Things People Keep
Name: D. Gunathilak
Collection: Antique wooden boxes
For Gunathilak, success lies in ‘touching’ the past through relics. Despite his family’s objections, he is in a ceaseless pursuit of antiques.
All that he has collected can be grouped into various categories. Wooden boxes are one. Numbering 60, these antique boxes have been used for various applications.
One box called anjara petti was used to store spices. It has intricate fretwork outside and has been artfully chiselled inside to create compartments for storing spices.
There are other anjara pettis, not so ornate but with evidence of admirable craftsmanship. As cooking is often a hurried activity, these boxes have sliding lids and doors for easy opening.
One of them is mounted on wheels so that it can be moved around.
With hidden compartments, cash boxes, most of them from Karaikudi, and jewel boxes share a pattern.
One cash box, which probably spent its active life at a pawn broker’s, is attached to a display unit. Huge grain boxes form another category.
In the past, delicate goods that were sent across long distances were secured in wooden boxes. One, used during the British rule, had been made to keep vials. Gunathilak was lucky to get a box with the object that it had been made to protect — a lamp.
Gunathilak scouts around for wooden boxes. One of the best in the collection, a 100-year-old huge chest, is a hand-me-down.
This large and sturdy box, made of teakwood, belonged to his grandmother Ambujam who brought it to her husband’s house after marriage. It contained some utensils given as part of her dowry. Made of solid teakwood and rosewood, some boxes must cost quite a lot. Other boxes, made with country wood, are precious too — because they are rare survivors. ( email@example.com
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