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Of Old Furniture...Sepia -toned Memories...and New Longings!

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by twinsmom, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    When I heard the RJ Charu of 89.1 FM network call upon listeners to talk about the oldest piece of furniture in their homes, I was immediately reminded of one in our ancestral home in Thrissur. We called it the Rolltop, I guess because it had a top which had to be rolled back to open the writing desk, which it really was. It was banned territory for us kids, as it was my grandfather’s prized possession. Made of original teak wood it had been specially created for my grandfather. The carpenter Andy, whose name was engraved on a small piece of ivory, at the edge of the writing surface, used to be summoned specially from Cherpu, and given a royal treatment for periodic maintenance of the Rolltop.
    My grandfather outlived Andy and used to grudgingly allow Andy’s son to do the honours to the Rolltop later, but last we heard, even Andy’s son was no more… and as per other carpenters, who wouldn’t risk tampering with such fine piece of furniture, there was no one in our area skilled to repair it.
    Luckily for us, it has behaved well all these years, in spite of our abandoning it in my brother’s house (which he had rented out), as my parents could not risk damaging it by transporting it to <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = ST1 /><ST1:CITY><ST1:pLACE>Delhi</ST1:pLACE></ST1:CITY> where Dad had a short stint, before settling down in <ST1:CITY><ST1:pLACE>Bangalore</ST1:pLACE></ST1:CITY>. Luckily, his tenants didn’t make off with it when they shifted. It lay unattended to in the vacant house for a couple of years. Recently, my younger brother decided that enough was enough and got it safely sent across to his flat in <ST1:CITY><ST1:pLACE>Bangalore</ST1:pLACE></ST1:CITY> and I must say, it hasn’t lost even an iota of its aura. The shine is still there, the lid slides back with a dignified silence as you open it. Not for it, the squeaks and groans that comes with age! It is a good 100 years old. Seeing it in my parents’ house brought back memories of my childhood in a rush of sentiments.
    I fondly ran my fingers in and out of the pigeon holes that used to hold my grandfather’s belongings, his silver framed lens, his Brahmam pen, a set of wooden pens… colourful tapering sticks with slits on their rounded top to fit in a nib of your choice. He would let me, as a special treat, use some of them. I would select the colour that fancied me for the moment, select a really broad tipped nib ( I learnt the term ‘calligraphy’ much later in life) fit it firmly in the slit, dip it in the inkpot and try to imitate the perfect cursive writing he used to have. I would leaf through the bills and receipts he would have pierced through a curved piece of metal, fixed on a round base… I would hang around trying to guess where the secret niche (yes, it had a secret hiding place where he could hide valuable documents and other stuff)… I would wait for him to open one of the drawers on either side of the desk. If he was in a pleasant frame of mind, he’d let me take out a black metal box which housed two huge 10 rupee coins, one 100 rupee coin and other wonderful treasures…, if he was cross he’d shoo me away…in vain.
    Not that I minded! I would often ask him who the moustached white man in the round ivory photo frame was and he would with tears in his eyes, tell me about ‘Brown Saayippu’ who had helped him financially to pursue his studies as he had been at the verge of dropping out to take up the burden of running the family of 5 or 6 sisters, widowed aunts and unmarried cousins. He felt indebted to that great man, for enabling him to take his BA Honours in Chemistry and later join the Excise Department during the British Raj, and rise to the post of the Excise Commissioner. The Rolltop still houses the sepia-toned photo of Mr. Brown, who somehow, is still venerated along with the ancestors in the family albums!
    I have always loved the Rolltop and had the faintest of hopes that one day I might inherit it…. But no chance! My Brother is as much in love with it as I am and he refused firmly but lovingly that he would not part with that…filling my heart with desolation, …until one day, I walked into the Canton Furniture Showroom in Al Wahda Street and came across a replica of my dream Rolltop! Of course, it is not as mammoth as the one at home, but it is such a beautiful piece, that my heart was awash with longing…
    But my desire remains an unfulfilled dream as my ever- prosaic husband refuses to buy it for me. Lack of space in the flat, he reminds me none too gently. Where will we put it? I am ready to get rid of my dressing table, my dining table, computer table… but no, he just won’t relent. I keep going into that showroom every month to ensure and comfort myself that nobody has bought MY Chinese Rolltop…. May be I’ll demand that as our silver wedding gift… May be I’ll just go and buy it, charging it to my credit card and face his wrath when he discovers it… My cup of joy will overflow for ever if I get that piece of furniture and I’ll not part with it…I’ll take it with me to India and let it grow old with me… and… I’ll let my own grandchildren discover all its treasures, the mysterious bric a brac I’ll keep in it!
     
  2. Manjureddy

    Manjureddy Gold IL'ite

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    OOOOH T.Mom !
    You had me sighing and mooning over memories of my Grandpa's home with that great write up. So lovingly written !

    My grandpa had that Roll top desk too, with smooth shapely legs ending in tiger paws. Once the cover rolled up, a whole Alibaba Cave opened in front of us. There were those little drawers with dainty brass knobs you could hold with only two fingers( pinky out !) that stored small things like pins, nibs, blotting paper , coins and stuff. And thin partitions,like today's CD racks , to slip in envelops, writing paper, stamp folders etc. A fine green- leather covered writing top , depressions for his cut- glass ink well , wrought iron art-deco pen stand displaying his Irish dip-pens and Bavarian blue-pencils , an ornate clampy thing to hang his rosewood rollerblotter.....and that indescribable, exciting aroma of a "study" emenating from the cavernous interior !

    Grandpa's desk was moved to our ancestral home in the village when some family reorganisation happened. There it sat gathering dust for a few years and then, by and by, became feast for termites , thanks to the caretaker's housekeeping skills.

    But i am rambling................Thanx dear for that nostalgic trip. Sure appreciated it !
    Regards
    manjula

    Such exquisite furniture are still sold in certain boutiques, but as you say, our homes have shrunk and cannot accomodate anything more romantic than a malaysian rubberwood computer desk.
     
  3. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Hi Manju,
    How sad that the lovely old piece fell prey to termites due to the indifference of the caretakers! Ours is the prized possession of my younger brother....and thank God, my sil keeps it spotless...
    I still see 'my ' piece in the chinese shop....as you said, money is not the criteria.... space is!
    In India, such a piece is worth a lakh and a half, my bro who did a market survey, said...
    I tried uploading an image of a rolltop ( not ours...) but could not. How can I add an image from my pictures?
     
  4. meenu

    meenu Bronze IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,
    Nice tripwithyour grandpa's rolltop.
    Regards,
    Meenu
     
  5. sunkan

    sunkan Gold IL'ite

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    dear viju,
    nice piece and i also love that stuff a lot, mm some people are lucky to even run their fingers over, u have a second window while posting just go down a bit to ur main one and there is an attachment place clik on it and load from your computer, then close the window and go to the second window and submit to add the pic in the article..sunkan
     
  6. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Hi sunkan,
    Thank you for that input... Let me try it... (fingers crossed...:wink: ) Wish I could have put that image...
     

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