Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Divan

Most of us would have memories, even if misty or cobwebby, of the "divan"  occupying one side of the living room in our homes.
The divan was usually  like a single bed, minus the head board and footboard.
Two things set it apart from the regular beds.
One, it had cushions instead of pillows, arranged horizontally along the wall which also served as a back rest. The cushions were hand embroidered at times, often multi coloured, and placed diagonally, resting on one of the four square tips.
Two, it was part of the living room.

The divans served as home for many a cousin, brother in law, brother, elder son.
Unexpected visitors would see the occupant scurry inside with a pile of books , after a quick straightening of the divan cover.
Visitors hardly sat on the divan. It was reserved for the hosts. Maybe guests in those days found it awkward to sit on a "bed", maybe it was also a part of our hospitality.

At night, most divans morphed into make shifts beds for the additional family member who had a prolonged stay in the house.
Like I said, a cousin in his final year at college.
A brother in law in his first job- looking for suitable accomodation.
The elder son, who definitely had more privacy on this than the big four poster.
Women hardly ever slept on divans- it was too public.

The morning maid who swept and swabbed would show her irritation at this humble wooden piece.
The occupant would usually be still lying down, fast asleep while the rest of the family was awake.
She would have to manoveure her broom skillfully around Bata Hawaiins, a cushion that got shoved off at night and was lying on the floor, pick up the odd ballpoint that had rolled out of the trouser pockets thrown casually on the stool next to it, wash the dregs of the tea in the cup that was the last drink the night before.

Divans had their use in social occasions as well.
In Assam, it was bedecked with marigold and rajnigandha, glittering velvet spread and served as a couch for the bride and groom on their "reception" evening.
The wedding gifts would be stacked on one corner of the divan, carefully guarded by a young niece given the sole responsibility of shipping them to safer confines  inside with her siblings.

Some of our lives are so like the divans.
Always useful. Always used.
Given a place of pride during the day. Abused when no one was looking.
Be the first to be forsaken  when good times mean better opportunities.
Non complaining.
Yet basking in the morning sun rays everyday, making our living rooms and lives brighter and warmer....