When the stand for my living room was purchased, I didn't quite like its chunkiness. My taste in furniture leaned towards delicate pieces with spaces under and around that a broom could get to. The one that occupies my home now is a broad wooden structure, a large part of it occupied by a flat screen. I appreciate its drawers, shelves, CD rack and the glass and mirror appendage to hold curios. But the thought of the dust living happily behind and beyond the cleaner's reach is annoying.
The stand redeems itself by holding a few
There's the clock, a little ornate, given to me by my Afghani student - a birthday gift. Here was a boy who found learning a joy. I remember how fascinated he was by the idea of a nonviolent struggle for independence that he had read about in his history books. Salem was very mature. He had to be. After school he laid tiles at the construction site with his father. After tenth his father had insisted that he stop school and work full time rather than incur expenses for education. Salem ran away from home to avoid that. Every class in our school had a sibling of Salem except when his parents had daughters. After plus two, one of his teachers got Salem a job in an office. And the first thing he did was admit his little sister in school. Today Salem is employed and married. Three of his brothers are also employed and two of them doing U.G courses part time. He doesn't talk to his father anymore.
Then there's the collage done with pieces of glass. My friend and her son, who is also my friend, created it for me - from a broken bottle they found in front of their apartment in Kuwait.
There's the calm and peaceful bronze Budha purchased on a trip to Deolali. Fits nicely in my hand and weighs a ton. It could crack an intruder's skull (provided I can reach his head).
The ivory cow that belonged to my grandfather with its folds, features, curves and lines fashioned by an unknown artist holds mystery. All the characters in that plot are not known to me - my grandfather, the sculptor and the elephant that probably roamed the teak forests of Nilambur. They were intimately connected to it. And now the cow tries to fit into a stranger's house.
The blue pottery depicts a China man and his family and a stray dragon set in the backdrop of mountains and weeping willows with a river and bridge in the foreground. I can only imagine their story. But seeing them, I remember our trip to China. What a grand country! (What we were allowed to see of it.) The mountains, the history and culture, the art, the ultra modern cityscapes of Shanghai and Beijing, the picturesque temples - they left me breathless; as did their food. ( Me being a vegetarian, I couldn't appreciate the seafood aromas that scented closed spaces like eateries, or worse, an aircraft.) And Chinese babies are the cutest. With my nose stud, bindi and long plaited hair, I was a minor celebrity among the locals. Some of them befriended us with Nihows and requested me to pose for photos with them! I can't decide if it was they or we that were more delighted when they broke out into 'Aavaala hoon' or (strangely) 'Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy, Aajaa aajaa aajaa' on meeting us.
My favourite is a bowl of pine cones - rustic and natural, a reminder of my tryst with Trieste. Tagging along with my husband on his business trip, I had not heard of this place that he needed to work in. So we went there without any expectations. But as our train from Milan approached the little town, the landscape lay there simply offering its beauty. How do I describe it? Let me just say that there were trees, mountains and the sea looking their loveliest. The place seemed magical, there weren't crowds of tourists as in the other places we had just been to. Exploring the city on foot with a map and finding our destinations was exhilarating. And then we went to Miramare Castle. - The prettiest place I had ever seen, with a tragic romantic tale to go with it. We walked in the park that Maximilian had made and among the pine trees from different lands that he had planted. I filled my bag with pine cones, each different from the other. I resist the temptation to rhapsodize about the castle and its settings. Let me focus on the pine cones. Packing them in our small full cases would destroy them. So I lugged them around in a plastic bag on trains and planes and while walking around Rome, Venice and Frankfurt. I'm glad I did.
In a few days I travel again to another place that remains pretty despite age. In terms of temperatures it may be jumping from frying pan to the fire.But the ancient house with its sinking pillar, leaking rafters and peeling paint is just as welcoming and dignified as it has been for over a century or five.