Across the threshold of a seemingly ordinary house, freelance photographer Regret Iyer reveals a veritable treasure chest of relics that transport you to a glorious era, preserved in the form of palm leaves, jewellery boxes, diaries, photographs and what not.
In 1970, Regret’s father S. N Iyer set up a private museum of artifacts collected by his ancestors. Regret has added and maintained this unique collection. Originally from Virinchipuram in Tamil Nadu, his ancestors migrated to Kolar and preserved this collection.
A carved cupboard in one corner reveals old utensils dating back to 18th century. Old clocks, wooden and metal jewellery boxes and other relics once used by Iyer’s grandfather Kothamangala Narsimha Iyer and great grandfather K Yagaman Rama Iyer in the 18th and 19 century adorn the walls of this museum; 300-year-old diaries with palm-leaved pages and scrawny writings are stacked in a wooden trunk.
“These diaries date back to 1895. These were maintained by my ancestors and have been written in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu,” he said.
There are gramophones from 1926, ornamental lamps from 1900, cane baskets from 1940, musical instruments from 1950 and utensils from 1800. The oldest object in the room sits in a corner. They are old pillars from a puja room as far back as 1700. Iyer’s son Shravan showed an 18th century lock of a cupboard, which requires a secret technique to open. Regret added that such locks were used in those days to fool burglars.
Typewriters from the bygone British era are kept in one corner along with radios. One can spot the legendary Oliver and Imperial typewriters from the early 20th Century.
Pointing at a sepia-toned fading photograph, Iyer said, “This family photo was taken in 1900. It is the oldest picture we have.” It is his most prized possession.
Explaining the large six feet high cradle occupying a major part of the museum, Iyer said, “In 1930s, my uncle K Ananthanarayana Iyer used to teach former Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He bought lot of things including cameras, projectors including this cradle.”
The Iyer family doesn’t want to sell these objects or display these antiques as it may attract undue attention. “We can’t open the museum to the public as there are chances that things might get lost or stolen. This is for our family and it has become our tradition,” said Iyer.
Every object in the museum has an interesting story to tell. The old steel tiffin boxes lining the shelves are from 1920s when Iyer’s family lived in Bangalore.