The quiet corner

We all have a favourite space – a step, a chair, a corner, nameless but comfortable, a tiny bit of refuge that carries our perfume, our shape, our memory. In the middle of Mumbai, I am fortunate to have an open view of the vast Arabian sea, a good fortune few people in this teeming city have. Our favourite space is a strange bit of furniture, a seat created out of a defunct old railroad wagon. The kind one would have seen in an ancient childhood, which used to carry coal and stones on narrow gauge rail tracks. Our wagon came to us when my daughter was about seven, and we were looking for a bed for her room. We didn’t find a bed, but she saw the wagon in a corner of the store, and I could see it was love at first sight. There was just the one piece. Apparently there had been a set, and the other one was taken by the interior designer of a famous film star, to adorn his office. It was quite expensive, and I hadn’t the budget to fit both a bed and the wagon. My daughter readily agreed to use her granny’s old bed, which was lying dismantled in the loft, if we could take ‘wagon’ home. Wagon occupied pride of place in her room for a few years, co-conspirator to late night snuggles, long tales read by torchlight to her several stuffed toys, and the occasional sniffle. Then teenage came, and with it, a larger cupboard for ‘books and stuff’, a writing desk to work on, and the ever necessary computer chair. Now the Wagon had no space. Neither of us had the heart to let it go. It was moved to our bedroom, looking a little heavy and out of place, where it slowly gathered dust, old clothes, laundry, forgotten books. One evening, when my husband and I were out on our walk, our daughter saw the Wagon ‘feeling left out’. Taking things into her hands, she changed the configuration of the hall furniture. She moved the sofa, relocated a chair, and dragged the heavy Wagon out to a corner near the window.
When we returned, the hall looked different, and Wagon sat proudly in its new place. I felt the room had become a little cluttered – Mumbai homes are tiny, and every bit of space is precious. Navigating the way to the kitchen in the tiny space left was a little iffy. But my daughter stood her ground. We agreed to give it a few days’ time. If we still felt uncomfortable, we would shift things back. That was a year ago. Now I don’t even remember how the hall looked without Wagon. Most days (except during the stifling Mumbai October heat),it gets a gentle breeze at all times. It has become a sort of refuge, a thinking and reading space. My husband likes to sit there when his ‘thinking cap’ is on, my daughter has made it her ‘tea, snack and book’ space. Some nights, when sleep eludes me, I read in it till my eyes are heavy. The three of us have filled it with our different needs, and it caters to each one with the same love, comfort and warmth. It has become the quiet listener, the hand that comforts, the nudge that sometimes one needs, the repository of affection and gentle laughter every home should have.

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