This was truly one of the fascinating days I have had in a long time. AquaM and I covered the whole stretch of Mount Road, Chennai’s commercial and shopping district. We started with Greams Road where there is this super cool discount store called Cool Club. I keep seeing Zee and Vee wear some really neat clothes from there. So Zee decided to take us shopping there. We picked up gypsy skirts in blue and pink shades. After which we dropped into a friend’s workplace to pass on her books.
After which, we went to the British Council to pick up passes for an evening of spoken poetry by Zena Edwards. I was really impressed with what they had done to the Library. It looked like a gallery of modern art! I can’t imagine it used to be the same noisy place where I used to do my research. The place was all sun, open windows and quiet. Inside the old British Council library I always thought that one could take a bucket, overturn it and stand up on it to give an impromptu lecture and no one would notice! It was that noisy! And I liked that noise. Today, when I saw it, it was changed. The space looked different. The entrance, which was from the side earlier, was changed to the front. The pink and orange theme made it look like an avante garde advertisement for Hutch (Now in Pink!). But the stone sculptures were still the same making it my anchor of the past and the present.
Now, we decided to walk it up to the silver shops since the weather was behaving itself. We walked past my old workplace (Orient Longman, where I freelanced when I was studying.) Then we came upon this antique place where I used to go but haven’t visited in a long time: The Old Curiosity Shop. The window display was so attractive with its metal hookahs and vintage fans that I just had to go in. Luckily, AquaM agreed.
I knew that silver was sold at the shop so I asked to see silver rings and earrings. He readily obliged. Between deciding what silver stuff to get from tiny-filigreed rings to the antique looking silver earrings, I was so lost that I didn’t have time to see what else the shop offered. I saw a “Bee Meter” just below the surface glass of the table that I was sitting at. Apparently, that’s what is used to measure the exposure level before taking a photograph and I thought it was used to measure bees! Unlike so many of the shops we see today, it was done up on wood. Wooden rack after rack of all the things that I want! Miniature metal chairs, Buddha figurines from Nepal, stone pedants, silver rings, cloth bags, Elvis LPs: you name it, he had it. I loved all the stuff. The owner, Latif, regaled us to stories about the smallest Quran he had published, and his collection of tiny books. The smallest he said was 1 cm by 1 cm. I wanted to add any smaller and it would be nothing by nothing. But I held my tongue. I picked up a small silver ring for – hold your breath- Rs.30! And a pair of silver earrings and ring for a friend of mine. What I wanted was those beautifully cut silver rings, which shine as though there were diamonds set in them. If I could help it, I would have taken the whole shop!
The owner also told us that if we knew anyone who was getting rid of his old book collection, he would buy it. And give us whatever we wanted as a gift! How wonderful! The reason is he wants to make a vintage library above his shop. So if anyone knows anyone who wants to get rid of an old library full of books, you know whom to contact.
Between AquaM and I ooing and aahing at all that he had to tell us, I thought I spotted some antique keys. I asked him about it and guess what he said? Those were the keys to the shop! All the three of us burst out laughing. This was too much! All I said was, “I knew it! There was a catch somewhere!” The next thing that caught my eye was a pashmina shawl. It was beautiful. But knowing my budget, he directed me to the fake pashmina shawl, which looked equally beautiful. I know what my next buy is going to be! A fake pashmina shawl. I will think about the real one later!
Reluctantly, we left this shop and headed for another silver shop. This one was called Jaipur Arts and has been around for about 22 years or so. It’s tucked away under the stairs of other big shops. But the mind-boggling variety of silver that it has to be seen to be believed! AquaM went gaga over the detailed figurines so much that I caught her enthusiasm. We bought the same items: one figurine each of Kuber and Lakshmi-Ganesh. At around 4:30, we decided to call it a day. Not before we got one silver ring each studded with an Amethyst. It sure was a long day and all we wanted to do was go home!
I have resolved to go back to those 2 shops for more silver and stories!