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An Antique Bonding – My Association With YK Antiques

I am Bala Gopal, a UI designer by profession and an artist by passion. It’s no wonder that I am a big fan of the place and the person who is moulding and resurrecting the antique world – YK sir, as I fondly call him. I am not fluent and knowledgeable about the antique world, but I am a big fan of art and design. So, this blog post isn’t about the technicalities of antiques but my connection and feel with the place I so cherish. Read on…

From left to right: Ganga, Yamuna, YK sir, Bala

A House Full of Surprises – First Impressions!!

A chance meeting with my friend Vinay landed me at the gates of YK Antiques. The moment I entered the place I knew things were waiting to meet me – so many antiques at one place!! It looked like a one-stop place for antique hunters and lovers. I formally met the place and my dearest YK sir. At our first meeting, the beauty of the place overtook the pleasantries we both exchanged. I could hardly keep up with formalities. My eyes were racing through each object that was displayed. I was already mentally creating background colors for the walls on which they were displayed.

As if YK sir was telepathizing with me, he asked my two cents on the colour palette to make the place a little sunny-side-up. Incidentally, the place was going through renovation. I jump-started and put forward all my cents (as if I was waiting for YK sir to ask me) on what colours to use to make the place look contemporary yet preserving the antiqueness. I suggested deep yellow as the background color and white for the shelves. I was able to convince them.

YK sir toured us around the house. Every antique has a story woven around it. More than YK sir’s collection, it’s his stories of each antique that made them more interesting. It’s a collection of a man dedicated to collecting antiques that reflect our culture and tradition over the period of 30+ years for future generations. The uniqueness of the place is the freedom to interact with each antique. There’s no ‘Do Not Touch’ board and there are no do’s and don’ts. You can simply go around the house and feel the ancient beat in each antique.

While we were simply absorbing the quaint beauty of the place, the great finds of YK sir, his stories, YK sir offered us steaming filter coffee in a brass filter. To our astonishment, the dining table on which we were served coffee happens to be a huge gangalam with a glass top. It really is the place that deserves all eyes because it’s not everyday that you come across such home-antiques to share with future generations that reaffirms and strengthens that the future of our ancient culture is indeed in safe hands. This visit had a profound impact on me and took me down the memory lane when I used to play with wooden toys and brass vessels. 

Second Visit and My Maiden Project with YK Antiques

Antique collection can take many forms and they speak volumes about the collector if displayed properly. I am grateful to YK sir that he incorporated my suggestion on the wall and shelf colours. On our second visit, the place only looked more beautiful, brighter, and warmer. 

Besides being aesthetically stunning, the place needed some rearrangement of big plates on the walls, which were otherwise lying scattered on the floor. We took it as our first project. I did a couple of sketches on how we can hang those plates on the walls and showed it to YK sir. He liked the idea and we started working on it. I used curtain rods and knob edges to rest the plates on either side. With all the tools handy, ideas brimming, freedom to try out what I want to, and YK sir’s exuberant smile, my first project with YK Antiques was very successful. Here’s a look at our work:

Rearranged Plates Mounted on the Wall
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Our Consequent Visits and The Wall Art

Our regular visits to YK Antiques created a deep sense of attachment with the place and YK sir. We were so grateful that YK sir let us be ourselves and literally made us feel at home. One day, I took Ganga and Yamuna to have a first-hand experience with the place and they too were thrilled to see the place. Ganga is my wife and Yamuna is Ganga’s twin sister. Sir toured us around the house, and we all shared stories on antiques with each other. At the end of the visit, all three of us were left inspired and attached to the place wanting to contribute to the place. By the way, while Ganga is an artist, Yamuna is a writer. With this combination of art, design, and writing, we satisfied our creative sides through YK Antiques.  

The Wall Art

YK sir suggested we paint the wall in the lawn area. We were so excited and started off with brainstorming, followed by sketches and exploration of color palette. The sheer beauty of our brush strokes and the subtle emotions in our color choices were at full display. We wanted the wall to breathe Indian-ness, so we chose to paint the kathakali face with elephant and peacock as accompaniments. It added a dash of warmth, subtlety, and exclusivity to an otherwise plain wall. This project is close to our hearts for many reasons. Here are some pics:

Wall Art
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To read more about our Wall Art Project, click here.

Memories of Moments at YK Antiques

All our work at YK Antiques is a natural extension of the spirit of family we began to feel for YK sir. We didn’t count on time spent or the heat of travelling very often. Personally, I have been enriched with experiences, stories, and expertise of YK sir. One such experience was redoing the lawn area with stones and grass. We were very new to the kind of hard work that goes into the picture-perfect green lawns we sometimes see in pictures. My great experience was spending time with YK sir, driving through the lanes of old Alwal on a two-wheeler to buy stuff required for the green lawn, listening to the stories of old buildings from YK sir and the list goes on.

From buying shabad stones and garden soil to buying lawn grass, each moment was a treasure. As we were all new to this and the gardener we hired refused to lay the grass on the lawn, we decided to dirty our hands. While Vinay and I cut the grass to the size we need, sir helped us do it. The lawn was ready – beautiful and green. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. Some pictures of our work:

The Lawn
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Hum-Sab-ki-Wali – Diwali 

We celebrated some special moments at YK Antiques. We celebrated Diwali with bright diyas, colourful Rangoli by Ganga and Yamuna, flower decorations, lights, and the beautiful antiques cheering up the spirit of festivity and our happiness. Some pictures for you:

Diwali
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The Go-to Place on Weekends

Be it for work, listening to the stories of antiques, staying overnight, or just to meet and have conversations, YK sir and this place were always welcoming. It soon became our go-to place on weekends. Some of our work on display at YK Antiques and work in progress pictures:

Work Snaps
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YK Logo Design and Some Design Surprises

YK sir once mentioned  that he would like to have a logo designed for YK Antiques that reflects his passion for antiques. We took this as an opportunity to give back to the place that has been a second home for us. Ganga and I designed a logo with intricate patterns which is now used for YKA’s online and print presence. Here’s the logo we designed:

Logo Sketch – YK Antiques
Lined Logo – YK Antiques

We also made tiny foldable visiting cards for YK sir as he travels a lot and these cards would be handy to introduce YK Antiques as the go-to place for antique lovers. Here’s how they look:

Visiting Card – YK Antiques

Now, bookmarks & pocket calendar! As a return gift for people who visit YK Antiques, we created some bookmarks with notes penned by Yamuna and a calendar behind. This has been a popular pick and we always go out of stock. Have a look:

Bookmarks & Calendar 2020 for YK Antiques

The Name Plate – Indeed a Surprise for YK Sir

We decided to surprise YK sir by making a nameplate for YK Antiques. As we have been branding the place as a home museum, we needed to have a nameplate. We pooled in all the contacts, got it carved with the logo we made, painted suitable colors to reflect antiques and home museum. We fixed brass knobs on either sides and that’s how things created out of pure love look like:

The Name Plate
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Most of our work at YK Antiques was never planned. We always jumped into doing something and then fine-tuned our ideas. YK sir has always been generous and encouraged us.

