The Chronicles of Miss Shola

The blog's epitaph: Miss Shola came and went as she pleased

Archive for December 2010

Silent lucidity

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My father bought it from Connaught Place over thirty years back. I can imagine it coming home like a newly-wed bride in its sleek wooden frame, shiny beige formica top, accompanied by six chairs in leatherette furnishing. It has aged very gracefully; lost just a few of its faithful chairs to wear and tear, and a few inches of height to modern thoughts on interior decoration. It’s been repainted twice, is almost scratch-less and sturdy as a rock (touchwood!), and this inspite of travelling to different houses across two cities. It was possibly the biggest and most expensive piece of furniture my parents owned – my mother tells me several houses were rejected in Bombay because they didn’t have the space to accommodate something as stately as this with the respect it was due. And so, the house I was born in and stayed in for a quarter of a life possibly came to us because it was able to give our good dining table the status it deserved.

My earliest memory is of sitting on my baby rocker atop the table being fed rajma one by one, and then a full chicken leg when I was bigger. Not only did it cradle me in its arms, it gave me my own little playground. I would sit underneath it for hours and hours with my dolls and kitchen set playing ghar-ghar and becoming gradually aware of the little nooks and cracks in its underbelly.

Without it Mental Maths and Marathi homework would have probably been just the same, but the comfort of propping up both the legs on its chair or running the pencil along the edges while taking daydreaming breaks was something else altogether. Many, many birthday cards were created on it surreptitiously during those days and I wish the sturdy old fellow was fallible enough to let the marks remain; but it let them get wiped off it as if it had seen nothing.

Somewhere along the way as I moved from childhood to puberty, it moved too – from the living room into the kitchen. It was easier that way, my mother said, after the kitchen was modified and more space was created for it. Two of its six chairs were robbed of its body though and placed elsewhere in the house. Now cornered against the wall and diminished, it did seem a bit of a shadow of its kingly past. But its utility increased tremendously. For me, it rolled into an ironing board, engineering drawing table, place to sieve flour when I baked cakes in the afternoon, getaway to take midnight calls from ‘studious friends’ and many other avatars, as and when I wanted. But more importantly it became a hub for the family every evening because dinner was now in the kitchen, devoid of TV and other distractions that a living room enviably contains. It lent its ears to several topics of discussion – be it a professor with bad pronunciation in college, a foul boss, a sweet aunt from the fourth floor even pre-marital sex! It didn’t lose its colour when harsh words were said, and seemed impassive even when 18th birthday or 35th marriage anniversary cakes were cut on it joyously – almost like it had achieved Zen.

If not for anything else, it can never be forgotten for the countless delicious meals that have been served on it (which I’m sure it has tasted too and relished). Butter chicken for Sunday dinner with ghazals playing in the background, aloo parathas with imli or coriander chutney and curd served while the weekend was being planned on Saturday morning, mouthwatering mutton preparations in the middle of a tiring week, fresh home-made pineapple pastries and caramel custard being removed out of the fridge for the customary dessert –in all these memories our good dining table has been an immovable part, playing its role to the fullest.

Every family has an heirloom, and for me this piece of furniture that cost Rs. 75 thirty years ago qualifies to be counted. In being with us through all these years it has acquired a semi living presence that is difficult to replace with the stylish and compact new-gen of its ilk. And now that the family is growing, I only hope the grand old man continues to touch more lives in the small ways it has for me.

Written by Miss Shola

December 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Ramblings