How many times have you visited a place and got blown away by the ambiance and decor? Recently I visited a hotel in Udaipur and I was mesmerized with the way the hotel’s decor was done. There wasn’t a single item that belonged to today’s world, from the flower pot to the statutes, it all appeared classic and vintage. Every artifact looked like an antique in itself. Everything that was displayed in the hotel lobby, courtyard of the rooms screamed out culture and heritage. Most of the displayed items belonged to the seventeenth century and it was used by the royal family. As a guest I felt that kind of an ambiance can be recreated at home. I realized with a little bit of patience and a few old & vintage looking items we can rekindle the same magic that we normally see in pictures and magazines.After all home is where the heart is so turn your house into a home by making a few changes. Here are some tips to revamp your house.
You can never go wrong with a vase, flowers or candles any day. But if you want to give a rustic look to your house replace the vase with some old and antique looking brass or copper pots. This look in your living room can be achieved by placing a large brass or copper pot on the center table. Fill the pot with water and drop some fresh rose or marigold petals. Once all the petals are buoyant you can make it look special by leaving a lighted floating candle. Another option to instantly light up your house is to arrange fresh flowers in brass baskets. These baskets with handles used to be carried when people went to pluck flowers in the olden days. This would be a perfect blend of antiquity and contemporary decor. Simple yet elegant display of the pot with petals will surely give your living space a royal feel.
If you are a plant lover and want to flaunt your indoor plants then replace your earthen flower pots with gleaming brass pots that are readily available in the market. You also have an option to mount the earthen flower pots on top of huge brass or copper vessels.A few brass flower pots inside the house will definitely be a head turner, it would not just be a center of attraction but also your house will get a classic and vintage feel. It would make your visitors believe that you are a sure shot antique lover.
Now let’s talk about wall decor, most of the times we end up hanging photo frames or paintings on the wall, but have you ever thought of making your wall look different. How about adding some antique twist to your wall? Many a times you must have come across carved frames but never paid attention and left it untouched at the shop, now remember next time you see one of those antique looking frames just grab it and get it home because there a lot of ways you can play with those frames to give your house an exuberance look. Simple way is to fix those frames on the wall in your bedroom or living room. You can insert your own picture and get it framed or use some classic looking paintings to add a touch of class.
Remember we got to mix our personal taste and style while doing up the house. No matter how modern or sophisticated we are but when it comes to decorating our houses we always prefer having rare and antique looking objects. These rare collectibles add an aura to your house that can’t be neglected, it also emits positives vibes and brings back history and culture.
I prefer collecting antiques and artifacts while travelling and adding them to my personal collection. Each place we visit has its own historical and cultural significance and most of it is portrayed in the artifacts. Also the cost of these items in its native place might be a lot less compared to the same item being sold elsewhere hence it is a good idea to buy it.
Remember not to clutter the house with too many things, it’s better to have one or two rare and big objects in the right place so that it can grab all the attention of your visitors. Displaying too many small items might lose its essence and value and your antiques might get over shadowed.
This large brass storage pot is known as Kidaram in Tamil language. Kidaram is used for storage of water in the area known as Chettinadu in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Chettinadu is a dry area and in the olden days where corporation water supply was not available through the running pipelines, people used to depend on rain water for drinking purpose. Rain water used to be collected in a large vessel with wide open mouth placed directly under the sky to capture as much water as possible and then the collected water would be transferred to kidaram for storage.
Usage Of Kidaram For Fetching And Storage Of Water
There is another method for collection of rain water for drinking purpose. Chettinadu houses are designed to have large courtyards open to sky within their huge houses. The openings have a sloping roof from all four sides and rain water would pour down into the floor of the courtyards. By this design of the house, the Chettinadu people used to have rain water pouring down into their own houses. The flowing water from the roof used to be collected into the kidaram directly after filtering the water through clean white veshti (dhoti or pancha) or white saree traditionally worn by elderly widows. The old photo albums of Chettiyar’s marriage functions reveal the use of these large kidarams mounted on the traditional bullock carts to bring water from the local temple tank called ‘Oorani‘ for cooking feast for the guests.
