South Asian attitudes towards furniture

Maheswaran Nair swantam at ASIANETINDIA.COM
Sun Aug 12 03:43:50 UTC 2007

In Kerala there is a craze for everything foreign and so smuggled  
goods are sold out like anything. Here in Trivandrum, there is a  
place-Bimappally which is known for shops selling foreign items.When  
one returns after visit abroad  friends and relatives ask for  
something foreign one has brought for them- it can be anything. To own  
anything foreign is considred by many to be a matter of prestige,  
there is also a negligence for indigineous and veneration for foreign.  
A Malayalam poet has written lines sarcastic on this fascination for  
K.Maheswaran Nair
University of Kerala

Quoting jkirk <jkirk at SPRO.NET>:

> I was walking on Capitol Hill and passing by a house which I had earlier
> noted was occupied by South Asians (it was noteworthy for having banana
> trees outside it every summer).  There was a big container and a moving crew
> in front of it, moving out contemporary and very undistinguished not to say
> crummy furniture.  I got in a chat with the movers and they said the family
> was returning to India.  I remarked that it would be much cheaper to buy new
> furniture in India, and of a much better quality, than to ship it back.
> They remarked that they had thought that too, but please not to tell the
> family.
> I have not gotten the impression hitherto that South Asians are particularly
> attached to particular pieces of furniture.  I've read that French and
> Italians traditionally think it's against family piety to let loose of any
> piece of inherited furniture, however inconvenient or out of fashion.  I
> think American Southerners often have a similar attitude.  But in any case
> this was things like beanbag chairs, which almost certainly weren't
> inherited from Great Granddad.  Does spending thousands to ship back
> recently acquired and undistinguished furnishings fit into any South Asian
> pattern anyone's observed?
> Allen
> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D., Senior Reference Librarian South Asia Team, Asian
> Division Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
> =============
> Well, I suspect that their move back to India was being paid for by an
> employer, and so they figured OK--send it back and flog it there.
> One of the reasons family furniture-piety did not develop in India might be
> because of the insects and the climate, both of which are extremely hard on
> anything made of wood. Metal items--brass murtis and the like-- would be
> preserved, but they are also heavy and hard to move and if you are a
> government servant your posting might be changed from time to time. In
> Ludhiana, Panjab, a rich family I knew kept beautiful old brass utensils in
> the house, including one in the room for bathing --this latter item was
> gigantic--it seemed to be 4 feet in diameter--must have held a ton of water.
> Sikh villagers also kept copper and brass utensils as décor, lined up on a
> high shelf, probably no longer used.
> Middle and upper class women I knew or came across did tend to preserve
> heirloom fabrics--saris, shawls, quilts.  Also, they held on to family
> heirloom gold and jewlery of all kinds--gold being the most lasting of any
> furnishing and a reserve bank account, so to speak.
> I spent a lot of time in Bangladesh from the mid-seventies on, and noticed
> that middle class homes or apartments there usually had a glass-windowed
> wooden cabinet where they kept trinkets and souvenirs, or in some instances,
> books loaded up with DDT, in hope that the termites couldn't get to them.
> These and I suspect other noxious insects are so prevalent, plus the extreme
> climate-- are such a bother-- that it was logical for Indians (I guess
> before globalization came on the scene) not to make a presentation of self
> point of home furnishings (exception being people who admired foreign
> culture and ideas--like Nirad Chaudhury, for example).
> Joanna Kirkpatrick
> Bennington college, ret.
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