The House in Lucknow Built by Walter Burley Griffin

Hello All !  Yes, time does fly and it has been long since I wrote !

My husband ,Debashish, would, once in a while, talk of a Dr.Bir Bhan Bhatia and his house that was designed and built by Walter Burley Griffin. Well, I found the house and here is a post  on it that I wrote sometime back-

When the British decided to expand Lucknow they had looked beyond the river Gomti, not that they could have visualised the area which is almost another city today, Gomtinagar ! In 1921 they built the University of Lucknow in what was Badshah Bagh(originally a garden house of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider) adjoining the Gomti. Then on its shores, towards the east, the localities of Old and New Hyderabad were set up. University professors, doctors and other professionals were allotted large tracts of land to construct houses. One such person was Dr. Bir Bhan Bhatia, an eminent doctor, a pharmacologist, at King George’s Medical College.  Bir Bhan Bhatia had two houses in Lucknow. One was on Ashok Marg and the other that was constructed by the well-known American architect, Walter Burley Griffin. I had never seen that house but knew it was located in New Hyderabad.

A chance, very enjoyable meeting with Dr. Thapar, a retired professor of architecture at Lucknow university and his daughter, Sumita led to a conversation about Walter Burley Griffin and my discovery that they knew the daughter-in-law of Dr. Bir Bhan Bhatia. Over a fabulous pineapple upside down cake made by Sumita, she told me that she would arrange to take me to see the house built by Griffin, possibly the only one remaining in India !

The large road that lies perpendicular to the Gomti on which the house built by Griffin stands came as a pleasant surprise. The kerbs were wide. The monsoon rains had worked their wonder and made the area very green. Large trees, now sadly rare in Lucknow, dot the area. Then you spot the long, low boundary wall of the house with large trees in the foreground. And beyond those, in the distance is the house- a low lying, not very remarkable, cubic structure with an interesting jaali running along its facade.

 

The boundary wall of Dr. Bhatia's house, named 'Shanti Sadan.'The gate posts have an interesting linked pattern designed by Griffin.

The boundary wall of Dr. Bhatia’s house, named ‘Shanti Sadan.’The gate posts have an interesting linked pattern designed by Griffin.

We walk up the driveway and notice a wall that runs perpendicular to the house, dividing the house and its large garden into two. The half we are visiting today belongs to Bir Bhan Bhatia’s third son, Dr.K.B.Bhatia and his wife, Asha, also a medical doctor. The garden is lush with exotic plants and trees, gifts of, I am told later, Bir Bhan’s good friend and neighbour Mr. Kanjilal, who was a conservator of forests in the 1940s. Mr. Kanjilal was also my grand-father-in-law’s good friend, my husband had told me, and I am excited by this connection!

The single storeyed bungalow at the end of the driveway

The single storeyed bungalow at the end of the driveway

I can visualize the veranda of the Bhatia house in its un-truncated form, running the entire front of the house. It is in polished cement with art deco patterns in black. These patterns are placed far apart and break the monotony of the grey-green cement.

THe polished cement veranda. The black motif was also designed by Griffin

THe polished cement veranda. The black motif was also designed by Griffin

We meet Asha Bhatia on her side of the verandah. She is dressed well in a cream sari with a maroon border and has a brisk air about her. She tells us about her own life and then of her illustrious father-in-law’s. ‘I fled Burma during the second World War amidst fears of a Japanese invasion. I was thirteen years old. With Japanese bombers diving deep to bomb, I fled to India with my mother and brother, leaving my father behind at his work with the education department.’ They finally wound up in Lucknow where she went on to study medicine at the King George’s Medical College. This is where her teacher and mentor, Dr. Bir Bhan Bhatia, chose her as his future daughter-in-law to marry his son.

A photograph of Dr. Bir Bhan Bhatia that sits on a dresser in a room.

A photograph of Dr. Bir Bhan Bhatia that sits on a dresser in a room.

Bir Bhan Bhatia was an eminent physician at King George’s Medical College, Lucknow. He returned from England in 1928 after becoming a Member of the Royal College of Physicians and started to teach and practice at his alma mater, finally becoming its principal in 1946 till his retirement in 1960. He was charismatic, skilled and could recognise talent. So when he found the by-then-well known American architect, Walter Burley Grifffin staying in Lucknow, he met him and persuaded him to design his house.