The Design Of Kidaram
The storage pot has a huge belly to enable preserving large quantity of water with a narrow neck to prevent spillage or evaporation of the water. This pot shown in the picture has belly circumference (perimeter) of 8.4 feet and looks really huge. The height is 3 feet 10 inches with pedestal and 3 feet 4 inches without pedestal. The bottom circumference is 6 feet 7 inches. The base of the neck is 11 inches in diameter and the opening of the neck is 1 feet 2 inches in diameter. The rings of both sides of the neck are 5 and ½ inches each. The height of the lid is 6 inches. The huge pot weighs 40 kilos without the pedestal. It has to be carried by two people at least and is normally transported by inserting a long bamboo pole through the two rings and each person shouldering the each end of the pole.
The kidaram is the largest of all variety of vessels used in Chettinadu homes. This huge vessel matches with the gigantic scale of the architecture of the houses. Kidaram is used as a water harvesting device along with the sloping roof and open courtyards which facilitate the rain water to flow into the house. An excellent and ingenious design invented by Nagarathar to harvest water in the drought prone Chettinadu. These beautiful kidarams would normally decorate the four corners of the ‘Mutram,’ another name for open courtyard. If not four, at least one kidaram will be in one corner containing drinking water. The height of the kidarams varies between 3 to 7 feet. The kidarams are made out of either copper or brass. Though copper kidarams are costly, they preserve the purity of water for more than 6 months. That is the magic of the copper. It is interesting to note that the lid to this giant vessel comes in the shape of a roof of a hut.
The Colour Of The Kidaram
The colour of the vessel looks brownish green because of formation of patina on the surface of the brass vessel due to age. According to my estimate it should be 150 years to 200 years old belonging to early 1860s. It is natural that a thin protective layer forms on the surface of aged brass or copper items and this layer is called ‘patina’ which will be brownish green initially and turns into beautiful green colour as per the age of the exposed metal.
The best example of patina is the famous Statue of Liberty, the colossal sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States which is made out of copper. Instead of the original copper colour of pinkish brown, it looks greenish due to formation of patina over the 130 years of exposure to nature. It was commissioned in the year 1886 and is nearly 130 years old.
What is patina?
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Patina (/ˈpætɨnə/ or /pəˈtiːnə/) is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of stone; on copper, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes); on wooden furniture (sheen produced by age, wear, and polishing); or any such acquired change of a surface through age and exposure. Patinas can provide a protective covering to materials that would otherwise be damaged by corrosion or weathering. They may also be aesthetically appealing.”
Antique lovers, particularly from the west, love their antiques with the original patina formation. Patina gives a beautiful brownish green colour to the metallic objects and is aesthetically appealing. Some people prefer their antiques cleaned thoroughly of the patina to reveal the original color of the object when it was made. Archaeologists find out the age of the object by analyzing the patina.
How I Collected This Wonderful Brass Pot
During one of my trips in search of antiques, I happened to see this beauty in an antique shop in Karaikudi town in Chettinadu. It looked stunningly beautiful and my instinct prompted me to possess it. After the initial inquiries with the shop owner, I realized it is beyond my reach to buy the piece. I kept on dreaming about it. In one of my conversations, I mentioned to my friend Mr Jana Balasubramaniam, an investor by profession and Co-founder and Director in a company, whom we affectionately call Jana, about my visit to Karaikudi and my interest in antiques. He told me to inform him if I visit Karaikudi again and that he would make arrangements for my antique hunting. I did so when I planned to have a second visit.
Jana introduced me to Mr Muralidharan, a native of Karaikudi and a well-known professional. Here I must say that Mr Muralidharan is an excellent host and he personally accompanied me to the antique shops. I confessed to him my desire to own the huge brass water storage pot if I get it within my budget. It was a pleasant surprise to me that the shop owner greeted Mr Muralidharan with respect in the local Tamil language and enquired about the purpose of his visit to his shop. I later realized that being a local professional, most of the shop owners in the locality know him and he was well regarded. Mr Muralidharan managed to finalize the price within my budget including a stone pedestal to mount the huge pot (if the brass pot is not mounted on a stone or a wooden pedestal, there are chances of the base of the pot getting damaged), packing, forwarding and transporting the vessel by road to reach Hyderabad where I reside. The pot was delivered to me in an excellent condition and now it occupies a prominent place in my house with every visitor admiring its regal elegance.
