Memories, memorabilia and movements
Well, I don’t quite know about you, but I am an avid collector. I collect memories, memorabilia and experiences. Believe me, having spent four decades in the Armed forces, the first twenty growing up as an Army offspring and the next twenty in the Navy, one is eminently qualified to be a collector!
Life in the Armed forces teaches one so much. To adapt, to accommodate, to adjust ;to make the most of what is served up becomes second nature. I have such vivid memories of going to school in a Shaktiman( a military truck), with someone actually called the Dandaman, wielding the stick(danda) on the tailboard of the vehicle to signal all kids safely in! One recollects with pleasure the glorious unit picnics, shooting beer bottles and topping off a glorious Sunday with Biryani and Jalebis! As a growing child, packing your stuff every two years and moving to a new location and making new friends and seeing new places seemed the ultimate adventure. As one grew from a young boy into a career in the Services, one took for granted the vast open , relatively unpolluted spaces, the manicured lawns, the Clubs and the Institutes, the well maintained roads , the clean ,well equipped hospitals and a way of life which brought along with it dignity, discipline and a sense of decorum.
A lot has changed over the years and a lot has got diluted and yet it remains a way of life which is quite unique. I am at a stage of life, where I have become a little introspective and reflective and I am seriously thinking of ways to deal with an obsession cultivated over years in a useful, maybe profitable manner. My family and I have upheld the rich and great services tradition of collecting stuff and material unique to a particular station; collecting memorabilia and things which have a unique knack of looking huge, ugly and are invariably useless!
I have in my possession, some priceless stuff handed down by my father after nearly four decades in the Army (my mother threatened him there was space in their post retirement home either for her or the collection). I am negotiating with Sotheby’s, the sale of some of my family heirlooms– four swords (3 ,with broken handles, 2 with considerable rust) with the regimental crest ; three miniature brass cannons mounted on a splintered wooden platform; two exquisite wooden models( with paint peeled off) of rhinoceros almost knee high(presented by colleagues of Dad when posted in Assam); then there is this incomparable piece with a map of Punjab outlined by shells of expended cartridges and a brass knob stuck in one corner(probably depicting where the unit was located). There is also an amazing collection of caps, hats and assorted headgear from every corner of the country (they have now been home to generations of spiders and cockroaches). To this very esoteric collection, I have added some of my own pieces making it a truly priceless collection. There are four Nicobari huts in different sizes (3 of them look as if struck by the Tsunami).There is an inspired piece, presented by well wishers at a previous station- a blackboard sized plywood panel on which are stuck coconut shells which proudly proclaims, “May this always remind you of our association”- you bet, I don’t think I really have a choice in the matter!
I don’t really know if I will be actually able to go through with the negotiations with the auction house. Maybe, I will hold onto these seemingly worthless pieces – maybe they are more precious than I care to believe. Maybe, I am just being sentimental, but it is difficult to part with memories of a lifetime!