Grandma's urli turns haute

ARUNA RATHOD | Updated on: Jun 02, 2011






A Mumbai store that gives a contemporary avatar to beautiful objects of yore.

An old anchor nearly six-feet tall and weighing 700 kg stands majestically at the entrance to Anemos — a lifestyle store at the Raghuvanshi Mill Compound in Central Mumbai. Inside you find an amazing array of objects ranging from beautifully carved furniture to clocks, urlis , decorative lights, cabinets, wall pieces, masks, tricycles, bicycles and a large collection of table fans.

The store owner, Rajkumar Jain, believes in creatively modifying and finding new uses for beautiful objects of yore, including kitchen implements, that have become redundant in the modern-day world. A large, three-foot high sevai (rice noodle) maker, for instance, has been turned into a centre table. “I just added the glass top to the machine and it has become a unique table. I have also purchased lights from old ships which seem totally useless when you first see them. Now they are polished, restored and serve as unique lamps for homes; and the creative juices keep flowing to do newer things,” he says. “Quirky is what we are all about, and we offer unusual and interesting stuff to discerning clients.”

Rajkumar is currently excited about a new acquisition — a wide fishing boat that can seat at least ten, which has been sourced from Kochi. “I just love the piece with its copper fittings. The fittings are being polished, the boat is being restored and I want to make it usable. As a boat, it doesn't have much use in a home or garden today, but I am turning it into a garden piece with seating and shade.”

He says his business is strongly underlined by a concern for the preservation of heritage. “I think that restoring these pieces and reusing them is just a great way to keep our heritage alive. Some of the pieces I have sourced are something our youth would never know of if (the pieces were) not kept well,” he explains as he lovingly caresses a horse cart that is currently being restored to its original glory.

Each time you visit the store, you are bound to discover some new addition. A wooden airplane propeller, old metallic dustbins, Russian table fans with blades made of leather or rubber, the metal frame of a child's bicycle and an old-style collapsible toolbox that can as easily store modern tools and gadgets. The antique pieces arrive from dealers around the country and are usually in various stages of disrepair. Says Jain, “I can visualise how they will look once restored; and I never buy something I don't like.” He has a team of trusted restorers to assist him.

Many of his prized possessions are displayed like installation art — two urlis fashioned into an indoor waterfall, large wooden masks mounted artistically on one wall, and a rope and wooden ladder placed horizontally along another wall.

As for prices, there is enough variety to suit all pockets. You could pick up a beautifully etched brass tumbler for Rs 250, or spend a couple of thousands on a lamp. There are small curios such as old-style tobacco boxes and tiffins (priced upwards of Rs 2,000) to larger pieces such as wine cabinets, bar chests, coffee tables, rocking chairs and beds (about Rs 2 lakh).

“It's about sharing your passion for the best,” says Jain.

Pictures by the author.

Published on June 02, 2011
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