Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Legendary Carpet

This carpet has seen it all. It has spent its life with our family and seen five generations and numerous family events. It has brushed many soles of great souls that have walked on it.

Nobody discussed about its history in my lifetime as it silently lay beneath our feet, adding beauty with its lovely pattern. We do not know how it came to be part of our family but observing old pictures from the family album gave a hint of how long it has been here.

Belgium is famous for carpets and going by the durability, design and quality, it can only be wildly assumed that someone must have gifted my great grandfather or that it was his big purchase as part of a sofa set to entertain his clients and visitors.

That was at a time when sofa sets were entering homes - 'going British' (not western). It is a popular belief also, that the British brought window and door curtain system to India! I was witness to an old ragged sofa set that was lying in an unused passageway. For repair the set of 3 was handed over in 1975 to a known upholsterer who lived next street and his two young daughters came to our house to learn lessons in Veena from my maternal aunt. Into the cart they went that day and was the last we saw of it. The upholsterer's extraordinary delay and our frequent inquiries resulted one fine day in him asking back to us "which sofa set?"! In the meantime, my grandfather also had died and we were forced to 'write it off as a bad debt'. In all likelihood this carpet during its 'heydays' was kept in the visitor's room (writing the blog from that very room) in front of the sofa set. Straw mats would have been popular then also, as it is now at least with us.

This carpet was popularly addressed as "RathnakambLi".

This is the pattern of our subject. How beautiful it would have looked when it was fresh and new!

The above photo is of K.Srikantaiah and his wife, a nephew of my great grandfather. It must be from the 1930s. Since it was a joint family, he lived together among many others in the same house I write this. The house itself was built in 1911. His job later took him to Bangalore. Their son K.S.Nanjundaiah (find his name in the link) was born in this house around 1917 (he is 92 now, old and frail).

Observe the carpet under their feet and another striped carpet at the back one in the picture. This picture must have been 'modified' in the studio to give that background of a scenery or it must have been a big painting like we see on drama stages, I don't know.

(That was the sofa I referred above.)

The above picture must be from the late 1940s. Notice the same carpets. The couple is unknown - may be some guest visiting the family for an event that must have taken place in our house itself. That open yard has become my garden now.

This is from 1956 when friends and relatives had gathered for my grandfather's 60th birthday celebration.

The carpet was part of my parent's wedding reception at Narasimharaja Sahakara Bhavana at 100 ft. Road (now Chamaraja Double Road) in December 1956.

I have grown with it.
(Above picture - note the wooden toys and empty talcum powder tins as toys!)

I have played on it spending endless hours. Somehow, that pattern has been very attractive to me even from my very young age. The bordering straight lines were imagined as my roads for my toy games - I used to kneel in the centre and 'drive' my cars and buses (often other objects also became cars and even aeroplanes!) and what speed I drove as I swiveled on my knees only to get bruised by the rough carpet! We wore shorts. I did it anti-clockwise because of my right-handedness as it was easier to turn my vehicles to the left! There were no accidents. Purely because there was no violence anywhere. Roads were calm and people drove at leisurely speeds, so typical of Mysore of yore, I can boldly say. The early sixties had no movies to influence driving stunts and destroying cars. The famous Grand Prix movie came later. But the Circus Car impressed me with its jump! It would be driven at great speed up a gradient and then land at the centre of the arena with a thud.. aah, that was an impressive scene prompting my replaying using an examination clip board raised by a few books!

My favourite toy was the one on the left. It was a gift to me from a relative (C.Srikantia) who had been to Japan for his studies as early as the 1930s. Since his only daughter had outgrown toys, he was kind enough to give it as well as many other items which still decorate our showcase. That car had provision for batteries and had lights (I spoiled all the beautiful little milky bulbs during my experiments), its front wheels could be turned by hand and I found it so thrilling to watch the car turn on its own as I simply pushed! This beautiful car - my Rolls Royce - has run many a mile on my carpet road!

(Posing for this blogpost, I flew back to those days! Cameras were not so easily available to freeze memorable moments then!)

The "London Open Bus" did not run much though it had a steering wheel that turned the front wheels because its tyres had worn out and was running on its rims - could have damaged my roads! We complain of bad roads, but this was a complaint of the bad tyres, much like those steel-ringed bullock cart tyres damaging newly laid tar roads!

In the 1960s I was inspired in my 'carpet driving' by our 'family taxi' bearing number 77, driven by one Khalaq who was often hired to take us to Nanjandud's Srikanteswara Temple. I imitated his actions on my carpet with my toys. There were no plastic toys, but only spring-wound toys shaped from tin sheets. Rubber tyres were making their entry into toy cars. I found those cheap ones fitted with them unsuitable as they were usually ''push back and leave" type. They strayed off my carpet roads!

My two children also have played on it as it used to be spread out on the floor every day, rolled up when the maid servant came for sweeping/mopping. When little kids 'wetted' on it, it was time to dry it out in the sun!

Dust was not a problem in the house in the house we grew up. When I brought it with me about ten years ago to start living my 1911 ancestral house, it was a problem because traffic became heavy.

As such, maintaining our beloved 'RatnakambLi' which is quite adept at collecting dust in large volumes and too quickly made us to think twice for its regular use. So, it was spread out in a small open room which we do not use regularly and it is where it now lies. A vacuum cleaner would have made things easier then, but by the time this machine came home (only this month), the beautiful carpet had already faded and become unfit for regular use in the living area.

The natural aging process and slowly on the way out. It is at a "can't keep, can't use and can't throw" stage.

Even if we throw it out one day, memories of our humble 'RathnakambLi' will linger on for ever.


YOSEE said...

What a warm and soulful ride through memory lane ! That carpet sure has a lot of history embedded into it ! Surprising that it has made it so far . When old things, passed down generations, reach their inevitable day of demise, its always a sorrowful chore to bid them bye.....At least you have photographs of the beloved ratnakambali down the ages !

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I have seen the aforementioned carpet! I wish you had brought out the Rolls Royce cars, I would have clicked that picture! It was wonderful of you to trace back the history of that carpet in your house. If it had memories, what stories it could have recalled, of the days gone by. You have done it equally well! Enjoyed this piece Dinu, fabulous.

Kamini said...

I really loved this post! Those pictures through the ages are priceless. Old and worn though the carpet is now, I hope it never gets thrown away!

wineye said...

Lovely.. what a beautiful story around a carpet and esp with the pictures !!

Hope to see more such gems from you.