A Day to Remember

We were thrilled when YK sir asked us to assist and host a group of visitors from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS Mumbai), organized by Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). We were nervous but at the same time full of energy and enthu to go for it.

We spent days and nights making posters on YK Antiques – its past and present. While Yamuna handled researching and writing about YK Antiques, I was handling creating layouts, printing and framing. On the big day, we arrived early and looked after arrangements for poster display, snacks and chai, and a surprise calendar as a takeaway for the visitors. When the students arrived, we welcomed them and introduced ourselves. The awe of the students was evident as soon as they entered through the main door. If you have ever been to YK Antiques, you would by now realise that the main entrance door is an antique in itself.

YK sir walked them through each of his collectables so gently preserved over the years, narrated beautiful stories about them and left everyone spellbound. Though we heard the stories a lot of times by then, we were as amazed as we had been in our first meeting with YK Antiques. That’s the beauty of the place. The students were delighted that they could touch those antiques. 

Overall, it was a great experience for us. The student-visitors liked the place very much. As a token of appreciation, TISS wrote a cheque for YK Antiques. It was the first-ever honor for YK Antiques and YK sir still treasures it as the most memorable visit.

A Day to Remember
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The Dream Team

Now about the team that loves YK Antiques as much as they love their own homes.

The Captain of the ship, YK sir: A man in his 80s with a spirit of 20s. I bet you wouldn’t know he is an 80-year young guy if you are a first timer to YK Antiques. That’s how well he keeps his spirits high and shows us that age is just a number. He has a genuine affection and respect for everyone. More than anything, he is a fantastic listener.

Me: You have had enough introduction by now and you will get to know me better at the end of my blog.

Vinay: A great friend with an impeccable sense of humor. He is the one who introduced us to YK sir. He has been a key role player in shaping YK’s online presence and making it a home museum.

Satya: The Video Man! He is the one responsible for all the videos of YK Antiques. A guy with infinite patience.

Karthik: The go-to person for all things tech. He’s extremely resourceful with his knowledge on blog-posting, hosting of the website and all other tech aspects. He also happens to be our common friend.

Ganga and Yamuna: The ‘twin’ artists. While Ganga is a practising artist, Yamuna is a passionate writer and photographer. The wall art by Ganga and team continues to draw appreciation from every visitor even now. Yamuna has taken some of the best photographs that are displayed in social media posts on YK Antiques. She continues to contribute to YK Antiques.

There are many more friends like us who contributed to YK Antiques for what it is today.

From left to right: Yamuna, Ganga, YK sir, Vinay, Bala, Satya

My Ranting Never Ends about YK

When I started writing this blog, I was overwhelmed by too many stories I have in my memory on YK Antiques. I couldn’t pick up one and leave out others. But I shared the most important ones in this blog to let you feel the beauty of the place. 

While I continue to keep in touch with YK sir and YK Antiques, I always reflect on how wonderfully the place has transformed me into the person I am. I met some great people, had great conversations on art and design, and contributed to the place in my capacity as an artist and a designer. It made me realise that I can do things beyond my capabilities. This is my ongoing story with YK Antiques, and I am sure whoever has visited YK Antiques will have a story to share. If you are willing to share, I would love to read them.

I also feel we have the responsibility to access and make places like these accessible to everyone. I encourage you to visit this place to explore our rich culture and heritage reflected in the craft and use of each antique. I strongly feel this place should be made as one of the must-visit places in Hyderabad for the kind of cultural renaissance it’s bringing about. Let’s all make it a cultural hub!

Look at what I do in my daily life… 

I love the world of art and design, it allows me to learn, solve, share and appreciate every day. I engage with people/activities that allow me to explore possibilities, provide solutions to keep the design geek in me alive. I enjoy trying my hands at crafting things in everyday life. 

Behance: https://www.behance.net/balagopal

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/balagopal_bg/

Thank you Sandhya for patiently editing my article and helping me put this together.

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The Cultural Voyage of a Corporate Executive – Zishta

 

I got to know about Zishta by chance. And I should thank Facebook for that. Social media has worked wonders for me. I have met interesting people online and have had engaging and interesting conversations with them regarding antiques. Some inspired me, some told me that I inspired them, some were full of questions and some were eager to share their thoughts. So here’s a story of how I met a team of passionate people doing something very different. 

About a year and a half back, I was checking my Facebook posts and noticed one by Zishta which had something about kalchatti (a stone cooking pot) in it. I had blogged about kalchattis earlier and have some in my collection too. I knew that they were long gone from the market and people hardly manufactured them anymore as there was hardly any demand.  I knew nothing about Zishta and never heard the name. But they had to do something with kalchattis and I had to dig deeper. I checked their page and they had a number. I decided to call and visit them once I was in Bangalore.

Artisan at work. Photo Courtesy – Zishta.

A Car Garage Minus the Car

Once in Bangalore, I called up on the number and spoke to Varishta. I enquired if I could visit their office that very day and she happily obliged. I noted down the address and was off to see them. When I reached the address, I wasn’t looking at any regular office building. What I found was a house. I walked in and saw a small path leading to what seemed like a car garage. Now I was curious than ever. I stepped in and saw two people busy packing items and readying them for dispatch. This was something! One of the persons was Archish (founder of Zishta) and then there was Varishta (who I had spoken to on the phone). We sat down and got talking. While I was engaging in conversation with them, I couldn’t help but notice all these traditional items neatly stacked, packed and ready for dispatch. All of this in what was originally a car garage. Interesting!

