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><ST1LACE>Delhi</ST1LACE></ST1:CITY> where Dad had a short stint, before settling down in <ST1:CITY><ST1LACE>Bangalore</ST1LACE></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><ST1LACE>Bangalore</ST1LACE></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!