It’s made of what is called country-wood – that is, not a fine hardwood like teak, or sheesham or rosewood. It had originally been painted white – there are faint traces of pigment, if you look closely at the surface. Gomathi had it stripped and sanded to a warm caramel, called it an antique, and sold it to me.
It has three shallow drawers, and six tarnished brass handles, fluted and hemispherical, like halved umbrellas. It comes up to the middle of my thigh. It was made by a carpenter who didn’t care if the grains matched, or if there were slight irregularities at the edges of the boards. He didn’t care about nail holes, or about patching a short board with another piece of wood. He made a container.
When I open the drawers, they tilt downward. There are two paler rings on the top, left by glasses wet with condensation. I’ve partly hidden them with a brass urli – a shallow round cooking vessel – with a soft glow, as if butter had been used to make the alloy.
The chest’s roughness pleases me – it’s ‘authentic.’ It was clearly made by hand, and for a purpose. But in fact, I have put it in a false position. In this house its functionality is notional – it has become a decoration. It sits quietly in its corner; a small, stolid, country-wood fish out of water.