Long before I built a place that I could call home I had my entire ‘study’ built and designed in my head. This room had inhabited my head for so long that I could feel the warmth of the burnt orange walls, the comfort of the solid antique writing desk (which was still in some second-hand furniture shop), a wall of floor-to-ceiling book case…I could even smell the books in my sleep –long before I moved into my house.
But then many time things in life don’t go as planned, so I was prepared for little compromises except for one –I knew I wanted a particular sofa -the one where you sink into and a joyful sigh escapes your mouth unbeknown; no sofa, no study; no study, no house. I wasn’t going to budge an inch here –the sofa was going to be an integral part of my life –this is where I’d spend time reading, working, eating or just about doing everything and nothing.
Few months before moving-in-day I went sofa-hunting; I spent countless hours sinking into sofas of all kinds and makes, watching carefully for that sigh to fly out of my mouth. But in vain. Nothing felt right. Will my sofa remain an image forever in my mind?
One day, when I was on the verge of tears it happened -I met MY sofa. It’s orange hues were a perfect match; warm and inviting. The minute I sat on it I knew she was mine (and I also instinctively knew ‘it’ was a she). I was lost in her warm embrace. It felt like home.
When I brought her home I sat her next to the window in the perfect study in my new house.There she sat bathed in the glow of the morning sunlight; in the evenings she was streaked with beams of rays from the setting sun -a sight worthy of a Hallmark card.
I gave strict instructions to folks at home that she was MINE and no one should forget that. But the problem was anyone who sat on that sofa, fell in love with her and refused to let go off her. MY dad was on top of the list of defaulters.
Like a typical Malayali man he would oil the ten and a half strands of hair on his head and have a head bath every day. And for the rest of the day he would go around leaving an Australia shaped wet oily patch on whatever he would rest his cranium on. Naturally, my sofa was off-limits for him; I had forbidden him from occupying my chair,lest in case I had numerous Australias marring the orange velvetiness of my sofa.
The next few months mother had to witness mini-battles between her husband and daughter over the orange lady sitting plump next to the window. Whenever my dad wanted to get my attention he would plonk himself on the sofa; he had my immediate attention, laced with ire, followed by a massive argument. On hindsight I think he enjoyed these arguments; it was his way of getting some time with his otherwise busy daughter.
Oh how I hated him when he usurped my sofa.
Today, dad’s no more. And I’d give anything to have him occupy that sofa just once. I am not being an emotional dram queen here, it’s just that I sometimes think, how foolish I had been…How dense I had been in not realizing that it is not the sofa that he had wanted but some precious time with me. I took him for granted. I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this living, animate human will not live forever unlike the inanimate sofa. If I had given it a thought maybe I would’ve chosen wisely -dad over the sofa…
Today, the sofa remains abandoned, in the same spot, a gentle reminder of a life lesson learnt.
Sudha Pillai is a photographer and writer who works as the Features Editor of Bangalore Mirror [The Times Group]