The year: 2007. The place: Jonapur village on the Delhi-Haryana border. The scene: A septuagenarian helps himself out of a black and yellow taxi. He throws a numb stare at the neighbourhood in which he was once a boy. The air is new, the cattle, the people, the dust, it’s all new. Life’s colours feel sharper on the eyes. He walks deeper into a lane that has thickened and thinned in changing municipal climates. Some bungalows stand made-up, cheeks evened out by cement, grills welded over their friendliness. They refuse to recognise him now, not entirely their fault. The man looks up from a tattered paper that has something scribbled on it with a cheap ball point pen. He knocks on an ornamented blue door that opens up like a bleeding heart of a tall whitewashed facade. He shows the insiders a paper, some grainy photographs and narrates a tale for heady context. They welcome him in and, rather abruptly, allow him to break down one of their walls. He excavates, unearths a box and walks away with it. The man is a Pakistani national who came to his childhood home six decades after the partition to reclaim his collection of coins.
All of 45, Kuldeep Kaur has a partition story of her own. She retails her curation of textile and furnishings from the 100-year-old haveli that has stories hidden inside its walls. Serendipity is three-floors tall and rectangles a courtyard, the brass canon on its ground floor is visible from anywhere. The chalky distemper on the walls is the major change made, the skylights that stencil in the sun, the arches carved into the walls and the metal boulders holding up the ceilings are as is. A swathe of mint-tinted paint has been dried on doors and windows. Around grandfather clocks and old radio sets, Kaur displays Moroccan ceramics and crockery, duvet and cushion covers block printed in places, artsy jewellery, paintings pop and quaint, scented face gels and candle incense, among other things. Meanwhile, vintage high-poster beds made from Burmese teak, carved ottomans and rusty chandeliers from a time gone by, sit and watch what’s happening.
Recently, the venue invited its kitsch and kin over for the art and design fair Color Me Autumn that was jointly curated by Shallay Bartholomew of the Delhi-based design studio Ispirato. Here, furniture designer Aradhana Anand showcased chair forms from her brand Limon. From the Chinoiserie, Georgian, Rococo and Queen Anne eras, these were upholstered with Ikat, Baluchari and Munga. Swathy Jagannathan flew in from Chennai with her brand Bhang stashed away in suitcases. These were jute silk sarees, on them a slow shift of greys to golds to tired reds and blues, at once austere and extravagant.
Brand Nomad celebrated the banjaran, India’s gypsy woman, with its cotton voile bright striking prints and hand-woven mashroo on harem pants and ghagras. Baby Baniya, because that’s how its founder Meha Gupta was bullied in school, displayed pieces with photographs of crumbling walls, sepia toned portraits, old letters and keys. If The Secret Ink showed off its embossed stationary, ceramic artist Manju Tomar brought Bali’s wabi-sabi-esque pots to the party and Discovery of India’s printed psychedelia sat tight inside frames.
The two afternoons were sunny. Behind sunglasses, Delhi’s art-slash-good times enthusiasts broke pita and sipped on wine. The evenings were adequately windy. Roohani Sisters made sufi on one, the other had Raag Leela fusing Indian classical with jazz and rock. Serendipity is as much in finding lost stories, as it is in losing new ones.