Walter Burley Griffin with his wife Marion

Walter Burley Griffin with his wife Marion

Walter Burley Griffin had arrived in Lucknow in 1936 after his tender to design the library of Lucknow University was accepted. He had earlier designed the Australian capital Canberra(though was unable to construct most of it) and many prominent buildings in Chicago. Asha Bhatia recalls that on being approached by Dr. Bhatia, Griffin had told him that he was fully occupied with the Library and a trade fair in Victoria Park in Lucknow that he was commissioned to design. On being pressed further, he said that the only time he could spare him was during his lunch hour. Since Dr. Bhatia’s place of work, the Medical College was quite near Victoria Park where Griffin spent most of the day, Dr. Bhatia immediately agreed.  Asha says that her husband, then a seven year old, would be first picked up from school by his father then driven to Griffin’s office. ‘K.B. would be thoroughly bored with long discussions between his father and Griffin on the plans of the house’ Asha laughs.

The house in New Hyderabad, on a large plot of land, was completed in 1937. Work went on for two years. Asha Bhatia says that Griffin used inventive roofing for this house. It is made out of inverted concrete troughs, allowing space for air, creating good insulation against the searing Indian heat. She points out faint outlines of the troughs on the roof. The walls, too, have inventive brick work called ‘Rat-trap bonds’ also made for insulation.

‘This was one of the first houses in Lucknow to have concealed wiring’, Asha says, ‘People would line up to see this unique method of wiring and roofing that this ‘gora’ architect was implementing !’

Griffin, sadly, died suddenly in Lucknow in 1937 of Peritonitis. He had not completed this house. It was his wife, Marion Griffin, also a renowned architect, who oversaw the completion of the house as well as of the Pioneer building in Lucknow. Walter Burley Griffin was buried in the Christian Cemetery in Lucknow. Sadly, most of the Pioneer building has been pulled down by developers.

The rooms leading from the front verandah are spacious. The floors are of beautifully polished cement, in its natural grey-green and the crimson of red oxide. The drawing room with its red oxide floors has a border in black terrazzo with a swastika pattern in the four corners, all designed by Griffin. The design of the ventilators as well as the pattern on the doors with mosquito netting were also designed by the architect himself.

The drawing room in Asha Bhatia's portion of the house. The floors are of polished red cement. The swastika pattern was put in by the architect

The drawing room in Asha Bhatia’s portion of the house. The floors are of polished red cement. The swastika pattern was put in by the architect

The geometric pattern, inspired by nature, on the door created by the architect

The geometric pattern, inspired by nature, on the door created by the architect

When Asha Bhatia tells me that Mr. Kanjilal’s house still exists and is just up the road, I go out, walk up the road and try to peer into Mr.Kanjilal’s house. What was once a beautiful garden is fully overgrow with wild shrubs and weed. The low lying house is obscured from view.   ‘He would come to our house almost every day at 6.30am for a cup of tea with my father-in-law. The days he would not come, someone from our house would be sent to enquire and ask him over!’ says Asha Bhatia. ‘Later in the day and evening there would be queues of patients waiting to consult my father-in-law!’  A room in the house, now Asha’s drawing room, was the consultation room and benches would be put outside for the patients to sit on. She spent about a year in this house before Dr. Bir Bhan passed away and it is a time she cherishes. He was not only a skilled doctor but also one of the nicest human beings she met, she says.

The house, slightly changed from the original, has an interesting linked grill pattern running along its roof.

The house, slightly changed from the original, has two rows of interesting linked grill pattern running along its roof.

The lush garden, many plants of which were gifted by the well-known botanist, P.C.Kanjilal

The lush garden, many plants of which were gifted by the well-known botanist, P.C.Kanjilal

Dr. Asha Bhatia

Dr. Asha Bhatia

It is time to go yet I feel like lingering. Asha walks us to the gate, up the beautiful tree and shrub lined driveway. I look at the house from the driveway and think this is how Griffin must have seen it. He must have stood about here and supervised its construction, making sure every brick was laid correctly! Not sure if he is watching from up there, but if he were, he would see his legacy in Lucknow, perhaps the only one of its kind in India, alive and beautiful !

