I’ve been a collector all my life; not the administrative kind, but the accumulator of things kind. I love collecting old stuff (‘antiques’ in my eyes), watches, perfumes (blame my ‘mallu’ blood for this one), and gadgets. My wife, on the other hand, likes to live a de-cluttered life.
This difference in living style has been the single biggest cause of conflicts between us; particularly around how we liked to keep our home. While I believe in a rather non-structured approach, i.e., leaving things where I felt like (‘strewn around’ as she says) but still knew where to find each of them, she likes to keep stuff pretty neat and ordered. She has a specific place (and angle) for everything (remind me to look up OCD after this post, please), but at times forgot where that place is. Which is why I consider my system far more efficient than hers, albeit visually less appealing.
We also often get into arguments over items I’d collected, but never used or took care of after I bought them. Like the antique clock that I’d bought (henceforth referred to as ‘grandmother clock’ or ‘grandmother’ or ‘granny’) sometime back.
On a particular sunny afternoon some years ago, one of my aimless city walks had got me into this clock shop that
had some amazing old clocks. I fell in love with a piece that chimed every hour. The shopkeeper told me that it was over a 100 years old. It looked its age, and so I took his word for it and brought it home for what I thought was a bargain – Rs. 2500 only. The plan was to keep it at home for some more years, watch its antique value increase many folds and sell it for some serious big money that I could use for retirement.
“What have you bought now? Why are you bringing this old clock home?” asked my wife when we (granny and I) reached home. Can’t blame her since she’d been more used to seeing old clothes and stuff being exchanged for new utensils at her home all her growing up years. I explained my reason for buying the clock, and she didn’t say a word. She seemed to have understood. She just rolled her eyes, gave me a look of disdain and went back in. Well, I was happy that she didn’t downright reject granny.
I hung the grandmother on the living room wall, wound her up with the key that came along with her, swung her pendulum and left her there – ticking and happy. She became a conversation starter when many of my friends came home, and I felt a sense of pride welling up inside of me whenever my friends stared longingly at her. So it went on for many years until a few days back when I noticed granny had stopped ticking. She stood there frozen in time, lifeless.
When my wife was around, I casually wondered aloud about granny’s health. What happened next – no words can describe. Remember that ’96 movie: ‘Twister’? – That terrible tornado that got cars and cows flying around? I experienced that inside our living room. My wife had become Twister!
When Twister left the room, I fell into a heap, all my energy drained and eyes closed. Turns out, for the past few years my wife had been going through tons of trouble to keep granny tidy, ticking and happy. She had to be wound every 2 days initially, then every other day, and finally every hour. My wife had been doing that. She finally couldn’t take it anymore. She told me that I had to make a choice now – it was her or the grandmother in the house. Well, what choice did I have really – after all, a clock won’t be able to hold a bedpan for me when I am old and bedridden, can it? So I gave in.
I advertised to sell her on one of the Buy and Sell sites, and sure enough I got a call from Suratkal – a place about 17 kms away from my home. The caller said he was a collector of old stuff, but couldn’t come to my home to pick it up and wanted to know if I could bring it over to his place. I agreed. My wife and I drove the grandmother all the way to his place. His place looked more like a cemetery for clocks and gadgets; rust and rot everywhere. I didn’t get a good feeling about the place and wanted to run out of there with granny. I glanced at my wife, hoping she would be feeling the same. But she just stood there devoid of any emotion, almost like she belonged there. The guy came out, greeted us and took a look at granny. He asked me if she was working, and I replied in the negative. He then gave me his offer. “Rs. 400”, he said, “I could’ve paid Rs. 500 if it were working”. My heart sank. All my retirement dreams came shattering down. Before I could move my tongue, my wife said: “Deal!” (yeah, we are big fans of ‘Pawn Stars’).
But I can’t say the granny episode has dampened my enthusiasm for collecting old items. I still have some more stuff – like that old soda bottle shown in the title image – that, I think will be very valuable some years from now. Any takers?