Zishta For You

Before founding Zishta, Archish was a seasoned marketing professional in one of the top MNCs in Bangalore. He is also an avid trekker and cyclist. Though the job was well paying and things were going pretty good in his career, it wasn’t what he wanted to continue doing. He had some ideas in mind but the corporate life doesn’t leave one with much time now, does it?

Archish on one of his bicycling adventure trips

During one of his cycling trips in the Himalayas, he says that he felt really humbled by the mountains and nature. He always thought about living a sustainable life in sync with nature and he had some ideas about it. Those ideas and feelings felt stronger than ever and he was clear about what had to be done next. And that’s how Zishta started.

The Co-Founders

Meera Ramakrishnan

After 22 years of holding senior leadership positions in some of the best Indian and MNC organizations, she felt an urge to understand ‘purpose’ in life.

This urge and restlessness over the last four years made her explore various aspects that had a better meaning to what she does everyday.

This journey led her to understand deeper passion for our traditions that were meaningful for our living. She decided to join hands with the team at Zishta.

 

Varishta MS 

A fresher out of college whose only passion had been playing volleyball for the state team. She was adamant to be her own boss and when Archish mooted the idea of starting an own venture, she joined in as a partner.

Passionate about preserving our traditions, she tirelessly works towards building a strong network of artisans and works with them in improving their capabilities.

A dynamic entrepreneur who energizes Zishta with her drive and enthusiasm. She manages the entire operations to make sure the best products are delivered to the patrons.

The Vision

Zishta was started with a vision to revive traditional knowledge and in the process revive and restore the rich artisan clusters who have lost out their traditional art forms to more industrial solutions for homes. The turning point was when Archish and his team started introspecting what they wanted to do with their lives. They realized that there is so much one could learn from parents and grandparents to lead a healthy holistic life. They also saw that there is a significant movement among the young people who are increasingly interested in organic produce. They realized that there is a good possibility that they can educate and inform the younger generation about traditional cooking techniques. Zishta team not only documents the different types of products like vessels and utilities used but also shares info about scientific reasons to back the use of such products.

Artisan at work. Photo Courtesy – Zishta.

After travel to different parts of Tamil Nadu, meeting interesting artisans and people passionate about traditional lifestyles, the Zishta team streamlined their efforts around three key result areas:

  • Sustainability of traditional knowledge
  • Sustainable livelihood for rural artisans and their traditional space
  • Sustainable solutions for an urban household

These guiding key result areas have helped Zishta to narrow down their focus on kitchen cookware and storage as first category of entry. A pilot proof of concept at the Organic Exhibition helped them to have conversations with many customers and they got an encouraging response. 

The Goal & Starting Point

Archish is absolutely clear about the goal and that is to make any urban household sustainable and holistic. That is the reason they’ve expanded their range to include products which have a lot of utility value and help in better living.

Archish at Zishta’s old office

Once the vision was clear and the goal set, Zishta team started on their exploratory journey. They did a lot of research to identify different aspects of traditional knowledge and learn from authentic sources as to where they should focus on. As part of their research, they visited our website and it is heartening to note that the material in the website gave them further impetus to take the journey forward. To put it in Archish’s own words, “Our visit to YK Antiques website gave us immense knowledge on various traditional aspects of our forefathers and the kind of products used by them. This gave us confidence to explore the kitchen in detail and identify artisans whom we could work with.”

Artisans & Adventure

The most difficult aspect of  Zishta’s venture was to find the artisans still making the traditional products, dealing with them, boosting their depleting morale and motivating them. They had to travel extensively, speak to many people and connect with number of artisan groups. This helped them in identifying the right group of people whom they need to work with. After identifying the artisan group, it meant double the effort to enable them to understand current urban consumer mindset and encouraging them to make products with the right requirements while maintaining the authenticity of our traditions. This is one of the key areas of Zishta’s   work and they put in a lot of effort to engage and motivate the artisan group.

Artisans at work. Photo Courtesy – Zishta

It is interesting to know the reactions of the artisans when Zishta team travel all the way from Bangalore to meet them and talk about their products. Archish says that their first reaction is of suspicion and inquisitiveness. As the artisans have started working with Zishta team over time, they have realized that the group is not there to exploit them but to enable them to get more for the effort they put in. Archish says that one of their principle policies is that they do not negotiate with their artisans to reduce cost. Zishta pays them what they ask for the effort they put in which adds to their credibility.

Patrons

Though the initial customer-base was modest, now they have a lot of patrons across the country. Zishta addresses the customers as ‘patrons’ since they patronize their products and continue to have relationship with them.

Archish says that he is very proud of their customers. Zishta has got amazing feedback from their customers who have listen to their journey and want to be part of it. The Zishta team consider themselves not as suppliers but as enablers for the customers to kick-start this journey to a sustained tradition way of healthy living. They help the customers as much as possible to make this transition smooth.

Most of their customers love the products they have launched. They associate with these products as they have seen them being used in the family.  Zishta has a rating of 4.2/5 on Amazon with more than 80% of the reviews being extremely positive.

What Next?

Archish feels that there is a comeback of these traditional products and there is an emerging trend of using them. Zishta team does see that happening. They feel there is a huge movement building up where people are slowly becoming aware of what they are losing and want to reclaim it.

An eye for detail. Photo courtesy – Zishta

On being asked what plans after 5 or 10 years, Archish says that he envisions Zishta to be the knowledge repository of all traditional wisdom across the country and work with different artisan groups and enable them to reach more customers. Zishta group want to focus on only utility value products that has strong connection with traditions and they would continue to focus on this area.

Why Write About Zishta?

To me, the message that comes out of Zishta’s journey is clear and thought provoking – lead a sustainable life! There is so much we can adapt and adopt from traditional wisdom; all that we have to do is to keep an open mind.

This article is an outcome of my admiration of Archish for kicking out a cool corporate life with money and glamour associated with such a job, and to take up a path many people dare to walk. He took to roads to identify the artisans of yore who are at the brim of losing their traditional livelihood and determined to change their fate to provide a continuous and sustainable life at their own native villages. I appreciate his passion to revive the traditional wisdom and present it to the present society in a way that helps them to lead a sustainable life. My interactions with him  further confirmed my conviction that here is an inspiring story that is  good to be available to those aspirants who wish to live up to their dream and touch the lives of people around. I took his permission to write this article and I am happy I did a wise thing.      