Thank you, Dr.Thapar and Sumita for making this visit possible. Thank you, Dr.Asha Bhatia for opening your home to us !

Hope you liked reading this ! Do put in your comments and stay in touch !

 

.

 

Posted in Homes-old and new | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Home of Dr. Sultan Ali Sadiq in old Lucknow

Two years ago I met Dr. Sultan Ali Sadiq for the first time in Ram Advani’s book shop. Mr Advani had told me that Dr. Sadiq was an orthopaedic doctor and his friend. Also, that he lived in old Lucknow, was a direct descendant of Wajid Ali Shah and owner of a couple of original paintings from that time.
Now, two years later,Mr. Advani is no more, yet as my daughter, Geetika and I make our way through the narrow gali where Dr. Sadiq’s home is situated, I remember Mr. Advani and cannot wait to see what lies behind the unassuming frontage of the home of his friend. A bit earlier, we had waited at the gate of Lucknow Christian College, an old college established in 1862 on the grounds of Inayat bagh. Dr. Sadiq, in a grey bush shirt and trousers, his white hair brushed neatly back had arrived with his assistant to receive us and now our little entourage was making its way to his house on foot.The lane, like many others in old Lucknow, is narrow and cars cannot drive through.

The gali (narrow lane)with Dr, Sadiq's house on the right

The galli (narrow lane)with Dr. Sadiq’s house on the right


We enter the doorway and through the dark passage I see what I was hoping I would: a large open courtyard , elegant arches lining it leading to open verandahs and rooms beyond. The courtyard is full of green plants. A sense of nostalgia hits me—I am transported to the homes of my father’s friends and patients in Allahabad-the home of Choudhary Hamid and of Tej Bahadur Sapru where my parents’ friend Mr. Qudrat Ali lived for a few years. Those are all gone but here I am, in a similar home and this one happens to be very much alive !

A view of the cortyard from the entrance passage

A view of the courtyard from the entrance passage


Dr Sadiq’s sister,Sahro who is visiting from the United States, is waiting for us in the verandah, lending the house feminine warmth. The verandah to the left that we are in is full of signs of life. A collection of clocks under which are cane-backed arm chairs in a group, is obviously a place you are tempted to sit in as you pass to and fro. From this kind of vantage point no teenager or servant can sneak in or out without being noticed !

A view of the verandah to the left of the entrance, walls decorated with portraits, clocks and stag horns

A view of the verandah to the left of the entrance, walls decorated with portraits, clocks and stag horns and a cupboard full of trophies won by Dr. Sadiq for tennis

Dr Sadiq takes us to his personal picture gallery which is the first room on this verandah. Copies of oil paintings are arranged on three walls. They are all portraits of his ancestors. Some original paintings stay away from most people’s eyes in Dr. Sadiq’s office. On the left wall is a portrait of the very recognizable nawab, Wajid Ali Shah. Then that of his eldest son, Prince Hamid Ali or ‘Wali Ahad’ from his very first ‘nikahi’(formally married)wife, Khaas Mahal.Then his son, Mirza Quratul-ain-Bahadur. His son, Prince Sultan Hassan Mirza. And finally, his only child, Dr. Sadiq’s own mother, Samar Ara Begum.

Portraits of his ancestors with Wajid Ali Shah's on the middle line,extreme right and his mother's on the middle line, left

Portraits of his ancestors with Wajid Ali Shah’s on the middle line,extreme right and his mother’s on the middle line, left of the picture


This beautiful house itself was built in 1923 by Nazir Hassan Khan, the father of Dr. Sadiq’s daadi. When her son was five years old and her husband died, Dr.Sadiq’s daadi, Kaneez Fatima Begum, moved into this house that her father built with a substantial’wasiqa'(amount incurred as interest)of Rs.700.Thereafter the house came to be known as ‘700-wali kothi’. Nazirabad, the locality adjoining Aminabad in old Lucknow, and where my daughter and I make regular trips to-to buy chikan-kari or have bags repaired, was once owned by and is named after the very same Nazir Hassan ! I felt good to have established a bond with Nazirabad !

