“Even as a child, I would play with antiques at home. I would arrange the bronze glasses systematically and create sounds using a stick. It was my favourite activity!
There was something mysterious about antiques that caught my attention. But, I never imagined that I would grow up to become a collector of it. When I was working in Mumbai in the late 20th century, I didn’t have enough space at home but I still managed to keep all my collection together. When my mother shifted from our village, Someshwaram to Chennai to live with my wife and me in 1970, I remember her bringing a lot of old vessels and kitchen items along with her. Each one had a story – a memory she associated it with. She didn’t want to lose, or sell them to anybody. There was a small bowl in which my grandmother made payasam in, there was a Tawa we used to make brinjal curry in – many such stories that my mother would recite. It would leave me nostalgic. Every time I visited any village or pilgrimage centre, I looked for antiques that stand unique to the place and the people there. I once saw an advertisement in the newspaper, where a family was selling their antiques in Chennai. I was apprehensive about what they would have, but I went anyway. It was a beautiful Bungalow. They had age-old trumpets – so huge that I couldn’t carry it easily. A copper candle holder which was beautiful too. I took both of them! Later, I found out that they belonged to the family of Vijaynagar Maharaja. Imagine my joy!
I have more than 700 pieces in my collection today – all that I put together for years. It’s an emotional journey for me to go from place to place and look for stories, understand culture and heritage. I have a typewriter and a camera from London that I bought in 1980. Soon, one of my close associates introduced me to blogging and I started writing about my collection. That opened up many doors for me. Once I got an email from a gentleman in Srivilliputhur in Tamil Nadu saying he has some antique pieces that he wants to get rid of.
It was a long journey for me from Hyderabad to Bengaluru to Madurai via train and then a bus to reach Srivilliputhur. There was also the worry about police checking because of the laws related to antiques. So when I reached there, I clicked a picture with him and also took a letter from him stating that it was a gift to me because of my passion. It wasn’t an easy ride back home but I would go any distance to get these pieces. Over the years, my love for it has only grown, making me invest even more in this. Sadly, nobody in my family is interested in taking this forward. I’m 80-years-old, and I need to find a person who would love to take over. But till that day, I will continue writing and exploring antiques.
Every vessel, every picture and every idol has a story about our culture. It deserves to be preserved and kept for many generations. Imagine how people cooked when there was no gas or a cooker. It’s a never-ending hunt to know our ancestors and country better. I love sifting through mismatched parts of odds and ends, looking for a gem – one that you will preserve and love for a lifetime. Isn’t it beautiful to think about it?”
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