Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Serendipity at Raintree

Spring was in the air and I almost missed it, so caught up was I, trying to keep up with the newspapers' daily disasters.  I received just one other card in the mail this month, an invitation to 'Nostalgia' - an exhibition of furniture and home accessories.  This arrived on the morning of the day the exhibition and sale was to begin.

'Nostalgia' began with two women who traveled to different parts of southern India, seeking out old furniture that was being discarded or sold.  These pieces were brought back to Bangalore, repaired or spruced up and sometimes, redesigned (with additional marble and Portuguese tiles), so as to retain their original style.  The wood is largely teak and some rosewood, the pieces are selected and designed with good taste and are sold at reasonable prices (lower than those in most regular shops).

The exhibition was held at the usual venue - Raintree.  There was very little publicity (though the regulars were all there) and the sale was only on for two days - Friday and Saturday.  My husband was away and I thought I would just look in briefly, not that I had any intention of buying anything...

Raintree is a beautiful old bungalow that stands at one end of a large ground.  The area around is dominated by a huge raintree that spreads its branches high and wide.  This land was probably part of a little hillock but now stands adjacent to an over-bridge and an overhead railway track.  It still manages to remain serene and pretty, a reminder of old Bangalore ways.

I entered and walked around, looking at long wooden benches with marble tops, little square tile-topped tables and an old style wooden bar that seemed to be attracting the most attention.  They were pleasant pieces but I really did not need to buy any of them.  I felt rather pleased at how easy it was to restrain my 'wood buying' urge that morning.  I wandered about inside, glancing briefly at a teak bed with a woven cane panel, a charming old wooden cradle, bits of ceramics in unusual colours.  Nice, but not for me.

I had seen almost everything - there were just another two small rooms to go.  Then, I walked into a corner - and the spring air and a smiley cupboard did their trick again.

Of course, it was not just any old cupboard, actually, not a cupboard at all, but a kind of cabinet-cupboard.  A carved wooden cupboard stood on the floor, graceful, with clawed feet, elegant floral carved motifs and a blue-grey porcelain door knob.  A streaked white marble counter concealed a slender drawer.  Above this, was placed a glass fronted cabinet with spiral wooden carvings on each side and flowers dripping off the front.  Beautiful grainy teak and another charming blue-grey porcelain knob at the top door.  I eyed it warily.  Measured the dimensions, thinking all the while that it was too long and possibly too broad for our room.  There was no way we could squeeze it in.  Nonetheless, I took a couple of pictures to show my husband when he returned...

There was just one room left and I quickly peered in.  It was filled with large Indonesian objects, with one small exception.  A creamy marble shelf supported by a single wooden leg that was curved almost like an elephant's trunk.  It was a piece of art really - marble and wood that seemed to move and flow, though it was quite solidly attached to the wall and floor.  A piece with unusual character.  It stood in a little room, filled with large sofas and chairs but held its own.  I sighed.  I didn't think there was any place for such frivolities in my house.

 I returned home, various pieces of work required immediate attention and all thoughts of the furniture were temporarily shelved.  Besides, I was trying to convince myself that I could spend the money on other practical necessities of life...

In this manner, almost the whole of Saturday went by.  We had arranged a large family dinner that evening and I was busy the entire afternoon with some photography.  Nothing had yet been cooked.  My husband had returned and immediately rushed off to work.  I had mentioned the cupboard in passing but we hadn't had the time to look at the pictures or check any of the dimensions.

One hour before the exhibition closed forever, I wound up my photography session and my husband called to say he had an hour to spare.  I sighed.  Dinner had not yet been cooked.  But, somehow, we decided to drive to Raintree.

"Let's go soon," my husband said, one eye on his papers.

I wavered.  "The cupboard is probably gone by now, and I haven't bothered to check the measurements.  Anyway, let me call the lady and find out."

I called.  "The cabinet is still there," the lady said.  "You can come today or tomorrow morning if you like.  The pieces will be moved only on Monday."

"Let's just finish it off," my husband said, who was trying to finish as much as he could in as little time as possible.  So we drove down; luckily it is not too far from our house.  Also, very luckily, the lady was still there, friendly and helpful as ever (she is the main organizer though she has a little team who works along with her).

Cupboards have a fatal charm on my husband.  One look and he unhesitatingly said, "Let's take it."  The cupboard gleamed.

"On second thought, let's wait," he said.  "We'll just see what else there is."

The cupboard grinned ever so slightly and we turned our backs on it.

We peered into the little rooms one by one.  My husband was struck by a beautiful old wooden temple.  I looked at it - exquisitely carved in teak, with small bells hanging from the doors and a large space inside for deities.  A wonderful old piece, probably from a Chettinad home, we guessed.  But this was a piece we really couldn't accommodate so we moved on, thinking about friends who might like to buy it.  On to the room with the large sofas - and the marble shelf which still reposed, casually and elegantly against the wall.  It caught our eye and we stared for a while.

"There's nowhere we can put that," I said firmly as my husband asked the price.

"No, I suppose not," my husband said in an absentminded sort of way.

"There are other pieces," the lady said, showing us something else.  "This is cheaper.... but nowhere near as nice," she trailed off with a little laugh.  The shelf looked unconcerned and carefree as we debated its merits.  "We'll take the cupboard," I said firmly - and that was that.

We drove back, our minds on dinner and pending work.  And so, we thought no more about the furniture that evening except to inform friends about the temple in case anyone wanted to buy it.

Sunday morning dawned with that special spring feeling.  Birds, bees and sprinkles of sun.  Raintree looked nicer than ever - and so did the furniture.  The elegantly draped marble shelf looked irresistible and no one had bought it yet.  So, as we came to collect our cupboard, we couldn't help but add it to our list and finally head home.

The carpenter arrived soon after, with our furniture.  The cupboard slid neatly into the only remaining space in one of our rooms - no problems with length, width or depth.  It fit in so easily that it seemed to have always belonged there.  (It also closely resembles one of our other cupboards though it is more dignified and stately and is clearly the older of the two.)  It is now filled with crockery and elegant tea things, and looks immensely satisfied at being put to good use again.

The two carved cupboards communicate periodically, exchanging snippets in a friendly way.  The one with the marble counter is from Bombay and other one has lived for many years in Calcutta, but they are probably both remnants of old Parsi homes.  They do speak quite a bit, and I wish more than ever that I could understand what they have to say and catch up on old Parsi gossip.

The creamy marble shelf fit neatly into a corner of our living room, near a window from which gentle sunlight flows upon it.  Our rhino family love this corner - and they now look very content, with their own serendipitously sunny grazing ground.  Looking at them, we too feel pleased - and grateful.


Manisha verma said...

I loved the crockery cabinet can you tell me where did you get it and how much did it cost.

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