I am grateful to Jana for his wonderful gesture of introducing me to Mr Muralidharan and for making excellent arrangements for my visit to Karaikudi. I am indebted to Mr Muralidharan for taking care of me so well and making it possible for me to own this grand vessel.
The Unique Architecture Of Chettiar Houses
Here I must say something about Chettinadu and Chettiar’s houses. Chettinadu is a hot and semi-arid region. The Chettinadu houses were designed taking into consideration the climate of the region. The materials for construction were selected accordingly to insulate and ventilate the houses. The central point of the houses were the courtyards facing east/west and the houses are built around the courtyards that bring in light, sun, shade, air and rain to the house. Chetti is a short form of Chettiars, also known as Nagarathar, the trading and finance business community in Tamil Nadu. Chettinadu means the region where Chettiars live. They are also called as ‘Nattu Kotai Chettiars’ meaning the Chettiars who live in the houses resembling mini forts or local forts. This entrepreneurial community developed their own architecture and town planning and their houses are unique in their size and design. The houses are huge mansions normally extending from one road to next parallel road. The front entrance door will start in one road and the backend exit door will be in the next parallel road.
The general design is that there will be a central courtyard with a high decorated roof surrounded on four sides by corridors supported by huge wooden pillars. From the corridors will be the entrance to the array of rooms for the family. There will be two or three courtyards in a typical house. The striking part of the houses is the highly carved wooden doors and windows .The houses are generally finished with special plaster made out of lime and the white of the egg, stucco work, terracotta tiled roofs, marble floors and Athangudi tiles that come in a myriad of colors and patterns, and stain glassed windows. The entrances of the houses are adorned with the icons of Gajalakhmi, Parvathi Parameswar and Meenakshi Sundereswar. The belief is that Gajalaksmi brings in wealth and prosperity and Shiva Parvathi couple brings in happy family life to the residents.
This is picture of an antique brass hair untangler or a comb. I am very careful the usage of the word comb as the artifact does not identify with the characteristics of a comb. It is long and forked. The design is similar to that of two pronged fork. It is made of brass so the forked ends remain sturdy.
As the name suggests the Antique Hair untangler or detangler was used to remove knots from hair. The sharp and narrow design of the untangler helps it to easily penetrate the tangled hair and easily remove the knots. South Indian women usually kept hair long. Most of the goddesses like Lakshmi and Saraswathi are shown in pictures as having a long and lustrous hair topped by golden kireetam (crown).It is evident from the ancient scriptures till present day cultures in India, women liked their hair long beyond their waist length.
This beautifully crafted hair detangler is crafted with a long handle to facilitate a good grip so that it is not slipped from the hand when negotiating with a tough tangle of hair.The handle has a corrugated design with parallel ridges and furrows. This corrugation gives the required grip to the handle.For further grip there are grooves in between the ridges that also give excellent design aspect and aesthetic appeal to the handle. Detangler has two fork like teeth that are actually used to detangle the kinky hair.The knotted hair is kept on the palm and the sharp edges of the fork teeth are run dexterously into the knots and worked out to remove the knots. Initially the hair is separated with the four fingers using them like the four teeth of a comb. By running through the fingers, one will get the feel of the hair and the extent of tangling.Then the hair is combed with a wide-toothed comb and in the process if a snag is hit, the detangler is used to loosen the tangled strands of hair.
Combing the hair after it has dried was not a viable option as the hair dries up in knots and becomes prone to breakage and damage. This untagler easily penetrates through any type of hair and makes it convenient to get rid of the knots and the long narrow design further aids the process.
The Antique brass hair untangler also consists of a rectangular hole on its handle. This hole was made so that the Antique Brass hair untangler can be hanged to a nail by a piece of thread close to the mirror.