A few samples from Samar Ara Begum's 'dibiya'collection

A few samples from Samar Ara Begum’s ‘dibiya’collection


Kaneez Fatima Begum's gold-rimmed glasses with elegant clip-on shades, it's metal case and a Belgium-made pistol

Kaneez Fatima Begum’s gold-rimmed glasses with elegant clip-on shades, it’s metal case and a Belgium-made pistol


A wood box meant to hold a liquor and water bottle and a glass while travelling and a round tin box with starched cotton collars(all belonged to Dr. Sadiq's father)

A wood box meant to hold a liquor and water bottle and a glass while travelling and a round tin box with starched cotton collars(all belonged to Dr. Sadiq’s father)

‘ I remember there were guests invited frequently to this house- both by my daadi, when it was all women, and by my father, when it was men and women.There were huge amounts of entertaining done and we children used to be excited.’ Dr. Sadiq’s father was in the then Awadh-Tirhut Railways and worked with ‘gora sahibs’.So entertaining of both English and Indian guests happened both in the courtyard as well as in the drawing room.

The verandah leading to the drawing room

The verandah leading to the drawing room

An old brass samovar in the verandah

An old brass samovar in the verandah

The drawing room with chandeliers from Belgium and cupboards full of interesting collections of old bottles and glasses

The drawing room with chandeliers from Belgium and cupboards full of interesting collections of old bottles and glasses

A view of the beautiful courtyard from the drawing-room side

A view of the beautiful courtyard from the drawing-room side

Since Dr. Sadiq’s own parents were posted in different towns, their children stayed in Lucknow with their grand parents so there could be continuity in their school and college.The two brothers got a lot of freedom, Sahro says. They not only attended school and college but also played a lot of tennis at the Gymkhaana Club , won many trophies and were allowed to go out in the evenings. But, although the two sisters were allowed to go to Loreto convent and wear skirts, their daadi would not allow them to go out after school or play tennis. In fact, she disliked the idea of them showing their legs in skirts and would insist that a chaperone accompany them to school. So, their old servant, Bagreedi , with a few missing teeth, would sit in between the two sisters on their rickshaw, accompany them to school, sit and wait outside with his own water bottle and lunch and accompany them back !

Dr, Sadiq(seated), his sisters Sahro(standing left)and Nasreen(standing right)

Dr, Sadiq(seated), his sisters Sahro(standing left)and Nasreen(standing right)

Dr.Sadiq shows me three objects that his mother inherited that actually belonged to Wajid Ali Shah. Twin hookah bases in blue glass,probably from Belgium and a small, painted china vial to hold ittar. He takes them out and we hold them with amazement and the reverence they deserve!

Wajid Ali Shah's objects, blue glass hookah bases, painted with gold flowers

Wajid Ali Shah’s objects, blue glass hookah bases, painted with gold flowers

Dr. Sultan Ali Sadiq seated under his collection of clocks

Dr. Sultan Ali Sadiq seated under his collection of clocks. (This and all other photographs are by Geetika)

Dr Sadiq retired as Principal, Aligarh Medical College in the year 2000 and now takes pride in living in this beautiful old house. It is full of many elegantly displayed objects and he is knowledgeable about most. What strikes you is that everything is very clean and well maintained. When he takes out objects like his father’s liquor or collar box to show us, he first wipes the dust away with care. He and his sisters are self-effacing and their manners are impeccable.
Dr. Sadiq walks us back to our car and stands till we are out of sight.
It is in these gestures that you see refinement that comes with inheritance and legacy.

We have been seeing so much and talking so much that I have forgotten to ask to see some of the original paintings. Which is just as well ! I will take that excuse to visit Dr. Sadiq again !

Hope you enjoyed seeing this house and meeting some of its members.
Thank you, Dr. Sadiq and Sahro for your kindness and patience in sharing your beautiful home.

Thank you, readers for stopping by and reading ! Do share this post with your friends ! And please write your comments in the ‘Comments’ section.

‘Bye until the next time.

Posted in Homes-old and new | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

A Nawabi- Era Private Imambara in Lucknow

Hello All,

Alright, it IS very hot. But it is also time for the fragrant bela and Chameli to bloom. My own three pots have started to yield four or five blossoms a day.My mother-in-law insists on offering them to her deity so I whisk away two and keep them on our dining table and delight in the wisps of fragrance as I pass by ! No wonder Indian women in the past wore gajras (decorative, thick garlands for the hair made of fragrant white flowers)-you could smell them all the time !

