Show case…..collected , curated and created !

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The poetry of growing up as Fauji Brat (born, raised and transferred) essentially meant that by the time one was in grade 5 one had to have traveled across the country’s vast landscape, lived in a tented accommodation, a temporary, an additional temporary and then finally the designated quarters! What was common to allotted  housing however was the ubiquitous show case/display cabinet / vitrine in the drawing room !It may have been  a free standing unit or a built in one. Some were open shelved while others had sliding glass shutters or glass fronted doors. It was an important piece of furniture by virtue of the preciousness of its contents and consequently as a result of which the best craftsmanship was often lavished upon it by each officer who occupied that house .Wood inlays, marquetry, veneering and carvings. Thus the showcase ultimately grew in stature and often became the show stopper in the living room.
The display objects varied depending on the geographic locations of the posting, travels or on those much awaited gifts from relatives who made an annual visit to Hindustan from “Foreign” lands! Interior design those days meant mismatched MES furniture, wooden packing cases that doubled up as a couch or a bed, fresh flowers in empty jam or liquor bottles, old Banaras sari drapes, hand embroidered duvets, netted doily covers for the water jug and white washed walls. The only means of salvation to take this ‘Military décor ‘(as it was called then) anywhere close to  being called Stylish were the artifacts displayed in the showcase.
I remember Maa was very picky  about what was put out! Each piece was selected with great care .A request ….’Maa  please keep that beautiful Kashmiri jewelry box on this shelf ….was met with a stern’ No ! The reason ? ‘I don’t want people to guess where our last posting was’!Not that it was a state secret but  of course, it would steal the  impact from the conversation starter…’During our tenure in……’ !!!
Like fashion in clothes so also fashion in display items. The roaring 60,s saw the advent of an eclectic mix of Indian and ‘imported ‘stuff, Belgian crystal ashtrays, masks from the Southeast, taxidermied wall mounts ,elephant legs that served as ottomans or peg tables , tapestry from Nepal and brass lamps from South India  !
The 70,s was a turbulent and testing decade. The Indo –Pak operations sent the country on a dizzying roller coaster ride with gut wrenching ups and downs. History rarely divides itself up into neat 10 year packages but in the Indian context it conspired to do just that! In the midst of all this chaos India got introduced to the much talked of and controversial  Hippie cult. This counter culture brought in its wake a paradigm shift in interior décor, Psychedelic was the new buzz word. The display unit took a back seat literally. The disinterest was very obvious as one noticed the …hurriedly put together colored pebbles in a gold fish bowl, knick knacks picked up on a nature trail, painted drift wood, lava rocks, a miniature model of a sail boat and maybe some books that squatted comfortably on the coffee table .Musical instruments from the guitar to the sitar stood on tiny druggets in every availabe corner !
The 80,s and the 90,s were essentially ethnic! Born as a humble metal kitchen utensil, current status ‘retired’ proudly rubbed shoulders with Carrara marble statuettes from Italy. A shinning lacquered copper milk vessel served as a planter for a tiny variegated peperomia    .The showcase also housed a beautiful collection of lamps, silver Ganesha  and bronze figurines! Everything from the brass kitchen tongs to a measuring cup found its rightful resting place as a display item in the show case.

Drawing /Living room display units  enjoyed iconic status for centuries . Slowly but surely they were being phased out not so much because of space constraints but more because the very concept was being trashed. People no longer felt the need to display travel souvenirs in a show case as proof of their visit  ,it was simpler to just share pictures on  Google + or on  any social networking platform !Stark interiors have come to stay taking the concept  ‘ Less is more’ to another level altogether ! Surprisingly a lot amongst us still owe allegiance to the Vitrine so in fond memory…. a hukka on a  shelf  in a niche somewhere , antique silver  on  a beautiful two toned slatted wooden coffee table ,  a flower arrangement on a console maybe ..But display we will! I plead guilty !Scented candles in onyx candle stands, hand painted porcelain plates , wood and shell inlay cat , antique metal horse , framed photographs, bronze Masai warriors ,Mahogany masks, a hanging brass diya , a railway lantern , a marble Buddha , dancing bamboo, terracotta lamps, family pictures  and more ..all engaged in the endeavor to transform a house into a home ! Shalom! Peace on earth! 
RIP showcase. I know you did not coerce, struggle or resist! You let go with grace. You will be missed!!!

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16 thoughts on “Show case…..collected , curated and created !

  1. Wow. This took me back decades. I have bid a not so tearful goodbye to the quintessential Showcase but my tables and consoles bear testimony of my travels and the wall masks scream for attention!!

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  2. Just amazing ! I didn’t want it to end :). Ms. Aru , you have a real talent !! You just make everything sound like a beautiful story and you take us back in time… just WOW !!

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    1. Asante sana ! We went to see my cousin,s baby yesterday and there the whole nostalgia trip started . Life in my parents home ,Papa,s frequent transfers , new housing , new school , new friends … It was like starting life all over again . Miss that , miss them . Life after the parents go .. is never the same . It somehow feels like the lustre has faded ! Esta es la vida !💞💖💓💗😘😍😍❤️

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  3. Wow !! Simply beautiful :). You just make everything sound like a story and it’s almost like you take us on a journey back in time. I just didn’t want it to end…. Totally loved it !!

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    1. Thank you doll . It was total nostalgia recounting my journey from the armed forces to civvy street ! Glad you enjoyed it ! A little health hiccup , house arrest and the heat helped to make my morning productive !!! Cheers baby !!

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    1. Thank you Meenal ! It was nostalgic for a lot of us who led a nomadic life with all its clutter and chaos ! Each day
      a new place and a profusion of memories….of unremarked yet not unremarkable experiences.!!!!!

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  4. I still have ours and of course at Mom’s too, antique has got a revamp and all…memories, fetishes and love. I remember how Mom would plan her ritualistic cleaning for the various occasions like Ugadi etc. It just stands there in your living room and actually starts living!!!Cheers to the showcase!!

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    1. How lovely to hear that you still have yours and your mom too ! I know Archu ..that ritual of dusting and rearranging was followed so diligently!
      Meenal Katre sent a pic of a 100+ years showcase which has her prized collection . Will request her to share it here .I agree its alive and the pride is palpable !!

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