Where life is an imitation of art

Beautiful Homes

Aesthetic : The danseuse’s home has ethnic-style brass objects like lamps and bowls. Photo Aruna Chandaraju

The first thing that caught our eye in this home was a large coffee-table book on Kathakali with a colourful cover picture of a dancer from that style. But then, this is the home of Lalitha Das who has a deep and enduring passion for that dance-form. She learnt it as a child and even performed onstage, alongside well-known artistes like Vechur Raman Pillai.

And last year, at the age of 74, she even founded the Bangalore Club for Kathakali and Arts (BCKA)! Her zest for life and for doing something productive every day is also reflected in the way she takes pains to keep her home elegant and well-maintained. There is nothing ornate or overdone about the interiors; it is a simple, aesthetic space, warm and cosy, and with lots of traditional Indian décor objects.

There are Raja Ravi Varma-inspired paintings in the drawing room and bedrooms. The one with a woman holding a musical instrument is her favourite because, “I love music, it such an integral part of Indian dance,” she explains. Ethnic-style brass objects like lamps and bowls dot the different tables around the home.

Masks from Africa and Sri Lanka are another favourite with Lalitha. “Colourful masks remind me of Kathakali.” However, she confesses that she is not a big buyer. Most of the objects around the home are gifts from family or prizes won in bridge competitions.

Every one has a guiding principle for the way he or she keeps and runs his or her home. Lalitha’s mantra is “Keep it simple, elegant and easy to manage.” She likes to depend as little as possible on domestic help which is why everything is arranged to be quick and easy to use whether in the kitchen or bedrooms. The apartment also allows for a free and easy flow of natural light and fresh air, which Lalitha is particular about.

A home should not only be good to look at but also healthy to live in, she says. Which is why she is also such a stickler for cleanliness. When the house is unclean or dusty, it leads to negative moods. The more pleasant the home, the more positive your emotions, she says. 

But there are no vaastu considerations here. She believes that implementing vaastu principles would be impractical and moreover she doesn’t really believe in it.

Self-confidence and positive thinking matter more for success, holds Lalitha, who is also incidentally, an informal counsellor.

And there are books and books around the house. She loves reading. But after all, Lalitha’s grandfather was K C Kesava Pillai, Poet-Laureate of Travancore royal asthaan, a composer of Carnatic music and a writer too. Most of the books are on art, history or biographies, the kind of subjects she prefers. 

And oh, don’t be surprised if her home sports a different look on your second visit. Lalitha loves taking down items around the house and replacing them with newer ones. Not because she likes makeovers or novelty but simply because she loves giving away things. “Contentment and charity are the two principles by which I live today,” she says.

Through BCKA and the other foundations with which she is involved, Lalitha works for charitable causes and a major aim of her club is to aid deserving and indigent practitioners of traditional art forms.

So, whether it is a Yakshagana, Kuchipudi, Kathakali or Bharatanatyam artiste in need of help, Lalitha is more than willing to help in any way she can. She looks around the house and says with a sweep of her hand,  “Whatever I have received in life is a blessing from God. So, the best way to give back to Him is by serving the less unfortunate among his creation.”

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