Away from gajras, coming to old homes, my dear friend Yasmin Khan and I had talked about a house in Lucknow that was old and that she had visited long ago. A phone call or two later, thank God for graceful people like her and the recipient of the call, our visit to this house, on a hot April afternoon, came about.

A bit about the house and the people that make it home-

Iftikhar Ali Khan’s marriage was arranged with Saeeda when he was 22 and she 18. Saeeda lived in the home of her maternal grandfather, the Raja of Salimpur. Although Iftikhar often visited this house he never saw her even once. The first time he saw the beauty was when he brought her home after marrying her seven years later.
‘Khakan Manzil’ where he brought his new bride to was not just a house. It was really rooms built around a monument worthy of pride, a monument meant for congregations, called Ada Khaana or more popularly, Imambara. It is in such Imambaras that Shia muslims gather also to mourn during the important period of Muharram. It is these very structures that the Shia Nawabs of Awadh built, structures of great beauty, that Lucknow is known for.
Entering the sehan or the courtyard through an old wooden gate, it is the Imambara that you see before you. A yellow and white, interesting-looking building with pillars and a Palladian style triangular top, it has extensions on either side that sit a bit uncomfortably with the stately structure. The extensions are colonial style and, turning at right angles, continue their journey as barracks on either side until they fully enclose the courtyard with the wooden gate making up the fourth side of a rectangle.

The compound of Khakan Manzil-the Imambara in the centre and its wings on either side.The water body(now tiled) also in the centre of the compound

The compound of Khakan Manzil-the Imambara in the centre and its wings on either side.The water body(now tiled) also in the centre of the compound. (Photo by Geetika Chakravarti)

A view of the Imambara from the roof of the left wing

A view of the Imambara from the roof of the left wing

The fascade of the main building with delicte plaster work, now almost obliterated with years of lime wash. The doors are of Burma teak and panes of thin, galvanized metal-all original.

The façade of the main building with delicate plaster work, now almost obliterated with years of lime wash. The doors are of Burma teak and panes of thin, galvanized metal-all original.(Photo by Geetika Chakravarti)

Seated in his drawing-room in the left extension, Iftikhar Ali Khan gives us a lesson in elegant Urdu vocabulary. I hastily add it to my meagre repertoire. He is himself a picture of elegance—a crisp white kurta-pyjama, a paan held on one side of his mouth and a peek-daan (spittoon) by his side. A classic nawabi imambara, he says, would have the ‘Naubat khaana’ on either side of the gate. A Naubatkhaana would house musicians who would play music—shehnai or nagaara-to welcome guests. Then you would find the ‘Ghulam gardish’, quarters to house ‘ghulams’ or servants. You enter the ‘sehan’ or main courtyard which would have a ‘nehar’ or water body. Then a ‘chabutra’ or raised platform. And on it, finally, the ‘Ada khaana’ or imambara. There would be ‘sehanchi’ or small rooms on either side of this main structure meant for members of the family or guests.
It is in the sehanchi that his own mother and paternal grandmother before her lived.

The outer and inner halls of the Imambara. The pillars and mehrabs have fime plaster work(now under layers of lime wash)

The outer and inner halls of the Imambara. The pillars and mehrabs have fine plaster work(now under layers of lime wash)(Photo by Geetika Chakravarti)

The inner hall with windows on the right opening into the special room that houses tazias(replicas of the tombs of Hassan and Hussein, grandsons of the Prophet, martyred at Karbala, Iraq)

The inner hall with windows on the right opening into the special room that houses tazias(replicas of the tombs of Hassan and Hussein, grandsons of the Prophet, martyred at Karbala, Iraq)(Photo by Geetika Chakravarti)

An  intricately worked tazia made of paper and wood strips. The plaster on the step has chipped off,exposing 'lakhauri bricks' used in Nawabi-era buildings

An intricately worked tazia made of paper and wood strips. The plaster on the step has chipped off,exposing ‘lakhauri bricks’ used in Nawabi-era buildings

A closer look into the dome of the tazia--a frame is made out of wood strips. Paper is molded over.Made by craftsmen of chowk, Lucknow.

A closer look into the dome of the tazia–a frame is made out of wood strips. Paper is molded over.Made by craftsmen of chowk, Lucknow.

