As told by Shanoo Muralidharan to Eeshita Kapadiya

According to Shanoo, women in her family have always collected kitchenware with religious determination. They were accumulated as part custom and part utility. Her mother and grandmother are now owners of numerous back-in-vogue iron pans and outdated electrical mixies.

A conversation with Shanoo reveals her own fascination with these old, kitchen objects as portals to memories.

I moved from a very small town down south called Cuddalore. And my family, most of my extended family, my grandmother, the sisters of my grandmother, all still live in agricultural villages. Their houses are surrounded by acres of land. They collect a lot of things. It's always been a tradition in my family to hand down really large vessels and kitchenware.

My grandmother's house in our hometown has really large vessels that they use for cooking, and during functions. These are things that have been passed down for generations and it's probably something that her mother gifted to her. They made it especially so that my mother could take it with her when she got married.

It's always been a home where kitchenware has been passed down. I still have a full trunk of things from my grandmother. She had given it to my mother. My mother didn't really want to use them, because she didn't find them ‘fancy’. But I always liked these kinds of vintage, antique things. And my grandmother actually did a really good job in preserving them. She put them in large trunks, covered them all with cloth and paper, and just stored really small utensils. There's a full trunk of just spoons and spatulas. I don't even use half of those things.

Have you ever seen these objects in use?

When I was a child, yes. They used to have meetings - prayer services. So, they would cook in the house, they would use these utensils to cook and after they were done, they’d clean it. I've seen the entire process of them unloading it from the store room. In that house particularly, they have a huge walk-in storeroom. It was probably the size of my current bedroom. I've seen them unload the utensils, use it for cooking, and then clean it, pack it the next day or the day after. They have separate people to do all of these things.

Why did your mother not want to use these objects?

My grandmother gave some of these utensils to my mother and she used them for a short time. All the utensils that she passed were made of stainless steel and iron. But when non-stick wares and fancy things started to come into use, my mother found the older utensils weird. She didn't find these things cool enough or didn't want to have these things in the kitchen.

Now she finds it fascinating that my grandmother has a lot of these things. There was a point when my grandmother didn't want it and she was giving them all away. There was a storeroom in the house and I still remember going to her like, “please don't give it away, keep it” and I was very young when this happened. So I told her I don't have a house, I don't live alone but please keep these things. I want to use them at some point. It becomes really difficult to maintain and use those things because they are quite old. I think that was probably the main reason why my mother didn't want to use them.

What is your mother collecting now?

My mother has a lot of things, which I will start taking from her eventually. I don't buy any kitchenwares because I figured that my mother has been married for 30 years, and for 30 years she has been buying things for the kitchen. These don't easily go to waste, other than nonstick pans. Nothing happens to say glassware, or ceramics or those kinds of things. They just get old and my mother gets bored of them and because she's bored of them, she stores them in the storeroom and does not use them at all. And I'm like, It's pointless to just store these things and I'm sure they're not going to give them away because Indian women are hoarders. She just wants to collect and not throw them away.

For example, the mixie she uses, it's been 30 years and she easily has some five or six mixies. I know she doesn't throw any of them away until they stop working or they're broken. I feel like we're just hoarders and we just don't throw things away.

Is there any sentimental value attached to these kitchen items?

I've seen my mother clean the storeroom from time to time and every time she cleans it, she'll be like, “My mother gave me this” or “You know, what is the story of this?”  When I opened the trunk, she's like, “Oh, I remember this from my childhood”. There's one particular stick that is still there. She told me that my grandmother used to beat her with it. I think that's the main reason why we don't throw things away.

In terms of utensils, that entire trunk, each of those small things, she has something to say about them because she's seen all of those things in use. So for me, I still haven't started using them. So I don't really have a story yet to attach to all those objects.

What do you think is the future of these objects?

I don't know what will happen to these objects. I know my mother will probably give them to me. But there are only certain things that I can use, the rest even I don't have use for. After me, I really don't know what will happen to any of these objects. And I've always wondered why I buy a lot of things.

What will happen to these things? They're pretty expensive. They're valuables more than expensive. They're collectibles or just really old things. I keep wondering about what may happen to these things. I would like to preserve them, if possible.