You can read more about Zishta through their Facebook page here or website here or get in touch with them via WhatsApp on +91 9742717707.

You can also find Zishta on Amazon here and Jaypore.com

 

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Go Vintage With Your House This Winter!!!

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.

Rooh Gulab attar is made with RosesIMG_2384

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.

IMG_2399 IMG_2392

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2397

 

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.

 

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Antique Brass Coffee Filter

Antique brass Coffee filter
Antique brass Coffee filter

 

I am one among those millions world over for whom a cup of freshly brewed hot coffee early in the morning is a heavenly delight. My coffee should be a South Indian filter coffee with fresh decoction taken from well roasted coffee beans with the right blend of chicory powder mixed with fresh hot foaming milk with a balanced mix of sugar. The first coffee in the morning is divine with the pleasant aroma giving a heady feeling.Without this golden brown brew stimulating the taste buds and the rest of the system,the daily routine will never be triggered.

To have that wonderful coffee,you need a thick fresh aromatic coffee decoction .There is a simple device called Coffee filter which gives you that miracle brown liquid called decoction. The decoction mixed with fresh hot milk and sugar makes an excellent south Indian coffee that is normally served in davara set that consists of one saucer like cup with a rim and a tumbler placed inside the davara. The beautiful antique brass coffee filter shown in the picture has served thousands of tumblers of coffee since more than 100 years and must have witnessed the grateful smiles of satisfied coffee lovers. I am really proud of having this most enchanting antique piece in my collection.

 

Complete coffee filter assembly- Lower chamber, upper chamber, lid and plunger.(The stainless steel plunger is not a part of the antique brass filter but shown as a model)
Complete coffee filter assembly- Lower chamber, upper chamber, lid and plunger.(The stainless steel plunger is not a part of the antique brass filter but shown as a model)

 

The Coffee filter set

The traditional South Indian coffee filter has two chambers that sits one over the other, a lid to cover the top chamber and a plunger. The top chamber has the perforations to allow the filtration to happen.The bottom chamber serves as a collection point of the decoction. Coffee powder is put into the perforated chamber, and the plunger is kept on top of the powder and pressed gently. The plunger is basically a convex disk with perforations and a pin that is welded vertically at the centre of the disk. The purpose of the pin is to lower the disk to sit on top of the coffee powder and to take it out when not required. Hot water is poured on the upper chamber and covered with the lid. The plunger ensures that the falling water do not make a hole in the coffee powder when poured from a height. The plunger takes the pressure of the water and distributes uniformly around the plunger. The hot water seeps into the coffee powder through the holes in the plunger. Over the time, the coffee gets brewed and the decoction percolates to the lower chamber drip by drip carrying the essence and the aroma of the coffee powder. The decoction collected from the first drips mixed with fresh thick milk with adequate sugar makes the perfect coffee and I know people who wake up early in the mornings only to sip this wonderful coffee.  Coffee is the motivation for most of the South Indians to get up early in the morning.

The precious gift

Shrimathi Saraswathi garu and Sri Venkatappayya garu
Shrimathi Saraswathi garu and Sri Venkatappayya garu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beautiful brass antique coffee filter set was gifted to me by Shrimathi Janaswami Saraswathi garu (“garu” is the respectful way of addressing elders in Andhra Pradesh). Saraswathi garu and her husband Janaswami Venkatappayya garu are closely related to us through our niece Vani. Vani is the daughter of my brother-in-law Machraju Purushothama Rao and his wife Machiraju Parvathi. We used to have frequent mutual visits with Janaswami family   while we were in Mumbai. Saraswathi garu was heading a reputed school in Mumbai and Venkatappayya garu was a general manager of Canara bank. Subsequently we settled in Hyderabad and by a pleasant coincidence they have also shifted to Hyderabad and our frequent visits continued.She used to encourage my antique collection and one fine day she gifted this antique brass coffee filter in the year 2006. I was told that the filter was passed on to  Saraswathi garu by her grandmother and it must be by any means more than100 years old.Those were the days the stainless steel has not yet invaded into domestic utilities and hence this filter is made of pure brass. Moreover, the coffee tastes at its best in brass filter and served in brass davara set. I am always grateful to this noble lady for her gracious gift.

 

Lower chamber, upper chamber with perforations and lid- top view
Lower chamber, upper chamber with perforations and lid- top view

 

My experience with coffee

My first experience with coffee was in the year 1950 prepared by my mother in our village Someswaram. My grandfather Shri Yenugu Krishna Murthy Garu is a connoisseur of coffee and he was one of those privileged people in the village to have coffee in those days .My grandfather used to buy coffee beans in bulk from the nearest town Rajahmundry and store them. My mother is to pick up one week’s consumption, roast them to a dark brown colour and pound them to a fine granular powder.Subsequently he used to buy fresh readymade powder. There were no metallic coffee filters available those days around my village. My mother used to keep coffee powder in a bronze tumbler and pour over it hot boiling water and keep a lid for brewing. Then she used to filter the brew through a fine cloth which would allow the fine decoction to filter down and arresting the residue. We used to call the process Gudda coffee (“gudda” means cloth in Telugu). My next taste of coffee is in Kakinada, Dwaraka Lunch Home in the year 1956. I did not know how it is made but there is nothing special to mention about it.

My first real filter coffee experience was at Madras (present day Chennai)in the year 1961.My sister and brother-in-law used to stay in West Mambalam, Madras, the core area for typical Tamil culture. My sister adapted quickly to Tamil culture, particularly to the early morning filter coffee and I had my first taste of filter coffee in my sister’s home. When I used to go for a stroll in the streets of Mambalam in the morning, the air was filled with aroma of freshly ground coffee and occasionally mixed with fragrance of jasmine flowers from the plaited hair of passing by women, with M.S Subbalakhmi rendering Venkateswara Suprabhatam in her melodious voice, the gents with “Hindu” newspaper sipping hot fresh filtered coffee.I cannot forget this nostalgic experience of my early days at Madras. Subsequently, I stayed in Chennai for 12 years from 1967 to 1973 and from 1983 to 1989. But by then the cultural romance has gone out of daily life.

 

Coffee davara set- saucer and tumbler
Coffee davara set- saucer and tumbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to prepare good south Indian filter coffee.

