Home Sweet Home – Laila Tyabji’s Window, Shanti Niketan
Her stay-at-home consolations.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Dressed in a many-hued hand-woven Murshidabad silk sari, craft activist Laila Tyabji, 73, is sitting in her book-lined drawing room in south Delhi’s Shantiniketan. Behind her sofa is a huge glass window through which all you see are sky, clouds and trees. As she chats, the birds fly past the window—like fish swimming in the aquarium. During the lockdowns last year, “my drawing room window reminded me that looking out is as important as looking in,” she says. “Things have their own beauty, but also the beauty of memory and the people with whom you associate them.” She tells The Delhi Walla about 5 cherished objects that were a source of comfort during the homebound isolation we all underwent in the early months of the pandemic.
1. The bottlebrush trees outside, brilliant with colour, planted by my parents in 1971 when they built the original house, now tall enough to reach my 2nd floor window.
2. The South Indian elephant lamp, bought by them in Mysore on a car trip through South India circa 1954. I’ve always had a thing for elephants and, aged 5, swore I would marry a man like one – big, wise and with a twinkle in his eye. Alas I never found the right one!
3. A brass Buddha head bought by me to replace a family one that fell to my brother’s share and whose serene beauty I’d loved all my life.
4. Chiks on either side, made by Ram Singh, who arrived early morning to hang them the day (god-daughter) Urvashi and I moved into the reconstructed new flat in 2001. The only supplier (from fancy air-conditioning companies and master masons to Italian kitchen manufacturers) who met his deadline absolutely on time and accompanied it with a blessing, mithai, and an Om on my door.
5. Rows of books, almost concealed behind the sofa but an essential magic entry into other worlds and minds.
A home in the pandemic