This beautiful antique brass hair detangler is acquired from an antique dealer in Cochin, Kerala. Most of the ladies in Kerala fancy long hair as a tradition. Since long hair is prone to get tangled if proper care is not taken, Kerala women use the detanglers to keep their hair tangle free. Their hair is long, thick and shining with coconut oil which they apply profusely to their hair. There are various reasons for their long beautiful hair. Because of heavy rains in Kerala and the surrounding back waters, the weather is humid most of the time and this condition helps in moisturizing the hair. Kerala women rarely trim their hair hence allowing the hair to grow to its fullest length. They very rarely use chemical shampoos and rely mostly on traditional herbal ayurvedic lotions and powders. They always leave minimum amount of coconut oil on the head due to which their scalp is never in dry condition. The oil and moister keep the hair follicles and hair shaft healthy resulting in lustrous long and crinkle free hair.
Traditionally Kerala women take head bath every day after applying liberal dose of coconut oil in their hair. After the bath they do not dry their hair by rubbing against a towel or by hair dryer. Instead they wrap a thin cotton cloth around the wet hair like a turban which absorbs the excess moisture and retains required moisture for the hair. After that they keep the semi- wet hair loose and long by tying the hair loosely with few strands of hair picked from the sides of the head near the two ears. It is the dry hair that tends to tangle and moist hair is less prone to tangling. Most of the Kerala houses have their own tanks for their daily bath or at least a well. They go to work in the same semi- wet hair decorated with a string of jasmine flowers. These types of detanglers are not found in other parts of India and this is peculiar to Kerala and South Karnataka only.
May be it is the need that makes the artisans design and fabricate utility items such as these unique detanglers that help the ladies from this part of South India keep their beautiful hair tangle free.
This wonderful brass vessel with a lid is used store and carries sweets like Laddu. In my younger days I used to see ladies in silk saris come to our house carrying vessels like this each one holding different sweets. The ladies used to ask my mother to give them a plate and would place on the plate one sweet item from each brass carrier. I used to be enamoured by the shining brass sweet carrier vessels. After placing the delicious sweets in the plate used to close lid and hold the vessel by its handle and leave our house to repeat the same ritual in the next house. Normally, in our village families used to distribute sweets when the new bride comes to their house and this is the way they welcome the new member into the family and declare and introduce to the close community of the village. Each family used to have variety of brass carrier vessels in different shapes and sizes for this purpose. If certain families do not have such vessels, they would borrow them from those who have.
It is a tradition in Hindu South Indian marriages that the bride’s family gives a variety of sweets to groom’s family in a function called Appagintalu (it means to hand over) followed by Tagavu. Appagintalu is an emotional ceremony in which the bride’s family formally hands over the bride to the groom’s family. After this ritual,there is another function called Taguvu in which the bride’s family would give gifts to the groom’s family including variety of sweets like Laddu, Minapasunni, Kaajalu, Palakova, chanividi, Arisalu, Badusha ,sugar candy in the shape of parrots called Panchadara Cilakalu and the inivitable Chanividi and few savoury items. The variety of sweets and the savoury items depend on the economic status of the family. Even in families with a low budget it is a custom to distribute least three items –Chanivid, Laddu and Jantikalu (Jantikaluis a savoury item). It is a faith that Chanividi brings well being to the bride when she brings it from her mother’s house and feeds the other families who would bless the bride with progeny and prosperity with the sweet tongue after tasting the sweet.
Saari is a tradition in which the bride brings gifts from her mother’s house to her in-laws house mainly on two occasions. That is when she comes first time to the in-law’s house and secondly when she comes to in-laws house with her first baby. It is a practice in Andhra families that the pregnant lady would go to mothers place for delivery. When she is seven months pregnant, she goes to her mother’s house for delivery and will return to husband’s house after delivery, when the baby is three months old or at times seven months old. This is the time she will brings variety of sweets and savoury items for consumption in the family and as well as for distributing among neighbours, friends and relatives. Along with the sweets, the new mother will also bring and distribute a doll to each family along with the sweets called Bommasaari, signifying and announcing the news that she has given birth to a baby. There is a deep significance for each and every sweet distributed during this occasion that has bearing on the developmental stages of the baby. Each item signifies one stage of the progressive development of the baby, from birth until three months and doing of an act for the first time by the baby like- NavvukiNuvvundalu (sweet balls of sesame seeds for first time laughing by the baby), chongakiChakkilalu (a type of roundish starch based fried savoury dish for first time saliva generation), Palukulakichilakalu (sugar candy in the shape of a parrot for the first time talking), moodonelaki muddakudumulu (balls of steamed rice granules for attaining third month). In third month the baby normally opens the clenched fists for the first time. In celebration of this event Muddakudumulu are prepared. Since Muddakudumulu have short shelf life, normally sweet Laddus are distributed in their place. And the list goes on depending on the interest, enthusiasm and the financial condition of the family. In saari traditions, sweets are distributed in the vessels similar to the Antique Brass sweets Carrier.
