Since 1987, not long after he retired as Class II Income Tax officer, thatha has been filling up one page a day with the words Sri Rama Jayam, meaning Jai Sri Ram in Tamil. Every single day, the same words repeated until they cover the entire page.
My grandfather brought out an old briefcase filled with old black and white photographs and albums. That evening, while sifting through all the 2×2 inch black and white photographs, the entire family took a trip down memory lane over chai and namkeen.
In those days, it was customary to include a cabinet for dolls in a bride’s wedding presents; this was at a time when most brides were no more than ten or twelve years old. The doll’s showcase possibly travelled with many child brides, across paddy fields and city by lanes, keeping pace with palanquins and jostling on boats across Bengal’s wide rivers.
That’s the thing with tangible objects. They demand to make their presence felt. It’s impossible to ignore the texture of paper made brittle over time, the smell of it, the weight of history that’s contained within. More than the fact of the object, a book in this case, it suggests the owner’s state of mind.
These buttons used to belong to my maternal grandfather, my nana, Sri Ram Puri, who must have likely bought them in the 1920s or 1930s. When he died, my mother received two sets of these buttons from my nani, his wife. One was given to Dolly, my sister and I got these ones.