The taste and Aroma of the coffee comes from quality seeds like Pea berry, Plantation, Arabica and Robusta. You can also use the combination of these two verities of seeds to get the best out of the both seeds. The seeds have to be roasted to dark brown shade till they emit the deep aroma of the roasted coffee.The roasted seeds are to be grounded to granular powder neither too fine nor too rough.It is ideal to grind coffee powder just before the filtration by using the traditional hand grinding machine. Addition of Chicory is optional.Some people like to add chicory because it gives extra texture and colour to the coffee.Taste of the coffee also depends on the quality of water used and the milk.Ground water with lot of minerals,corporation water with too much of chlorination will spoil the taste of the coffee.Use good potable water for making decoction.The milk should be fresh and thick to get the real zing out of the coffee.In this occasion I should mention about the “Degree Coffee of KumbaKonam” which is very popular for its authentic south Indian filter coffee.In southern states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Coffee is affectionately called as “kaapi”. In Tamil Nadu hotels, restaurants and dairies buy milk from the vendors by testing the quality of the milk with a lactometer and the quality is rated in degrees.Hence any milk that measure up to the degree standard is called degree milk. In Kumbakonam, coffee is prepared with degree standard milk and hence it is called as “Kumbakonam degree coffee”.

 

Roasted coffee powder
Roasted coffee powder

 

Roasted coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 How to prepare a good South Indian Filter coffee

1- Boil pure water(mineral water recommended) in a steel vessel.

2- fill the upper chamber of the coffee filter with fresh coffee powder depending on the size of the coffee filter and the number of coffee tumblers required.Minimum you should keep fourheaped tea spoon full of coffee powderif the filter is small and six if the filter is large. If you keep less,the water will just run away from the upper chamber without percolation. Even for single person there should be a minimum amount required.If the number of tumblers required is more additional coffee powder is to be added.

3- The coffee powder in the upper chamber should not be too loose or too tight. Just press the coffee powder with your fingers gently. If it is too loose hot water will just run through the powder without any percolation. If the powder is too tight the water settles down on top of the powder and will not percolate down and even if it does it takes lot of time.

4- Place the plunger on top of the coffee powder.

5- Place the upper chamber on the top of the lower chamber tightly.

6-Pour the boiling water on top of the plunger and keep the lid.

7- Keep aside the filter for 20 to 30 minutes for brewing. The decoction will be collected in the bottom chamber.

8- Boil the fresh degree milk in a stainless steel vessel.

9- Take the tumbler from the davara set, add 1/2 inch level  of filtered decoction, and add hot milk to the required strength of the coffee.If you want your coffee to be strong add less milk and for lighter coffee add more milk. Add sugar as per the taste. The proportion of milk to the decoction has to be experimented initially till you hit the required taste.

10- Hold the coffee tumbler in your right hand and the davara saucer in your left hand and start whisking the coffee from tumbler to saucer and saucer to tumbler in quick motions repeatedly for three or four times till a nice brown froth is collected by the aerated coffee. Take care not to spill the coffee in the process. By practice you develop the art of whisking the coffee.

11- Keep the coffee tumbler in the davara saucer and serve.

 

Processed green coffee beans
Processed green coffee beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The culture of Coffee Serving

The tradition of serving coffee in davara set started with the practice of echai(no contact with saliva) by orthodox Iyer and Iyengar and other Brahmin families of Tamil Nadu. With echai practice the tumbler should not touch the lips and hence they used to drink coffee by pouring directly into the mouth from a respectable distance. To regulate the heat of the coffee to avoid the burning of the mouth, the saucer is used to cool the coffee till right temperature is arrived.Then the coffee is transferred to the tumbler and then to the mouth. The davara saucer is also used to whisk the coffee into the tumbler and vice versa to aerate and achieve the right temperature.

It is a tradition in Tamil Nadu to offer coffee to the guests. The coffee should be a filtered coffee served very hot. It is considered as bad manners if you serve cold or staple coffee and there are chances that the guests will get offended.

In some traditional families the coffee filter should be brass (not stainless steel) and served in brass davaa set. The well maintained brass items shine like gold and brass is considered as Laksmipradam (equivalent to goddess Lakshmi). In some well to do Tamil families, they also use silver coffee filter and silver davara set. As a mark of respect, most Tamil families offer the coffee made out of the first collection of the decoction to the elders of the families.

 

Coffee plant with coffee berries
Coffee plant with coffee berries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Modern coffee house sand coffee bars.

Time has its own magical effect on people.Things have changed.Now with NRI culture huge coffee mugs have taken the place of good old davara sets. The convenience of instant coffee has taken upper hand over the time consuming filtered coffee.The beautiful coffee filters have become a collector’s items.

Now, the youngsters prefer the modern coffee houses that sprang in all cities and towns.These places are trendy lounges where people can sit leisurely and sip mugs and mugs of coffee with friends or with laptops in front .Drinking coffee in joints like Cafe Coffee Day,Barista,Costa coffee, cafe Mocha and Starbucks is all about cooling with friends and catching up social get-together.Coffee today signifies bonding and great reason to spend time with people you like.Inthese up market cafes you get variety of coffee selections with really magical names.I have tried some of these coffee menu and I am sure you may also would like to try if not already done.

Expresso: Expresso is a strong black coffee made by forcing steam through dark- roast aromatic coffee beans at high pressure. A perfectly brewed expresso will have a thick, golden brown foam on the surface. Adding a dollop of steamed milk completes the drink.

Cappuccino: A Cappuccino is a combination of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk froth. This luxurious drink, if made properly, can double up as a desert with its complex flavours and richness.It is common to sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or grated dark chocolate.Iced Cappuccino makes a great summer drink.

Americano: An Americano is a single shot of expresso added to a cup of hot water. Many coffee houses have perfected this brew which is a creamy, rich coffee that one can savour.Get the maximum flavour from your Americanoby keeping the amount of milkto a minimum.

Caffe Latte: This is a single shot of expresso mixed with three parts of steamed milk.Pair this with cookies,sponge cakes and even Italian bread for a unique and satisfying breakfast.

Caffe Mocha (Mochachino):This is Cappuccino or Caffe Latte with either chocolate syrup or powdered chocolate.This versatile drink can be made in several ways.Add cocoa powder or grated chocolate for flavour and garnish with whipped cream to make it more delish.