This bucket shaped sweets carrier vessel is acquired by me from a family in village named Teki in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India. There is an inscription on this enchanting vessel reading as “DhulipallaLakshminarayanamma” meaning that this vessel belongs to a lady named with family name “Dhulipalla” and her name is “Lakshminarayanamma”.
This brass pail carrier with the lid is 16 inches tall from bottom to the handle top,and the height without the handle is 8.5 inches. This bucket shaped pot sits on a round rim which is 1 inch high.The top opening of the bucket shaped pot is 10 inches diameter. The handle is a semi-circular brass rod with “U” shaped curves at the both ends which are inserted into the holes of the two riveted brass plates with copper rivets.
This lovely container is coated with Tin inside. This tin coating is also called Tagarampoota in Telugu language and helps to prevent the contents from directly in contact with the brass material since some food items react chemically with brass.This container has the double benefit of having protective tin inside and beautiful brass material with its golden hue outside. The tin coating wears away in certain vessels due to constant usage and cleaning. In such a case a re-coating is necessary for healthy food storage and serving.
This vintage brass 5-tier tiffin box was used by me during my school days to carry lunch to my school. I was born in the year 1940. My grandfather who was a head master for the only elementary school we had in our village Someswaram, in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India, had admitted me into the school when I was five years old after doing proper pooja and ceremonial Akharabhyasam (writing OM first time on the slate). I started going to school along with my grandfather Sri Yenugu Krishna Murthy carrying a palaka and balapam (stone slate and stone pencil) in a cotton bag. This was all my school kit. I graduated from 5th standard when I was 10 years old and that was the maximum education my school could offer. The nearest high school was 5 kilometres away and the only way to reach there was by a bicycle. Since I was considered as too young to go alone on a bicycle, my grandfather decided I should stay with my uncle Sri Rajupanthlu garu in the town Peddapuram.
I was admitted in the ULCM High School, Peddapuramin the 1st form (now equivalent of 6th standard) and I successfully completed my 3rd form when I was 13 years old. By then, I was considered eligible to ride a bicycle. So I was shifted back to our village Someswaram and got admitted in a high school in a village named Rayavaram about 5 kilometres from my village. I got a new cycle and a tiffin carrier with 5 boxes in the year 1953. I do not know if I got a brand new lunch box or an already old one by then. Let us consider that as new at that time. That brings us to the age of this 5-tier brass tiffin box set at 60 years old.
This 13 inches tall lunch carrier has an assembly of five containers- a large one with 3 inches height, three medium sized ones with 2 inches height and a one small one (5th one) with one inch height. All the round boxes are 4.5 inches wide (diameter). All the five containers are held tight by a brass strap frame resembling an inverted “U”shape that has a bent at the top. The two parallel sections have grooves that fit snugly into the knobs on the lower container. The upper most box tightly fits into the bent part of the “U”. The top part of the “U” is used as a handle to carry the tiffin carrier assembly. There is an aluminium spoon that holds the boxes and the frame together. The brass frame has two holes at the bent, and the top vessel lid has a knob with one hole. When the frame is pushed on to the five container assembly, the two holes in the frame and the hole at the top box lid come in a single straight line and the aluminium spoon is inserted through the 3 holes. That seals the assembly tight.
