In 2016, the Godrej Archives, set as much as doc and protect the legacy of the Godrej Group, printed With Nice Fact & Regard: A Historical past of the Typewriter in India. This guide concerning the once-familiar object helped create a sort of discourse which has been uncommon in India — the “cultural biography” of an object. From the Frugal to the Ornate: Tales of the Seat in India by Sarita Sundar is the follow-up to that guide, compiling essays on the very historical historical past of the seat — together with the chair in its European sense — in India, with a wealth of pictures (many drawn from the Godrej archives), work and posters illustrating this story.
Over the centuries, the seat in India has taken many varieties, shapes and kinds. It begins with the stark simplicity of the patlo or palakka — a low seat, sometimes fabricated from wooden, utilized by individuals as they go about their every day chores — and the mooda (low stool) or charpai (woven cot), which proceed to function contemporary inspiration for designers within the twenty first century. If the moulded plastic bucket chair of ready rooms speaks of a sure universality and accessibility in India’s city areas, one other strand of the story is instructed by the fabled, ornate Peacock Throne or Takht-i-Ta’us (jewelled throne) of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The guide is as a lot about India’s historical civilisation, with a wealthy custom of crafts, as it’s a few modernising nation. Because the variety of factories and industrial workplaces expanded and cities grew, the “workplace chair”, with its wheels and complex assist mechanisms, and the highly-versatile plastic chair got here to signify an India that was quickly altering and at all times on the transfer.
The story of the seat — who sits the place and at what peak, who has one and who doesn’t — can also be one among politics and energy. To take one instance, there’s a narrative concerning the shifting sands of energy within the journey of the Peacock Throne, from the Diwan-i-Khas in Delhi’s Purple Fort to Persia after Nadir Shah’s assault in 1739, the place it was taken aside, every of its treasured parts, together with the Kohinoor, discovering its approach into different palms. However greater than all the flowery thrones, together with these of Mysore or Travancore, the low-slung planter’s chair, with its indelible affiliation with the Raj, got here to signify energy — not simply of the British colonialist over “native” underlings, but additionally of caste and gender as Indians tailored it for his or her use.
Not all of those inequalities have been erased after India started its modernising mission, however the chairs that started dotting the panorama after 1947 communicate of a nation that was slowly, however stubbornly democratising. Take, for instance, the dining-table chair of the brand new nuclear household, accessible to everybody, no matter age and gender. Or the Irani Cafe chair, representing the rising proliferation of communal consuming areas, and the plastic Monobloc chair, first created by Canadian designer D C Simpson in 1946, and now discovered throughout India and out there to seat anybody from safety guards at museums to company at weddings.
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