Caramel Macchiato: The most common method of making caramel maccciato is by combining espresso,carameland foamed milk.Steamed milk is usedsometimes and vanilla is often added for extra flavour. You can add sugar as well,but be warned, the drink is already sweet as it is.A caramel sauce topping makes it all the more lip-smacking.

Long Black: As the name suggests,this is a cup of rich-bodied black coffee,and black coffee alone.It is usually made by topping a single shot of espresso with a cup of hot water,with or without sugar.

Flat White: This is ideal for those who enjoy the strength of cappuccino,but not the foam that goes with it.To make a flat white,simply top up an espresso with steamed milk,but make sure that you only add the milk and not the foam.

 

Coffee plantation- Coffee plants grow under the shade of trees
Coffee plantation- Coffee plants grow under the shade of trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee plant with flowers
Coffee plant with flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story  of coffee- How it is discovered

I will not be doing justice to this article if we do not appreciate how this wonderful drink is discovered and passed on to our generation for us to enjoy and admire. I read from Wikipedia that a goat-herder discovered this coffee plant and the story goes like this

“ A 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a Monk in a nearby monastery. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed and the monks came out to investigate. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee. The story is first known to appear in writing in 1671, and thus may be fanciful.

 

Filter assembly- Lower chamber,upper chamber with perforations and lid
Filter assembly- Lower chamber,upper chamber with perforations and lid

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Bookmarks of History

 

A few days back I happened to visit YK uncle and had the immense pleasure of looking through his coin collection. Throughout the time I was there I couldn’t help but think-

History has given us many stories. Many of these stories are told through the relics from the past that have retained in them, not just the design and craftsmanship, but the value system the runs deep in the roots of prevailing times. Somehow, consciously or unconsciously they reflected the preferences of people then.

To understand history better most us would turn to books, internet, in case of an enthusiast a museum, it is like a walk in the park quietly showing us the many facets of the world and to know more about it, one need not look further than coins. Coins are the best kept bookmarks of history, a simple imprinted piece of metal that tell us the name of the ruler, the dynasty and the age of it prevalence. India has seen a lot of rulers until now, each with their own rulers, seals, and as such had a lot of variants in currency. Here are a few coins from uncle’s collection, the dimes under the rule of Nizam, the years that followed under the British crown to the coins of Free India, each of these coins has story to tell. From the day it was minted to its day as an artifact.

Writer-

Vyshnavi

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Antique Brass And Bronze Curry Cooking Pots

Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a group
Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a group

 

The antique brass and bronze pots shown here are exclusively used for cooking Andhra Curries. In traditional Andhra meal there will be five items invariably  – Muddapappu, curry, chutney, pulusu, rasam and curds or butter milk with lots of accompaniments like pickles, powders, appadam, vadiyalu, ooramirapakayalu etc. Out of all Andhra meal items curry, known as koora takes an important position. It is the main dish. So the success of the meal depends on the success of the curry. Hence dedicated vessels are used to prepare this important dish. I have collected four curry pots and out of them two are from Andhra and two are from Tamil Nadu.The curry pots from Andhra are made with brass metal and called kooraginny and the ones from Tamil Nadu are made with bronze metal and called vengalapannai. Both the varieties have different shape though the utility and the functionality are same. In Hindi language curry pot is called handi.

 

Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a row
Antique Brass and Bronze curry pots in a row

 

Andhra Antique Brass curry pots called KooraGinni
Andhra Antique Brass curry pots called KooraGinni

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots called vengalapannai
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots called vengalapannai

 

The Andhra Brass curry pots have beautiful shape that serve both for functional purpose and aesthetic value.The” U” shaped coking vessel has a thick body so that the heat is distributed uniformly and the curry is cooked evenly.The brass pot has wide open mouth to facilitate easy movement of the ladle that is used for stirring the contents for uniform cooking.There is a wide rim at the mouth of the vessel so that the vessel is not slipped at the time of handling  and to have a firm grip.The wide mouth with the rim also helps in sealing the mouth with a metal plate to prevent the spicy vapors going out of the pot and preserve the moisture.

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size. Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -front view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size. Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -front view

 

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -top view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 5.5 inches ,width at the moth 7.5 inches -top view

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches-front view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches-front view

 

Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches -top view
Andhra antique Brass curry pot size.Height 4.3 inches ,width at the moth 6.3 inches  -top view

 

The Tamil Nadu counterparts have a lovely bowl like shape with narrow base and wide mouth.There is a grove between the main body of the cooking pot and the opening.This groove is designed for the hand grip and gives excellent aesthetic sense.The narrow base allows the flames of the fire stretch up to the full length of the pot giving the pot uniform heat for excellent cooking results.I have acquired these enchanting pieces from an antique dealer in Madras, now called as Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu state.

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches, width at the mouth 7.0 inches -front view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches, width at the mouth 7.0 inches -front view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches ,width at the mouth 7.0 inches -top view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.5 inches ,width at the mouth 7.0 inches -top view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -front view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -front view

 

Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -top view
Tamil Nadu Antique bronze curry pots size Height 4.3 inches ,width at the mouth 6.75 inches -top view

 

The Andhra pots are the family inheritance. These pots were used by my mother and she used to turn out very delicious curries from these beauties. I also understand that my grandfather’s mother-in-law, KavammaGaru (garu is a respectable way of addressing elders), alsoused these wonderful pots for cooking mouth-watering curries. Her special dish was Vankaya karampettina koora. I understand that in our village Someswaram, the neighbours of our house used to plead with KavammaGaru to prepare this special dish and she used to prepare and distribute to them and enjoy such service as a gesture of good will. Even after her death, whenever they think of Kavammagaru, they used to praise her Vankaya karampettina koora. I am presenting the recipe of this wonderful dish passed on from Kavammagaru to my mother and there upon from my mother to my sisters and later to my wife. This antique brass curry pot and the recipe of Vankaya karampettina koora are more than 100 years old .The recipe is preserved and practiced by my wife so that we do not lose touch of this rare delicious dish.

 

How to cook Vankaya Kharampettina koora in Antique brass curry pot

The recipe for Vankaya Kharampettina koora

The speciality of the vankaya karampettina koora is that it is stuffed with a spicy powder of lentils, fenugreek seeds and redchillies. The fine taste of Indian lentils combined with the flavour of fenugreek seeds and the hot taste of red roasted chillies gives this dish a rare combination of taste that is to be experienced. The name Vankaya karampettina koora means the brinjal stuffed with hot spices. The brinjal is also called as aubergine or eggplant.

