Something new, Something old–Uttora and Ranjit Ratna’s home

My sister Uttora likes to keep things and her husband Ranjit likes to throw them.
During my last visit to their home, very soon after Uttora left for work(she is a counsellor, he a retired businessman)Ranjit quickly cleared the store upstairs and lined up old knives, boxes and trays for Uttora to review-more as a token gesture because he was determined that these would be banished forever. On her return, as soon as Ranjit stepped out for something,Uttora retrieved most of the things and pushed them deeper into the recesses of the store, determined that these would REMAIN forever!
And so, guided by such propensities, they have been able to achieve many things- among these a home. A home that is both beautiful and unique.
Beautiful because from the moment you enter you get a feeling of warmth with every object placed with thought and care.Unique because many objects, including many of the doors and furniture have been bought at Kabaari wala yards, restored and used cleverly.

For my friends who are not Indian- kabaari walas are professional collectors of junk who recycle almost everything to do with a house. From iron beams and the tiniest bolt used in construction to doors,windows,glass and definitely any piece of furniture–a kabaari wala buys and stores everything-to be re-sold later.

An open gateway on a main road of the locality of Georgetown in Allahabad leads into what is called ‘Chaddha haata’ or Chaddha colony. A cluster of individual houses form this colony.Built by the family of Capt. S.N. Chaddha in the 1920s, some of these houses were actually rows of rooms built around a large courtyard.
My brother-in-law’s father Mr Ratna Kumar came from Etah, in Uttar Pradesh. His mother brought him,his two brothers and a sister to study first at school then at Allahabad university. One of the houses in Chaddha haata was hired by her because it was well located near the university and the old market of Katra. After about 8 years he left Allahabad with his first job. Bit by bit, the rest of the family also dispersed. But about 10 years later Ratna Kumar returned and by chance was able to re-rent the same house. He started to live in it again, raising his two sons with his wife, Chandra Prabha, a green-eyed, brown haired beauty from Ghazipur. Here they are, Mr and Mrs Ratna Kumar-

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Ranjit, his son, later bought this house. It was a house(a quarter, really) with a courtyard (actually one section of the original big courtyard)on one side and narrow verandahs with arches lining two sides of it with rooms leading off them. I had spent many days in this old, quite plain looking house on which my sister set to work from the moment she started living in it. When I see it now-I am amazed at how beautifully Uttora and Ranjit have renovated it- creating rooms, enlarging the existing ones while preserving the character of the courtyard and the arches of the verandah.

The gate to the house- the canopy in front fitted with a decorative border rescued from an old house. All the wrought iron work that you see on the gate and inside the house was done in their home, under direct supervision of Uttora and Ranjit-
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Here is what it looked like-a ‘before’picture from 20 years ago that I love- the front of the house with Uttora’s daughter and son and her friend-

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The small covered entrance lined with plants in interesting pots-

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A couple of hand painted clay pots interestingly arranged. These were painted with traditional Bengali Alpana patterns for my own wedding by the very artistic ‘Lau da’ from our paara or neighbourhood. He was a person without whom no ceremony could happen in our own house or any other Bengali house in our locality-

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The lobby -a collection of Ganesha statues from different parts of India on one wall. The tall, narrow table in front is really railings of a balcony rescued from Ranjit’s uncle’s home in the old city. These support a simple marble slab on top-a brilliant idea !

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A view of the drawing room with a beautiful carved sofa from Indonesia, bought from a relative who was disposing off her furniture-a collection of paintings by yours truly on the wall above-

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Another view-

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A corner with a collection of glass bottles and jars from different places with ebony wood carvings from the trip Uttora made to visit us in Tanzania. On the table is a lamp- the base made out of Ranjit’s grandmother’s spittoon which they have inverted and have placed a glass globe on top –there is no shortage of lovely ideas !