The lunch carrier has a stamping on the top vessel cover reading as ” 41/2“meaning there are four and half containers in the assembly.The top box which is of 1 inch height is considered as half box. There is also another stamping giving the patent details reading as “Patent1937 HK22729”. This reveals that this design was patented in the year 1937. I do not know who the manufacturer is but with the help of patent number maybe we can find the manufacturer. All the vessels are coated with tin coating, locally known as tagarampoota. This coating is given to prevent the contact of the food with brass metal since brass reacts chemically with certain types of food materials, particularly Tamarind juice, which is profusely used in Andhra food preparations, and also with lime juice.That is precisely the reason as to why an Aluminium spoon is used instead of a brass spoon.The spoon is used for locking purpose and also as a spoon for serving and eating purpose.You cannot eat food with brass spoon for the reason of chemical reaction. Hence aluminium spoon is used which serves both the purpose.
I used to start from home at 9 a.m. every day to school and my mother used to keep my lunch carrier, which she used to call it dabba, ready by the same time packed with hot food for my mid-day meal. She used to pack rice in the big dabba at the bottom, the second one with the pulusu or pappu, the third one with vegetable curry, the fourth one with curd and the top one with pickle. The pickle will be either Aavakaya with badda ( mango slice) or Maagaya with juicy tenka (mango seed). I used to keep the hot brass tiffin box into a cotton bag with handles and hang the bag on the left side of the handle bar of the cycle. My school books were pushed into another similar bag and it was hung on the right side of the handlebar. This was how my journey to school started. If there was an item of interest, it was the carrier. My mind would always be on the carrier instead of on the class subject and I would wait impatiently for the lunch time bell. The children of our village used to sit together and eat our lunch and most of the times we used to share our lunch. Our school used to be at the far end of the village amidst paddy fields.There used to be small canals (bodikalva) to irrigate the paddy fields. We would sit on the banks of these canals under a mango tree and eat lunch with a picnic atmosphere. After that we would wash our tiffin carrier in the canals, reassemble them and put it back in the cotton bag.
I was using this vintage brass lunch carrier for three years during my studies for 4th,5th forms and SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) which is equivalent to present day 10th. After my SSLC, I had gone to Kakinada to study my Intermediate in PR College. Thus, my cycle journey and my dear lunchbox carrier were given rest. While my cycle was disposed, I retained the brass lunch carrier, my companion for 3 years. It is now an integral part of my antiques collection. This fabulous 5-tier tiffin box is my goddess Annapoorna which fed me for three years in my life.
I do hope you enjoyed reading this posting on Vintage Tiffin Carrier as much as I did writing it. I love to receive your comments.
UPDATE – Jun 28, 2017
Take a look at the video that we’ve recently uploaded. Hope you like it.
The sturdy handsome teak wooden box you see here is made in Burma and shipped to India by the workers at Burma of Indian origin. This enchanting box is made of pure Burma teak wood, famous for its durability,strength and water resistance.The box is known as ‘trunk box’ since it is made out of the timber planks cut out of the trunk of the Burma teak wood tree. The best quality of wood comes from the trunk and wide planks of wood are required to make a large box which can be obtained from the wide trunk only. The main characteristics of a wooden trunk box are:
There should not be any joints in the wooden planks
It should be a single piece in all six sides of the box
You will observe that this box is made out of solid wood without any joints in the wooden boards.
The Design of the Box
The box is designed to keep valuable items like gold and silver items, silk garments and any items that need safety and protection. There is a special compartment with a lid inside the box to hold important documents.
The box is sitting on a 3 inch high solid base frame. This base frame takes the load of the box and reinforces its structure.The lid has a 3 inch high inverted tray structure joined to the main box with rotary brass hinges. There is a beautiful brass latch fixed to the top lid that fits snugly into a ring fixed to the main box which can be locked with a padlock. There is an in-built locking system also but I have misplaced the key.
The wooden boards on four sides are skilfully joined with neat symmetrical inter locking design to form the box. This shows the skill of the carpenter who made this box. There are no adhesive used to strengthen the joints. The strength of the joints is achieved by perfect cutting of the joint grooves and tight fitting of the inter locking of the wooden grooves. It should be noted with admiration that no adhesive is used in the joints for tight fitting.It is purework of precision cutting and fitting.
