Sunday, January 22

The Charpoy reinvented

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It looked like a nice sunny day from my window when I woke up today and my first thought was to rush out and soak up the sun. I might not see it again for the next week I thought to myself. Sadly, it was a mistake not accounting for the freezing cold wind outside. It tore at my coat, ripped under my hat and turned my head into a block of ice. With watering eyes and running nose, I dashed back home to safety, like a child escaping from a schoolyard bully.
As I put the kettle on to boil my mind drifted to the countless January afternoons I had spent sprawled on the terrace of my house. With the Delhi sun warming me up and lulling me to sleep; I remember lazily cracking peanuts and dropping the shells on the ground under the charpoy.  As the memories slowly warmed me, I realized that a constant theme running through each one of them was the charpoy – sitting on it studying for the exams, dozing in the sun with my mom, helping her spread vegetables out to dry and so on and so forth. So what exactly is the charpoy.
The “charpai” as it is called in India, literally means “four feet”, and is a bed with a simple wooden frame onto which ropes are woven tightly. It is an age old and indispensable piece of furniture in most Indian households as people not only sleep on it at night but use it to welcome guests, eat a meal, read, spread spices out to dry or gather laundry after drying.
The charpoy’s USP is its lightweight and easy portability. It can be stored in an upright position when not in use hence saving space in the room or courtyard for other functions. Along with its diverse uses, it is an extremely hardy piece of furniture. Even when used daily both indoors and outdoors and exposed to the elements, the charpoy sustains years of rough use. The best thing about a charpoy is that just when you think it is on its last legs and beyond repair, a weaver can reweave it to transform its look and prepare it for years of use again.
I started wondering if the charpoy appeals to people nowadays as it used to and decided to do a spot of research- must say I was in for a very pleasant surprise. The humble charpoy is not only very much in use but has been constantly reinvented to suit contemporary tastes and styles. One of the designers to do so is Anglo-Indian design duo of Doshi Levien. Their version of the charpoy marries the skilled workmanship of Indian seamsters with Italian industrial production. The Charpoys are made using cotton and silk mattresses embroidered with the ancient Indian dice game of 'Chaupar'. I love products that fuse different cultures and design traditions and just had to share the pictures here.

Other interesting twists on the charpoy can be found at Jagmanja in the UK  

and Ouma productions in France.

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