Wednesday, March 14, 2012

KOCHI: Missing ‘Heritage Arts’ at Mattanchery means missing the best antique collection in  South India. Nineteen years ago, when N B Majnoo started a small shop sprawled over an area of 300 sq feet in Mattanchery, little did he know that one day it would become one of the most sought after antique shops in South India.

 “I used to be a tourist guide then and would take tourists to historical destinations in Mattanchery. This kindled an interest in antique and that was how I ended up in this profession,” he said.

For him, this antique shop was just a source of livelihood which later turned into passion.What excites him most, is the status garnered by his antique shop in due course of time.

 “People do not see it as a shop but look at it as a museum. I am proud of the fact many guides here, introduce my shop to others as a museum,” he said. Tourists rarely miss this shop owing to it close proximity to the historical Dutch palace. Most of the antique date back to 200 to 300 years. A temple door (Gopura Vathil) procured from Tamil Nadu by Majnoo can tell a story of 350 years. The bronze horse rider which is about 250 years old, is yet another major attraction.

Though the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has put a strict tab on exports of antique outside the country, Majnoo said that the market is not severely affected. “Previously, it was exports which constituted 90 per cent of the antique market. However, now 50 per cent of the market has been taken over by the Indian presence,” he said.

Pune, Delhi and Mumbai are the three places in India where a growing demand for antique can be witnessed. “Pune outnumbers the other two,” he said.

In addition, the liking for small antique pieces has now given way for large pieces, he said. “About eight truck loads of antique were taken away to renovate the airport in Mumbai. Three of them were from my shop. Many  business tycoons had approached me for a 107-year-old snake boat. However, I did not sell it as it would have been a huge loss to Kochi tourism,” he said.

published in the New Indian Express

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