The Story of the Box
The story of the box is enveloped with the feeling of gratitude of a family for a village head. The story starts in a village named Vanapalli in the Konaseema area in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India during the World War II. Many workers from this village went to Burma (the present day Myanmar) for work including a group of carpenters. In those days, telephones were not available in the villages and the only way of communication with the Burma workers and their families in India was by postal letters. Most of the families in India were illiterates and they did not know how to reply when a letter came from Burma.
My father-in-law’s father, Sri Machiraju Pullam Raju, was a Karanam (government representative) for Vanapalli village. In those days, karan was the virtual head of the village and the villagers used to approach the Karanam for any help they wanted.The families of Burma settlers were coming to Pullam Raju garu (garu is a Telugu word used to express respect) whenever they got a letter from Burma so that he can read the letter to them and exchange family welfare.He was also helping them in writing letters in reply. The families also took his advice on various issues in their families. Thus, Pullam Raju garu became a main link for the families to exchange information between Burma and India.
When the Second World War was declared, India was under British rule at that time. The Indian British troops were moved to Burma to fighting against Japanese army who had created a base there to fight against the Western forces. There was lot of commotion in the village Vanapallias they heard from the newspapers that Burma was bombed. The families were worried about their men at Burma and the frequent letters of exchange made Pullam Raju garu closer to the villagers. During war time,around 1940 some of the workers returned back to India and among them were some carpenters. The workers that returned from Burma were visiting Pullam Raju garu with their families to show their gratitude for the service rendered by him. They gave him some gifts that they brought from Burma. Few carpenters brought him foldable easy chairs. Seven carpenters brought him Burma teak wood trunk boxes; one each in different sizes. The one shown here is one out of them. This box is around 72 years old.
Pallam Raju garu had five children, two boys and three girls. The eldest son,Sri Machraju Bhaskar Rao was married to my aunt (Father’s sister)Machiraju Satyavathi. Subsequently, I married their daughter and he became my father-in-law. Pullam Raju garu gifted one box to each of his children. The remaining 2 boxes he has given to his friends. My father-in-law’s box was kept in our ancestral house in Someswaram since he was moving to Madras (present day Chennai) for his job and he did not have much space in his Chennai rented house to accommodate this trunk box. This box was being used by my mother who used to keep her valuable possessions in this box, including her wedding Banaras sari, my father’s Salem silk pancah and kanduva, her gold jewels, silver items like dinner plates, glasses, bowls, gandhapuginni (sandal wood paste bowl), rose water sprinkler and many more interesting items.
I and my sisters would flock around the box whenever my mother opened it to peep into various items that were stored in it. There used to be a small lakkabharani( lacquer box) in red colour in which my mother used to keep small items like gold rings, ear drops, locket with Anjaneya emblem and few silver coins. Sometimes my mother used to allow us to touch and feel them till our curiosity was satiated. Then she would put them back into lacquer box .The lacquer box goes back into the trunk box and is locked. My mother would then tie the key of the lock to the corner end piece of her sari.
My father-in-law never claimed the box. As an engineer, he used to get frequent transfers in his job and this heavy box was an inconvenience. The box has made our house its permanent home. My mother stayed in our ancestral house in Someswaram till the death of my grandfather in 1970 and thereafter she was living with us at Chennai. When she came to Chennai she brought with her the Burma teak wood box also along with her baggage. Since then this vintage box is with me as a symbol of the noblest feeling called gratitude.
About teak wood and teak wood tree
Teak wood can be crowned as the strongest and most durable wood in the world. Teak wood has highest oil content and hence this wood has the power of rot resistance and protection from the infestation by the insects.It is the ideal wood for making boats since it is water resistant.It is widely used for making outdoor furniture for it can withstand any kind of weather.
The wood name “teak” is derived from Tamil word Thekku. The botanical family name is Verbenaceae and belongs to the sub-category of Tectona. The teak wood tree can grow up to 150 feet high and can live for 100 years. It is native to Asea and mainly grown in plantations in countries like India, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand and also Philippine islands. The fragrant white colored flowers of the tree bloom in clusters and bear fruits by insect pollination. The seeds of the fruit are used for plantation. The tree has big leaves with hairy structure underneath the leaf.