The Junk Collector

I have come across art collectors, coin collectors and stamp collectors, each of whom has a name for his hobby, but never in my life did I imagine that I would one day come face to face with a ‘junk collector’. How were my husband and I to know when we met him that someone could be so fond of his ‘treasure’ and that he would go to any lengths to not only preserve it, but also to add to it.

It all began when we advertised to let our house. After short-listing severalJunk1 probables, we decided on one who appeared to like the house immensely and evinced a keenness to occupy it almost immediately with his small family.

It was only when two truckloads of his things started arriving that we realised the real reason for his being attracted to a spacious house which was half-a-century old and surrounded by a large compound. As his things were being unloaded, we noticed that his ‘furniture’ comprised of a minimum of three sets each.

To begin with, there was a variety of sofa sets of different sizes. One of them looked well-cushioned and very majestic. But for the lumps of sponge popping out in places, it appeared as though its rightful place would be a royal household.

The second set, which was in cane, appeared to need not only an urgent coat of varnish but complete recaning as well, from what we could see of the numerous holes in it all over.

The third set had, to our surprise, just a skeletal frame, with no seat or back rest!

By the time we could stop wondering as to why a man needed three sofa sets, that too in such bad shape, down came a heavy fourposter bed with a thud and a crash!

It was evident that it needed more than two pairs of hands to make a smooth landing! Three other equally heavy and extra-large single cots, in what looked like rosewood (it was a difficult colour), joined the bigger one. We thought the four pieces were more fit to adorn an auction hall or a furniture shop specialising in things second-hand than a residence.

When we were expecting the dining table to follow, there came down at least half-a-dozen tables that looked like writing tables of different sizes. They looked sturdy, but were almost crude, and it was only when an equal number of typewriters followed suit that we understood the need for these tables.

Three sewing machines covered with rust and looking quite ancient and a couple of refrigerators in off-white and faded pink came down in quick succession.

Panting and puffing, the two un-loaders made a beeline to the second truck. Out came heavy, oversized cartons and cloth bundles (looking like a washerman’s bundles). Unfortunately, some of them chose to give way, spilling their contents which ranged from ‘hardware’ to ‘tableware’ of sorts, besides old textbooks and stationery. 

Not bothering to pick them up, the men proceeded to unload a grinding stone, a copper boiler and some household items.

As we were beginning to think the last of their things had been set on theJunk2 ground, we noticed an Austin Eight entering the compound. We saw a number of cane chairs and stools precariously perched on its carrier. Soon, the people in it alighted, with a TV set and some electrical gadgets. Extending a hurried invitation to us to visit them after they had settled in, our tenants disappeared into the house. 

A fortnight after our tenants’ arrival, we decided to honour their invitation, more out of curiosity than anything else. As we stepped into the open verandah we were greeted by the majestic-looking sofa set. On closer observation we felt that even if someone wanted to sit on it, it would have be at the risk of his being poked by the springs jutting from underneath the sponge! Managing to squeeze ourselves between the sofa set and the wall, we were trying to enter the drawing room when I heard my husband yell in pain. His foot had hit a coat-stand (a British legacy) placed just by the wall.

I stepped in gingerly and looked around to find something to sit on, but found it unreachable. The two sofa sets were very much in evidence, so were the numerous cane chairs and stools. I was wondering how I was going to make myself ‘comfortable’ when the lady of the house emerged and greeted us with a warm smile.

“Would you like to look around the house?” she suggested and we nodded.

The four-poster bed occupied the middle of the large bedroom and two cots were placed on each side of it. There were also four huge wooden almirahs almost touching the ceiling. 

Noticing my shocked expression, our tenant enlightened me, “You know, since we didn’t find any built-in cupboards in your house, my husband bought them in an auction last Sunday. He doesn’t miss a single auction…” Before she could continue, the man of the house came in. “Ah! Did you tell them they are made of rosewood? You know, I got them for a pittance, a mere two thousand rupees each!” he said proudly.

His next words put us on the alert, “Your house is really nice, not like our previous one. These modern houses are no good, there is hardly any moving space in them,” and he went on, “I can park my two cars and three scooters in your compound.”

And then, he added, as an afterthought. “By the way, I think your garage is too big for your Maruti. Can I keep a few things in it?”

I am at present in the midst of persuading my husband to change our Maruti for a Tata Sierra or Estate, even if it means spending a fortune on the new occupant for our garage.

N Meera Raghavendra Rao

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