Ingredients required

12 fresh tender purple brinjals of round shape.

2 table spoons of Sanagapappu (Bengal gram)

2 table spoons of Minapapappu (Black gram)

Menthulu: 1/2 table spoon of Menthulu (fenugreek seeds)

10to12 Medium sized red dry chillies.

Preparation

Wash thoroughly the brinjals with the stalks. Trim the stalk ends.

To prepare the stuffing powder:

Take the antique brass curry cooking pot and heat it moderately on fire.Add ½ a table spoon of oil. When the oil is on medium heat add fenugreek seeds first followed by Bengal gram, black gram and red chillies cut into pieces.Fry till the grams take a golden brown colour and the red chillies take a darker shade of colour.Remove from the heat and cool the mixture in a plate.Put the mixture in a grinder and grind to a granular powder.Powder should not be too fine.It should be granular.

Prepare the brinjal for stuffing:

Take each brinjal and slit the bottom end upwards towards the stem till you reach the ¾ length of the brinjal .Make another similar slit from the bottom of the brinjal this time at right angles to the previous slit thus slitting the brinjalinto 4 sections.  Now the brinjal is ready for stuffing. Now stuff the powder into the slit sections of each brinjal till it holds. Stuff all brinjals.

Cooking the stuffed brinjal:

Heat 2 table spoons full of oil in the antique brass cooking pot .Add the stuffed brinjals one by one.  Stir the brinjals in the vessel so that the oil is smeared to each brinjal. Scatter the remaining powder over the brinjals. Sprinkle ¼ cup of water on the brinjals in the curry pot and cover with a thick plate as a lid on the pot, pour ¼ a cup of water in the plate, keep the fire in low and let the contents simmer on a low fire for  20 minutes.The water in the cover plate gets heated and there is heat surrounding the entire curry pot. This gives uniform heat to the brinjals for excellent cooking and seals the juices and flavors inside the pot. Keep tossing the brinjals occasionally by tilting the curry pot with jerks by holding the rim of the pot with a dry cloth. Stirring by ladle may damage the shape of the brinjal.  Cook for another 20 minutes or till the brinjals are well cooked to a tender soft condition. When you take them into serving dish hold each brinjal by stem or use a flat spoon like atlakada or dosa ladle.

Taste superb with hot rice and ghee or roti.

Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Brinjals for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Brinjals for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Fried Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora
Fried Ingredients for Vankaya Karampettina Koora

 

Powdered Fried Ingredients for VankayaKarampettina Koora
Powdered Fried Ingredients for VankayaKarampettina Koora

 

Slicing the brinjal using a table cutter
Slicing the brinjal using a table cutter

 

Stuffing the brinjal with spice powder
Stuffing the brinjal with spice powder

 

Stuffed brinjal ready to be cooked
Stuffed brinjal ready to be cooked

 

Place the stuffed brinjal in the hot oil
Place the stuffed brinjal in the hot oil

 

Brinjals being cooked in the kooraginni
Brinjals being cooked in the kooraginni

 

Tilt the Brinjals by jerking the pot using a dry cloth
Tilt the Brinjals by jerking the pot using a dry cloth

 

Cooked Brinjals ready for serving
Cooked Brinjals ready for serving

 

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Antique Brass Sweets Carrier
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier

 

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.

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- with sweet laddus
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- with sweet laddus

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing with the handle upwards
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing with the handle upwards

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-carrier and lid shown separately
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-carrier and lid shown separately

 

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.

 

Marriage function bride’s family gifting sweet laddus to groom's family
Marriage function bride’s family gifting sweet laddus to groom’s family

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- top view
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- top view

 

Picture showing the beautiful design around the body of the carrier
Picture showing the beautiful design around the body of the carrier

 

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.

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- an angle view
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- an angle view

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing the rivets for the handle
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier-showing the rivets for the handle

 

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.

 

Picture showing inscription of the name “DhulipalaLakshminarayanamma”
Picture showing inscription of the name “DhulipalaLakshminarayanamma”

 

Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- showing tin coating
Antique Brass Sweets Carrier- showing tin coating

 

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.

 

 

 

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Vintage Brass 5-Tier Tiffin Box Carrier

Vintage Brass 5-Tier Tiffin box carrier
Vintage Brass 5-Tier Tiffin box carrier

 

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.

Complete assembly of Tiffin carrier showing 5 dabbas, frame, spoon and handle
Complete assembly of Tiffin carrier showing 5 dabbas, frame, spoon and handle

 

Tiffin carrier shown in dismantled condition-five dabbas, top lid, frame and spoon
Tiffin carrier shown in dismantled condition-five dabbas, top lid, frame and spoon

 

Brass tiffin box showing the inside tin coating
Brass tiffin box showing the inside tin coating

 

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.

 

“Patent“ mark and “4 ½ “ capacity mark shown on the top lid of the tiffin carrier
“Patent“ mark and “4 ½ “ capacity mark shown on the top lid of the tiffin carrier

 

The “U” shaped frame fixed to the bottom box and two holes shown at the bend of the “U”
The “U” shaped frame fixed to the bottom box and two holes shown at the bend of the “U”

 

Top lid showing knob and the hole
Top lid showing knob and the hole

 

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.

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Vintage Burma Teak Wood Trunk Box

Vintage Burma Teak Wood Trunk Box
Vintage Burma Teak Wood Trunk Box

 

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.

 

Vintage Burma Teak Wood Trunk Box-top view
Vintage Burma Teak Wood Trunk Box-top view

 

Side view of the box showing the joints of two sides, iron handle
Side view of the box showing the joints of two sides, iron handle

 

Close up of the joints of the box- wooden planks perfectly cut and fitted
close up of the joints of the box- wooden planks perfectly cut and fitted

 

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.

 

Box sitting on a 3 inch strong wooden base
Box sitting on a 3 inch strong wooden base

 

Box in open condition showing the storage space and the left side document compartment
Box in open condition showing the storage space and the left side document compartment

 

Box showing key hole of the inbuilt lock, latch and ring for pad lock
Box showing key hole of the inbuilt lock, latch and ring for pad lock

 

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.

 

Young Teak would tree with flowers
Young Teak would tree with flowers

 

Teak wood logs– trunk side view
Teak wood logs– trunk side view

 

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.