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The stunning coffee table made from an old rack bought for next to nothing at a kabaari’s. It acts as a container for little pieces of embroidery and tiles which Uttora changes from time to time-another great idea-

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Another coffee table which holds beautiful sea shells from Tanzania and doilies crocheted by Ranjit’s grand mother- shells and lace seem to work beautifully together-

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A gorgeous paan daan in brass that belonged to Ranjit’s grandmother. Paan daan is a container for the different ingredients that go towards dressing betel leaves. To offer a beautifully dressed and folded betel leaf was considered an etiquette in Indian homes. A cruder form of the art still exists but only in shops-

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On top, on the right is a lamp, the brass skeleton of which was recognized and rescued from a neighbour’s junk that had been dumped outside. They later found a glass globe, also at a kabaari’s, to fit the skeleton and look what they have !
On the right is a chair-four of which were bought also at a Kabaari. They were polished, upholstered and the back re-woven with cane-

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Another corner with a metal samovar and wash basin bought from a utensils shop in the old part of Allahabad –

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The dining area of the room with a marble topped cabinet and a collection of Chinese style paintings also by yours truly–can’t help it- she says why have any one else’s paintings when she can have mine !! And I love it that she loves them-

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The table set for tea with old crochet and an assortment of crockery, mismatched and beautiful- from charity shops of Dublin-

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One side of the dining area with crockery cabinets. In the middle is another tall table made from wrought iron railings(they had rescued quite a few)and a marble top. On the wall is a collection of old plates bought from flea markets in Romania and from antique shops in India-

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The covered corridor which was earlier a verandah. They let the arches remain, exposed the bricks and emphasised their shape, coating them with liquid terracotta. In the foreground is a table with a polished concrete top- the wall has my painting of Kali– a Kukri to match Kali’s hanging next to it-

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A ‘before’ picture of the end of the verandah-with the Ratna children-

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The doors you see in the picture were also bought at a kabaari. They were cut to size, the peeling paint removed and the teak wood polished under the supervision of Ranjit-

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The corridor begins at one end that has a dining table and comfortable benches made from head boards of a bed . This is the most used part of the house with the kitchen opening on one side and the courtyard opening on another-

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Wood boxes from a defunct factory bought at a kabaari now act as deep frames for an old brass grater and gujhia and betel nut cutters from their own house-

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The courtyard- my favourite part- lined with lush plants- and, I LOVE this bit, they are fed with water that drains into the beds from the Ratna washing machine- soap and all ! What a wonderful way to recycle water in a country with water shortage ! At the far end, cleverly camouflaged by plants and a pretty table, is a small area used to dry clothes-

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And just when you might think this is it-you go up the stairs and find a lovely terrace full of plants, including tomato and beetroot and flat beans, carefully tended to by Uttora. The covered part is used by Ranjit to play cards almost everyday, to exercise on a couple of machines every other day or not at all and for their son Madhav to practice on his drums.

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Uttora and Ranjit met each other at university where both were studying for their MBA degrees. When they expressed their desire to marry there was mild disapproval from each one’s family- different communities, different backgrounds,etc., they said. Anyway, the families reconciled, the two married and 36 years and two lovely children later, here they are- still ever ready to rush off together( often with the rest of us in tow!) to a mela, to a new kabab seller, or, you cannot miss this one, to a kabaari-

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It was Basant Panchami two days ago–I missed being in Allahabad for the auspicious day when about 5 MILLION (!!) people(the entire population of Ireland is 3.5 million !) would have taken a dip in Sangam, the confluence of the three holy rivers. The air of spirituality is magical and the organization superb ! Imagine managing these numbers ! And yes, last year, for the huge Kumbh Mela when the number of devotees was about three times this number( I know it sounds unbelievable!)–Uttora and Ranjit joined the millions to take a dip. And all the other auspicious dips after. Just to be a part of it all !

Hope you have a wonderful weekend !

And please do post your comments …

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About Adity

Hello ! You are either already a friend or will become one--through this medium! I am an artist and jewellery maker, a wife and mother to two lovely children. Beautiful homes, food, nature and wonderful things happening around me make me ecstatic. That is why I started to write this blog-- to share with you all of these things. After all what good is any experience if not shared !
This entry was posted in Home Decor, Homes-old and new and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Something new, Something old–Uttora and Ranjit Ratna’s home

  1. Shalini says:

    What a storied and lovely tribute to your sister, her husband, their family, and home. Their home just beams happiness.

  2. Shikha Chaki says:

    You have written this so well, Adity, I felt that I have known Uttara, Ranjit and his family for years and as for the house it is truly a labour of love.Wonderful !

