personal needs, social get togethers, a hang out spot, and sometimes even a free stop-over for a weary traveller. (Yes, it was quite normal to open your door in the morning to find a stranger asleep on your porch! And what was more surprising is that – very often he would be given some refreshments and some kind words before he set off again)
Well, with land becoming more expensive and no one really having the time to stop and chat – the Thinnai was soon replaced. People started extending the house till the sit-out so as to gain more place. A beautiful memory long forgotten!