4. Table for Thirteen

Deepa Bhasthi


 

[1]

This gleaming blackish brown rosewood table, with hints of fiery red freckles here and there, made from one choice tree felled for all the beds and settees and rest of the house furniture, some 50-60 years old and handed down at least two generations, how much weight this table must bear. To its intrinsic body mass, add the heavy weight of secrets, both silly and terrible, of the stories that people around it must have told each other, must have imagined up, must have laughed and loved and cried and hated. Yes, families hate. As do friends. These secrets and stories weigh the most. How laden with these monstrous memories must the rosewood table be, used for breakfasts and elaborate lunches, evening coffee with homemade snacks and dinners, sparse or maybe not, if there are guests. Used for gossip, used for chopping the props for a meal, for reading a book away from the house’s chaos, used to burden it with decades worth of drama. The rosewood table can barely be moved. It is not just because it is heavy and seats at least ten around it.

The table that is not made of rosewood or is 50-60 years old or is handed down from generations seems so laden with all its terribleness and dirty secrets as well. This is the one that is brought out at every party, or really, even when it is just you and I. This table now, it is like amoeba – the only figure from biology I used to be any good at drawing. For you can draw it any which way you like and the teacher cannot say it is different from the one in the textbook and hence wrong and you still get your marks for it. Like the constant changing dimensions and geographies of amoeba, this heavy table accommodates as many people as there are, from just this one person and I to those thirteen at dinner on a full moon night a few nights ago. Thirteen plus me. The thirteen at the table, not sitting all on one side, made it a table for thirteen plus one. Ironies and unintended references to scenes that form strong images in collective cultural memory were aplenty and strewn carelessly across the floor that night. This table then carries, in the latest of its acquisitions, the things we exchanged in word and many a drink, bearing witness to laughter, newly formed relationships and a mild degree of debauchery. How much this table bears witness to.

[2]

This table is round sometimes, sometimes a square or a rectangle or triangle or some other angle. But it is mostly a circle, a round, loosely formed, constantly shifting to expand for more or contract for less diners. Round like the seating around a crackling, warm fire at the end of the day, a deeply familiar comforting primeval exercise. Every time one gets up to pass the salt or the curry in that turmeric yellow bowl that is just out of arm’s reach, it contracts, expands, heaving in and out, inhaling and exhaling. Over and over again, inhale, exhale, inhale…the table constantly heaves and sighs. Heavy whether from the effort of this constant exercise of constructing itself and dismantling itself and constructing again and again or from the weight of the stories it bears – I cannot tell. Intuitive guesswork doesn’t always respond well to inanimate things. Not that the bearer of stories as dense/disturbing, light/funny, happy/nostalgic as this table possesses can be called inanimate. What happens to stories when their storyteller dies? Or when the storyteller cannot speak at all? Do they become godowns, passive forgotten storage houses, or do they become libraries where only those who can go within their own silences will be able to listen to hushed whispers that tell of people and their pains or pleasures? Histories of these people that are scored by the music of wailing foxes, creaking stairs and again the heaves and sighs of old homes. ‘Character’.

Table for one, please. If not a round, would that be the starting point, that dot all lines begin to be drawn from? The morning newspaper over coffee, a book with breakfast, a dog by my feet, some music in the head and a faithful notebook by the side fill the table for one with company. If you should want any. I suppose you could join the dots and make geometry here too. If pressed to do so. This too is my witness, for indiscretions, debaucheries, memories, anecdotes, meditations and for the business of life. It is a table I keep in my mind, firmly romanticized, taken out once in a while to polish and indulge in, like precious china and cut glass for the regular dinner table.

Perhaps we carry a little bit of these tables in us all. For we are just as much this shape-shifting table as the table itself. We are its building material. When the parts of the whole assemble again in that exact same order, still the table wouldn’t build itself in the exact same way, for it has aged, and so have we. There are more stories it carries now than before, and so do we. There is more – or less – space it has for us, and so have we.

 

Deepa Bhasthi is a writer based in Bengaluru, India. Her works are available at http://dbhasthi.blogspot.com.

She is one of the founding editors of The Forager.

 

[1] Sunoj D, Dinner plate (for when moon meets sun), Earth pigments, Japanese ink, Lamp soot and CaCO3 on paper10in x 8.5in, 2015

[2] Sunoj D, Dinner candle (for a perfect dinner table for 4, for an imperfect relationship), watercolor on paper, 8.5in x 10in, 2015 

Sunoj D is an artist living and working in Bengaluru, India. His works are available at http://sunojd.wordpress.com

He is one of the founding editors of The Forager.