On this hot April afternoon,Yasmin, who introduced me to Iftikhar Ali and to their interesting home, my daughter Geetika and I are taken on a tour of the imambara by Iftikhar Ali’s son, Murad, daughter-in-law, Samar and son-in-law, Ilyas. They are all welcoming and interested. Even Geetika who usually wilts in hot temperatures has not noticed the heat.
‘Ise sambhalta hi jaa raha hoon’, Iftikhar Ali has told us. ‘Ek,ek karke chatein girti jaa rahi hain’.( I have been continuously trying to save this place. Roofs keep collapsing one after the other). He has replaced quite a few.
Seeing the roof of the main hall, I can see what a feat it must be to keep it in one piece, especially if it is your private funds you have to use and you have other things to take care of as well.

It has been the tradition to white wash the building before Muharram, Murad tells us. He points out the layers of whitewash that all but obliterate what was once beautiful stucco work on all the doorways and pillars. Attempts to remove the layers of whitewash have resulted in the plaster decorations crumbling—so it is not a situation where you can win.
This Imambara was built around 1820 for Khaakan bahu, Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah’s elder son’s wife. The son died in his father’s lifetime. His younger son, Amjad Ali Shah became the nawab later, and his son, the famous Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh, succeeded. Khakaan bahu, the elder son’s widow, was given this imambara and, as iftikhar Ali discovered later in government records, a ‘kharcha-e-paandaan’ or pocket-money of Rs. 1500. It is here that she spent the rest of her life in prayer and in bringing up her children. Hence the name, ‘Khaakan Manzil’.
The buildings were, later, inherited by Nawab Noorjehan begum and her children, the eldest being Iftikhar Ali Khan or ‘Huzoor mian’ as he is called.

As a boy and young man Iftikhar Ali Khan’s world was within the walls of Khaakan Manzil and his school, St Francis in Lucknow. There was, however, another different world that existed for Iftikhar and that he loved- that of two Anglo-Indian homes. Every day, after school, the young Iftikhar was taken to the home of Mrs. John to be given lunch, then a nap and finally private tutoring before coming back to his own home. In the last years of school he would go to the home of another Anglo-Indian gentleman, Mr. Jacob, the director of the United States Information Service, where the schedule remained similar. He got acquainted to a non-traditional, westernized world through these homes. After passing out of school, his mother refused to let him go to study on scholarship to Ibadan. She, however, let him go to Aligarh Muslim University to study Science. There was a phase, he says, when he used to dress in suits stitched at the famous Haridas in Hazratganj and haunt the Mohammed Bagh and Gymnkhana Clubs of Lucknow. But the day he married, he says, he gave that up and concentrated on his beautiful wife and home, instead.

A sehanchi adjoining the hall.Iftikhar Ali's grandmother lived here and had it remodelled in 1940 with mosaic  on its floors and fireplace.

A sehanchi adjoining the hall.Iftikhar Ali’s grandmother lived here and had it remodelled in 1940 with mosaic on its floors and fireplace.

Iftikhar Ali stands framed by a doorway

Iftikhar Ali stands framed by a doorway

Back in his drawing room Iftikhar Ali tells me that he intends to hire craftsmen at some point to first take ‘khaaka’ or impressions of the plaster patterns on the walls of the imambara and then work on reconstructing them. I admire his will to preserve. We are offered tea, biscuits and pineapple cake. His eldest daughter Sheeba has just come back home. She is a well- spoken young lady who teaches in a local school. Her husband, two brothers and their wives and children live together in the same house. The young children with their respective maids wander in and out. Iftikhar Ali’s younger brother and his own family also live in a different part of the extension.

Members of the family, each, go out of the four walls to the world outside to work or visit. And when they return it is as if they are absorbed into the sehan, sehanchi and the ada khaana. They love the place and take pride in it. The Imambara , the main body with a throbbing heart extends its arms- its two wings, and seems to embrace them. It is as if it is a world all on its own—the mother, and in her arms, her children.

Thank you, Iftikhar Ali sahab, Sheeba, Ilyas, Murad, Samar and the other members of this family, for sharing your beautiful home with us ! I am delighted to have seen a different world !

Thank you, dear Yasmin, for arranging this visit– waiting to see Salimpur and Malihabad soon !

