Monday, October 24, 2011

BIT- Matunga

Readers, not familiar with the title: you may begin with the Footnote.

A serpentine entrance leads you into the building. The entrance carries no warning to hawkers, salesmen or trespassers. This single gate entry point, allows just one person at a time to walk in. No high gate, no watchman, I am still wondering, when the building got constructed, what must have been their idea of security.

Wooden hand-rest leads you to the residents, through cemented floors. Building Corridors have pigeon holes, for sunbeam to usher in. Some stray cob-webs surrounding them, politely convey a message, of "live and let live”.

As we wait for the door bell to be answered, I notice different compartments on the door. At the centre lies a rectangular opening with a wooden flap, inscribed LETTER BOX. (The first “E” and the “R” have turned faint) The postman must be sliding the letters in, so that the residents have them at their feet, when they go by the door. I recall not having seen any Letterbox at the building entrance.
To compartmentalize the door further is another opening at the eye-level, with sliding arrangement. It allows the residents to know who the visitor/ stranger is. This arrangement I believe is much easier than the modern day key holes, which gives a hazy picture of the visitor; sometimes they just give a laughing mirror type of images.

For a first time visitor like me, every object in this “1 Room Kitchen” and its way of presentation seemed antique. To begin with a cupboard veiled with saree thin curtain cloth.
I am wondering the purpose behind veiling the cupboard. So far I managed to jot down 3 options:
• Veil the object that stores valuables of the household. (Not highly convincing, as the veil only manages to attract more attention than necessary)
• Olden Day Scratch Pad, to protect the Mirror on it.
• A way of Furnishing.

In a 1RK,"space" is a constraint, but, “the Cloth line in the house” is never made to realize this. Those cloth-lines that humbly occupy air-space make themselves comfortable stretching across ends. As the ceiling fan exhales, moisture laden air seeps down, giving you a refreshing feel. I wonder, if Coolers, a relatively new development got their inspiration from this?
To supplement the internal cool air, “prison van type window grills” act in co-ordination.
These windows serve a dual purpose. They allow fresh air from outside, at the same time keep flies at bay. No wonder, separate need for Mosquito Nets was never felt.

Moving to Kitchen. L Shaped Platforms were absent those days, and Modular structures were ages ahead. Kitchen queens seem to have divided their options into 4 categories. Floor Space, Mid Air Space, Air Space or a combination of any two. BIT- Kitchen introduced this to me in its own way.
• A segmented Worship place starting from ground level to 5 feet height (A Combination).
• An Airborne Plate Stand.
• Multiple tables segregating dry from wet ingredients (Mid Air Space)

For those of you who say, Creativity gets dampened under Constraints. Time to revisit your thinking. Creativity can work best, even under Constraints.

Footnote:
I recently visited my “GREAT Grand Ma’s” house. My account of the old building and its ancient furnishing. BIT stands for Bombay Improvement Trust
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3 comments:

magiceye said...

life was so much simpler then!

Dishit D said...

nice narration

Veena said...

The veil was definitely to protect the mirror - We were never allowed to leave it open - 'Rasam poyidum' - our grandma used to say! As a kid I could never see myself in this mirror - I wasn't tall enough. I had to use the full length mirror (which is behind the veil in the picture). We moved out of BIT (to Chennai) when I was 8. When I went to BIT the next summer, I could see myself in this oval-shaped mirror and I was thrilled - I was a 'big girl' now !!
When we were there, we were 7 people in that 1RK (3 kids and 4 adults), but at one point there were 18 people living there - so I have heard!!