    • How nice it always is to read your response ! They had bought a lovely house in Goa where part of Ranjit’s family lives.-they had thought about shifting. But at the end of the day they felt that they loved this home and Allahabad too much(apne apne paani ke keede)–so they sold it off–much to my own mother’s regret because she loved that house.

  3. Vandana andLadlie Tandon says:

    What a beautiful home.Both Ranjit and Uttora must have worked real hard and must be proud of what they have created.

  4. Hello ! I just saw your blog and since I belong to Allahabad , I just had to stop by and read this. I was further surprised to see that I know the couple mentioned here. In fact have known them since the RR meals on wheels days. They are very well known to my parents who still live in Alld. What I did’nt know was that they had a lovely home too. Thanks for sharing their home with us. It is indeed a beautiful place and I just loved your paintings. Lovely post 🙂

    • Hello Reshma ! How wonderful it is to make contact with people from Allahabad ! Thank you so much for stopping by to read and appreciate.
      Who are your parents ? You see, being from Allahabad I feel I know of everyone–when ,in fact, I know not many ! But Uttora and Ranjit will be happy to know-they know many !
      Yes, they were almost the first in Allahabad to get good quality ‘fast food’ through Meals on Wheels.
      Do carry on reading my posts–the ones before feature other old houses of Allahabad.

  5. anita says:

    Enjoyed a visit to your sister’s lovely home. Next time I am in Allahabad ,I may gatecrash.

  6. Poonam Malhotra says:

    Dearest adity ,what a beautiful home your di has……….a lovely couple…….and description written by u which suits it to the T!!!

  7. Uttora Ratna says:

    Thank you all the wonderful people who have had such nice things to write about our home- a home which would not be one without our extended families, friends and companions. Everyone has contributed in one way or the other. Our dinning room chairs were ordinary ones which were changed with small alterations on top of the backrest and upholstered on the advise of my father decades back.Has a dash of a Chinese look now!
    My one year old grandson has now started to give his special inputs with crayon sketches on the walls!!!!!!

  8. Pushpanjali says:

    Hi! Tinku, what a visual treat,creative talent unmatched,unsurpassed.I have yet to see a jaw drop conversion of ordinary to extraordinary ,every nook n corner speaking volumes , exuberating warmth ,elegance and style.This sister of ours was and will remain an inspiration for us.Uttora di you are too talented ,I salute you.

    • A delight to feel the warmth in your comment ! Yes, she is indeed very talented–it is her creativity,inherited from our father and a desire to preserve/conserve that make her home what it is. I think we saw our father creating many things- twigs from his beloved garden made into an exquisite arrangement with a single flower,visualizing a running horse in the dead roots of a rose plant and turning it into a sculpture, getting a bench fashioned out of carved head boards from his Dadu’s house. It is seeing all this that has made her creative.

  9. dhanvada says:

    Ranjit Sir is my MBA senior and one whole generation feasted at Wheels on Meals.. He was the first to start the Fast Food practice. Wonder if he would remember me.. One wonderful affable senior .. Would like to talk to him if his coordinates could be known..

  10. dhanvada says:

    Thanks you spoke to Ranjit Sir.. What a rush of memory and wonderful people..

  11. nina says:

    Hello, dearest Adity – What a tribute from a sister to a sister. , and vice versa.
    It was as if I was visiting her exquisite home with you and we were pausing at every corner to look at her interesting turnovers , makeovers and collections … and getting into endless chats! And how sweet of her to add that yours truly touch and make the talents meet… What a Creative family you are and I wonder how much your parents might have been as well.. Uttora di — cant wait to come and see the real picture ….

  12. Dear Adity, It is pleasant to see Uttra Didi and Ranjeet and their lovely house. I am really getting inspired to hold the old values in the house. I would certainly like to visit their place once i go to Allahabad.

    • Very happy you read this post,Bandu ! Uttora di’s house is indeed very nicely done–and as you saw, with many things rescued from kabari walas. You give her a call when in Alld–she wd, I am sure, love to have you come. If you read about the other old houses as well you will, I hope, be even more inspired to keep everything old.

  13. Bijaya Bose says:

    House Beautiful, indeed! Staggering attention to detail is remarkable. So glad that old things were repurposed to bring beauty and warmth to a home.

  14. Navneet says:

    Saw above in a TV program on Ganges.

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