1.11.14

Skeletal thoughts on empty cupboards

Just another empty one, not mine

I bought a three-door wardrobe. The two-door one looked too lanky and a four-door one obese. At the store the chosen one seemed perfect in size, colour and its ability to hold things.

When you buy a piece of furniture to hold things, you would keep in mind what things you have. I did not. I only knew I had excess of almost everything. I have been giving away and giving up quite a bit, and I find there is still so much left. Had I been a religious person, I might have knelt in prayer to thank a supreme being for bestowing these upon me. But, irrespective of a spiritual bent, I realise that my worldly possessions are rarely fulfilling any material needs. They do not also work as display pieces because I do not exhibit them. They lie inconspicuously on shelves and in draws.

People may impulsively buy clothes, books, stationery. Who would impulsively buy a cupboard? I did. At the furniture store just as I was done with some necessary purchases, I looked at these wardrobes. While I seek to empty out, I also need to fill space. It is quite another matter that I did not imagine clothes in there, but mothballs. Mothballs gathering moss.

What arrived took me by surprise. Large planks of wood covered in thermocole and cardboard. The technician will come and fix it, I was told. It turned out that, except for the polishing, he would have to pretty much make the cupboard in the room. It took the sound of drilling to drive home the point that I had made the wrong choice. It always takes noise to make us comprehend what we need to regret.

When it was ready, it looked like an uninvited guest. It was late so I couldn't figure out much. Next morning, it appeared even more forlorn. I could offer it nothing. I sprayed freshener hoping to erase a smell I assumed to be there. I like the scent of wood; in fact, I like woody fragrances most. So, why was there a need to overpower what was in all likelihood not even there? Perhaps, I just did not want to like it.

I also noticed that it looked out of place in the room. The old cupboards are different; the bookshelf is different. That is when I began to connect with it. Being different wasn't a choice; it was made that way. The issue was where it was situated. Had it been in a room where the colours and girth matched, it would fit in.

Days went by, during which I placed silica in to absorb moisture. Maybe cupboards cry? I started placing small things in — a cellphone case, a couple of hangers, an unused wallet. Everything, except clothes. The reason was this: why should I put old clothes in a new cupboard when they are comfortable in the old one? It would amount to uprooting them. Even if they had to jostle for space, they had probably got used to it, the creases adding to their character.

One day, I bought a new shirt, a rust-shaded chiffon one. This seemed like a good time to inaugurate the wardrobe formally. I eased it onto the hanger and it looked so utterly charming, so vulnerable, like a waif. There was space enough at the bottom and the top, which added allure. In time I put in freshly-pressed dresses that looked new. Starchy ones and wispy ones. There is place for trinkets and varnish, for bags and scarves. It isn't quite perfect, but is not a sore thumb anymore.

More than anything else, I find that everything in the old cupboard seems to be breathing easy. I've now understood that it is not discarding things but figuring where and how to keep what we have that can make us feel light. Then, giving becomes not an act of escapism, but generosity. Even towards oneself.