Heritage in our Homes: Home Appliances & Gadgets

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Congratulations to our winners for writing in with unforgettable memories of Home Appliances & Gadgets that changed their lives or made their lives special. This was the third and final theme in our #HeritageInOurHomes series, which celebrates the history of everyday objects.

We brought you this series in collaboration with Jugaadopolis, a people-led cultural platform.

Journey back in time as you read the winning entries:

1. Shibu Dutta

We Indians are proud of the Western gadgets we use but we have forgotten what our forefathers used before these devices of convenience were introduced to our lives. For instance, we used baked earthen surahis and jhajjars for cold water in hot summers, before ice boxes and fridges.

Baked earthen pots
Baked earthen pots | Flickr

In urban environments, the ice box and fridge give us cold water but, in our villages, people could not even keep butter from melting. So, in the early 1950s, someone I knew in Lucknow designed a large earthenware pot filled with water with a floating bowl, and a lid to keep the butter solid. This was achieved due to continuous evaporation from the surface of the water.

In those times, people used a khas khas screen instead of an air-conditioner, and cool water with the perfume of fresh, damp earth from a surahi, instead of cold water from a fridge. These were tough times compared to the luxury of today’s machine-made comforts, but they were simple times and they kept us rooted.

Shibu Dutta is an architect, currently based in Washington DC.

2. Shweta Balasubramoni

Subscriber Trunk Dialling or STD… I will never forget those STD calls made through a telephone operator. You placed such a call only after hours of planning, which led to waiting for what seemed like an age, and finally getting through, only to have your conversation disrupted by disturbances in the line. This forced you to speak at the highest possible decibel level! Ouch!

A phone booth for STD
A phone booth for STD | Wikimedia Commons

Shweta Balasubramoni is an architect and interior designer. She is also a nomad, dreamer and a dancer.

3. Ranjit Nair

My unforgettable vintage memory takes me back to 1994, in Lucknow. I remember hanging aluminum plates, the kind that used to come with a pressure cooker, on top of the television antenna to receive signals for DD2/Metro.

Ranjit Nair works overseas as a business analyst. He is a history buff, who never studied the subject but fell in love with it anyway.

4. Charanjeet Kaur Gandhi

When we lived in Varanasi, there were four families in the building, including ours, but we were the only ones to own a shutter-walla CROWN TV. So, on Sunday, all of us would quickly complete our chores and gather around the TV set to watch the serial, Ramayan.

Crown TV advertisement via indianhistorypics/Twitter
Crown TV advertisement via indianhistorypics/Twitter

It was my duty to serve nimbu paani or snacks to everyone during the interval (There used to be one long intermission!). We repeated the ritual in the evening, when the Sunday movie was telecast. The TV brought us together, as family friends would drop in to watch the Sunday movie with us. Without fail, Auntiji would bring homemade snacks, and it was party time! I wish I could wave a wand and bring back those lovely days!

Charanjeet Kaur Gandhi is a school teacher in Nagpur and finds happiness in the little things in life.

5. Pallav

For a generation that saw the move from cassettes to CDs, and then to MP3 tracks, and finally to online streaming, audio-cassettes have a special place in my heart.

Stacks of treasures audio-cassettes stashed away in my hometown | Pallav

I still have stacks of boxes filled with cassettes, so lovingly bought, stashed away in my hometown, in the hope that one day I'll find a decent cassette player and give those cassettes a spin.

Shopping for them in music stores was an adventure. The big stores stocked everything, from rock ’n roll to death metal and hip-hop, and buying the last copy of a cassette was like finding the Holy Grail. It was a coveted possession that was rarely passed between friends.

Of course, audio-cassettes were not without their flaws. We were always rewinding and forwarding to listen to the same track again. On the unlucky days – and there were many! – a cassette would get snagged in the player and we would struggle to take it out without breaking the tape.

When the tape got mangled, you bit back the pain, snipped the edges of the broken tape and rejoined it with mom's nail polish, which doubled as adhesive. Then, you stuck a Natraj pencil into one of the spools and spun it to wind the tape back. From then on, the butchered track was always in your memory with a part of the song lost to the void.

At times, a cassette you craved was hard to find. I remember buying Tool's Opiate and The Prodigy's Fat of the Land after travelling to the next town on the train and coming back the same day. Anyone coming from metro cities was always given a list of cassettes to buy, that is, if they could find them!

Sony Walkman
Sony Walkman

Memories of listening to a song for the first time are still there, the ache associated with not finding a good cassette player, and the pain of losing my first Walkman… everything remains and nostalgia is the balm.

Pallav is a Chandigarh-based author, who delights in writing short stories and poems.