And thank you all for stopping by to read !

Posted in Homes-old and new | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Table setting with handmade ceramic mugs

My Romanian friend, Andreea Banita, herself a fabulous flower stylist,(take a look at her fabulous arrangements here )told me the other day that it is beautiful to be able to understand the essence of an object that you have or a place you are in and express it in your art or a table setting you create. I cannot agree more ! This way, what you create will never seem contrived . It is all about understanding it–not difficult if you try to look carefully!

The past couple of months I was quite happy gardening, reading, helping my daughter in her makeup studio and watching the violent TV drama, Game of Thrones. I know that I often need a push or a shove to actually start doing something creative. This time my push came from an online craft shop called ‘Artbugs’. They have some nice pieces on sale and I am delighted that I don’t have to travel to Delhi or anywhere to get some nice, artistic objects–I just buy it online and it gets delivered to my doorstep! Take a look at: http://www.artbugs.in/

I found some nice ceramic mugs and bowls on their site (how lucky we are that these days we don’t have to go to an artist’s studio in Delhi or Pondicherry to buy these !) You will find them here

—and I fell in love with my own blue ceramic mugs all over again.

No more my white cups and saucers — now these lovely blue mugs for tea on our verandah —
DSC03893

They go beautifully with the rough clay pot with a money plant and placed on an old, (genuinely) distressed table.

Here are the mugs from Artbugs-
Set-of-Mugs-Blue-500x554

On a bit of prodding by the Artbugs people, I did a table setting with my own mugs. Enjoyed creating it !

A piece of worn wood from an old, dismantled traditional African boat(dhow)–it is actually a tea-light holder made by an artist in Tanzania–seemed to fit well with the organic, handmade mugs-so I used it. If you cannot travel to Africa to get one of these -that was a joke !-make a trip to the local lakri ki taal and get some rough pieces of wood that can act as a stand, a centrepiece for a table or a mat for a hot dish of food. Or forget about the piece of wood and just use three or four mugs from Artbugs or use your own, if you have them.

It was a matter of chance that I collected the last of the Marguerites from our garden today. Most seasonals, except for the desi petunia and nasturtium have almost dried up in our garden. Sad ! You can see and feel the searing Indian summer arriving! But never mind, I just put in Zinias and will add some summer Cosmos. Then we have the fragrant indigenous flowers-the Bela, Juhi and Chameli-these plants are starting to become green and robust, getting ready to flower in May and June- so I will not look at the ‘heat’ part of summer. I will look at the ‘fragrant’ part instead !

So the gardener, Daya Shankar( a very nice man-I am happy he is working for us), and I uprooted the drying Marguerite shrubs this morning and gathered what we could of the flowers. They suited the blue mugs perfectly. I mean, unblemished rose buds from a florist may suit a crystal bowl but a ceramic mug ? Not a chance ! You could easily fill the mugs with sprigs of mint available in the market these days-and it would look gorgeous !

DSC03902

DSC03911

Simple white plates, Indian tea glasses that I love and found on a thela in Aminabad, Lucknow, a jar of green chillies and two empty wine bottles which we now use to hold water and wooden spoons from Africa ( the ubiquitous steel spoons would be fine as well. But it is a great idea to buy some nice wooden spoons from a local craft mela–actually, Artbug could introduce some!)I left the worn dining table without a cloth-
DSC03908

DSC03905

I added cream and green cotton napkins from Fabindia-

DSC03913

Then I also added a ceramic bowl from Romania for a salad-
DSC03915

Artbugs has similar bowls- they are beautiful with a blue-yellow glaze-
Bowl-500x554

DSC03916

The green wine bottles, a jar each of green chillies and salt (reminds me of our friend Kamlesh Pandey- from the Raja of Gonda’s family and a retired IAS officer-his meals are accompanied by green chillies that he dips in salt before biting off a bit each time he takes a bite of food )-
DSC03904

A final look-
DSC03909

DSC03910

Thank you Artbugs for giving me a push ! And I am happy you sell some pretty objects online !

Take a look at a few more of my ‘tablescapes’ here

Do go ahead and try your own settings — it is a creative exercise and wonderful for the artistic part of your soul !
And tell me if you liked the setting I created..

‘Bye for now !

Posted in Tablescape | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments