Friday, April 3, 2020

Part of the Family

Title "History of an Object in 500 words"
-- Third person only
Part of the Family
The dining table in their home was about thirty-six years old. It was purchased in Lucknow for the princely sum of Rs.1500, including the six cane-bottomed chairs that came along with it. When the family returned to India in 1984, with growing children and a single income, furniture was not a high priority item. Second hand beds were purchased, as well as a couple of folding cots. Four cane chairs served as sitting room furniture, along with two settees made from four metal trunks, cushioned with thin, folded mattresses (the old-fashioned kind you could roll up and travel with in a bed roll, aka bistarband, courtesy mother-in-law), neatly covered with pale yellow and cream striped handwoven single bedcovers, and made fancy with cushions clad in covers from Gurjari. The office had given them a makeshift table, an old desk which was alright for doing homework on, but not suitable for family dining. The dining table was much needed. Its surface was topped with Formica, a wipe-clean, practical trend of those days.
Life was simple. Regular, everyday meals were served in child-friendly stainless steel plates, with accompanying steel tumblers, katories and spoons. For formal occasions there was a set of melamine plates and bowls and serving bowls. Further prosperity led to the acquisition of beige stoneware plates for special occasions. Cane table mats were used, and one of the children had to lay the table while another one cleared up. Soon the dining table acquired a best friend and constant companion in the form of a sideboard, custom made, designed by the lady of the house, with some flexible shelves and a customized cutlery drawer. The dining table and sideboard have never been parted, since then. (They even underwent ‘plastic’ surgery together, many years later, when their Formica tops were replaced).
After a decade in its birthplace, the dining table and other household goods went down South, to Kochi, Kerala. It was there that the family first lived in an apartment building, with a lift. Labour costs being high, moving all the furniture to the sixth floor was an expensive business. It was also not very good for the joints of the dining table. The top became loose, and while trying to tighten it, while lying on her back under the table, wielding a screwdriver, the lady of the house managed to scratch her cornea. After she was treated by an ophthalmologist, the dining table was treated by a carpenter. Kochi also saw the man of the house rise in his career, and wish for more style and polish in his home. The dining table was now regularly covered with a table cloth, and porcelain plates were used for regular, daily meals.
This peripatetic dining table has inhabited several homes across the country. It has seen the ebb and flow of members, with old parents joining the household towards the end of their lives, and children leaving home, for school, college, jobs. The conversations and meals it has borne witness to are legion. If only it could speak…

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