This cabinet was originally commissioned by Bhaskar Vinayak Pandit or Aṇṇā, my great-great grandfather, some time towards the latter half of the 19th century. But the story of the cabinet is as migratory as the family that possessed it.
This Russian Colouring book called The Red Poppy with drawings by N. Obrucheva, printed in the USSR, was published by the “Malysh” Publishing House. It was bought for me by my grandafther between the late 1980s- early 1990s in Asansol.
In 1943, my grandmother and her younger sister got married to two brothers and subsequently, moved to Nairobi, Kenya with their husbands. In Gujarat, jhanjhar are considered to be an auspicious gift for new brides and it was on their wedding day, that my great-grandfather split this piece of jewellery between his two daughters, giving them each a single jhanjhar.
This alna is a ‘wooden rack’, which measuring 72 inches by 39 inches. It’s not surprising that I had trouble finding a non-Bengali word for an alna, since as I later discovered that it is one of the few pieces of Bengali furniture that has a purely Bengali etymology
Before partition, my naani, Shanti Devi belonged to Lahore, now in Pakistan. She married my grandfather, Gyan Chand on 16th March 1950 in one of Karnal’s districts which is now Panipat. This is when she was given this keyring or ‘challa’ – as we call it in Punjabi – as a part of her wedding trousseau by her mother.