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Antique Elephant Incense Stick Holder

Antique elephant incense stick holder.
Antique elephant incense stick holder

 

This beautiful incense stick holder in the form of an elephant is a unique antique art piece. The elephant stands on its two hind legs and the other front legs are taken up and joined together resembling a prayer posture. Its body is slightly bent forward to reveal a humble gesture. Its trunk is taken up and is resting on the head mimicking trumpeting a prayer. The mouth is wide open and the years are spread indicating a careful hearing of something important. There are holes on the trunk and incense sticks are stuck into these holes. The elephant is designed to hold the incense sticks from its lifted trunk. It gives a pious feeling that it is offering dhoop (perfumed smoke) to a divine being in a traditional prayer. The eyes are half closed and sublime like in a prayer.

Antique elephant incense stick holder-with burning sticks and curls of smoke
Antique elephant incense stick holder-with burning sticks and curls of smoke

 

This elephant is made with highly polished shining porcelain with smooth finish. It has a beautiful golden colour. The ears are lined with red colour border. The opened mouth also has red colour. The eyes are in black colour. The elephant is standing on a   lovely blue colour base.

Measurements: The height of the elephant is 6 inches and the base diameter 2.2 inches wide.

The elephant is hollow. When the incense sticks are kept inside the holes located on the trunk of the elephant it may fall down due to the imbalance created by the lengthy incense sticks on one side of the elephant. To make it solid and stable the hollow inside of the elephant is filled with the sand. There is a hole under the base of the elephant through which the sand is filled and the hole is plugged with a cork to seal the spilling of the sand. The sand also helps to hold tight the incense sticks.

 

Antique elephant showing wide ears with red colour lining and base in blue colour
Antique elephant showing wide ears with red color lining and base in blue color

 

Antique elephant showing holes in the trunk for keeping incense stick
Antique elephant showing holes in the trunk for keeping incense stick

 

Eelephant standing on the back legs, front legs joined together in prayer posture
Eelephant standing on the back legs, front legs joined together in prayer posture

 

This magnificent incense stick holder is purchased by my grandfather. He is a follower of Lord Shiva and he used to do pooja to the framed picture of Shiva seated on his mount Nandi with his family of wife Parvathi  and children Ganesha and Kumaraswamy ever evening. He used to decorate the picture with Kanakambaram flowers, followed by inserting the smoking agarabathis into the trunk of this elephant. Then he would dance singing the songs in praise of Shiva to the rhythm of his Pandarichidathalu (a hand held pair of wooden blocks attached with cymbals)

He used the elephant incense stick holder daily for nearly 55 years but still it appears  new with the golden color still shining bright. After the demise of my grandfather we never used it on a daily basis for the fear of losing it and hence used to keep it is a cupboard in a locked condition. Occasionally we used to take it out for special poojas or for festivals. Now it is in my antique collection under rare and valuable category. We always admire its sublime and   fluid beauty.

Apart from its functional use, the elephant incense stick would make a wonderful accent piece in our grandfather’s room. It looks as though the elephant is enjoying the curling tendrils released by incense stick smoke.The fragrance from the incense smoke acts in two ways. When used in the Hindu ritual pooja, it adds to the mystic and spiritual ambiance. In other times, it relaxes the nerves and calms down the mind. The curls of smoke arising from the red tip of the incense stick take you to the fantasy world.The incense sticks come in various aromas and fragrances like rose, jasmine, lavender, sandalwood and many others.

 

Close up of the elephant trunk, tuskers, years, open mouth and joined hands
Close up of the elephant trunk, tuskers, years, open mouth and joined hands

 

Hole in the base to put sand for stability
Hole in the base to put sand for stability

 

Elephant with incense sticks
Elephant with incense sticks

 

Elephant holding burning incense sticks
Elephant holding burning incense sticks

 

Rear view of the elephant holding incense sticks with curling smoke
Rear view of the elephant holding incense sticks with curling smoke

 

My grandfather, Sri Yenugu Krishna Murthy, purchased this wonderful elephant incense stick holder in the year 1913. Now it is nearly 100 years old. We used to get street vendors in our village Someswaram in the east Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh state, India. Those were the days of British rule. The lady street vendors used to bring imported items of interest and my grandfather is their regular customer. Any interesting item they have, they used to first bring it to my grandfather. He purchased this rare item also from such vendors. Though there is no stamp of manufacturing country on this, I believe this is manufactured in Japan. The Buddhist temples of Japan use incense sticks as a part of their ritual prayer. Elephant has a great significance in Buddhism and elephant is associated with the birth of Buddha.

 

The story of Buddha and The Elephant

Around 4th century BC king Suddhodana ruled a Himalayan kingdom with the capital city of Kapilavasthu. His wife and the queen’s name is Maya. They did not have children and they performed many prayers and rituals for children. One night Queen Maya got a very vivid dream in whichshe was carried by four angels to the snowy peaks of Himalayas and dressed her with flowers. A splendid white bull elephant holding a White lotus in in her trunk advanced towards Maya and circled around her three times. The elephant then entered into her body from her right side and disappeared into her. The next day morning she narrated her dream to her husband. The King Suddhodana invited 64 scholars and asked them to interpret Queen Maya’s dream. They came out with the significance of the dream and told the king that soon queen Maya will become pregnant and give birth to a boy. The boy if he confines himself to the palace he would be a great warrior and conquers the world. If he comes out of the palace compound he will become a great enlightened man and become a Buddha.

When it was time to deliver, queen Maya proceeds to her mother’s place Devadaha for delivery on a palanquin accompanied by 1,000 courtiers. The royal procession had to pass through Lumbini grove which is full of flowering trees. The enchanted queen ordered the procession to stop to touch and feel the flowers. As she lifted her hand to reach the flowering branch, she delivered the boy. The queen and the boy went back to Kapilavastthu and the queen Maya died after 7 days. The boy named Sidhartha was raised by his mother’s sister Pajapati who is also the second wife of king Suddhodana. At one point of time Sidhartha comes out of the palace compound and becomes the Buddha ,the founder of the great religion Buddhism. Thus the story of the birth of  Buddha has mysterious connection with  elephant and the elephant is symbolized as Buddha. There is no wonder this symbolism triggered the imagination of many artists who made many products with elephant motifs  used in the temples of Buddhism  including the one shown in this article ,the incense stick holder.