Attic treasures

In the darkest recesses of the attic, I fantasised that there was something truly fairy-like.

Ours is a family which has a delightful weakness of never being able to throw anything away. Over the years, this weakness gradually transformed the attic in our ancestral home into a veritable treasure-trove. As a schoolboy, I spent many hours up there rummaging dusty crates and trunks crammed with strange trophies, interesting curios, odds and ends discarded or stowed away by grandparents, itinerant uncles and countless other nameless relatives.

They must have collected these treasures as a hobby or picked them up during their travels or must have simply ‘attic’ed them away when they didn’t know what to do with them. In among the dense clutter, some trunks were too heavy for me to move and open. But some were open treats.

Scattered all over were dusty and faded sepia-toned pictures of marriages of unknown relatives, of office-bearers of nameless unions and societies, of grim-faced families, of a time flown far, far away. Brass edged, wooden chests filled with forgotten Dasara dolls wrapped in straw and brittle yellowed newspaper came alive like a scene from Toy Story.

Those were the days when Enid Blyton ruled my innocent mind and its every waking thought. Fired by the flights of the Wishing-Chair and the magical adventures of dwellers of the Enchanted Woods, I developed the childish fantasy that in the darkest recesses of the attic, there must be something truly fairy-like and magical. I would longingly stare and regard every box and pedestal in the attic in the fond hope that they would sprout wings some day and carry me away to distant lands full of idyllic pleasures.

In one of my attic expeditions, I stumbled upon my grandfather’s gleaming gramophone. That joy trebled with the discovery of a stash of vinyl LP discs, intact in their brown paper jackets, neatly stacked inside two deal wood boxes. After having deciphered how it worked, I would proudly play vintage Belafonte, ancient Hindi film songs of unknown singers and countless other interesting LP records to my curious cousins and regale them no end. I can imagine the incongruity that my parents would have felt when they would hear Malika Pukhraj’s sonorous “abhi toh main jawaan hoon” from their 10-year-old’s room!

The sighting of an old harmonium in the attic added more music and din to our lives. A long-forgotten heirloom of a widowed aunt that it was, despite its hissing bellows and broken reeds, the harmonium allowed us a generous peep into its happy past and entertained us for good measure.

In time, adolescence and its attendant anxieties drew my focus away from the attic and its fancy soon ceased. In our quest for “space” and “order” at home, we gradually emptied the attic and gave away most of its contents without much thought or care. I may never have stumbled upon a Van Gogh or a Ming in that attic. Maybe its curios were of no real worth at all. But in retrospect, the attic was without doubt a priceless trove of warm memories and reminiscences, of lives well lived – simply and contentedly.

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