Located in Tardeo, Mumbai lies a narrow lane which leads to a warehouse like space. Here time comes to a standstill as you enter a zone filled with articles reminiscent of when the Union Jack once served as the identity of the nation.
Initiated by Krishnamoorthy Ramankutty Moorthy and Jacinta Moorthy, their store is a haven for colonial furniture and ethnic artifacts. Moorthy’s, as its called, looks more like a warehouse with an endless number of antique pieces. The store reignites the bygone era of the Raj, an era when gentlemen in suits and hats strolled the streets and people travelled in trams.
It all started when Mr. Moorthy was moving into a new home. Having a penchant for all things old, he collected many interesting pieces over a short period of time. As he completed decorating his personal space, he realised that he had many charming and interesting pieces left, that he could not use.
In an effort to monetise these unused pieces he put an advertisement in a local newspaper to sell them – the response was so tremendous that it served as the genesis of Moorthy’s. Then in the year 2000, the couple also created Saudades, a venerable old Indo-Portuguese manor house, located in the village of Sangolda, Goa which too houses unique pieces of colonial furniture.
Moorthy’s has been a source to collectors in India and abroad. Their uniqueness lies in “restoration of pieces and the eye to choose the unusual and rare”.
Specially skilled karigars are employed for restoration; these karigars have been working with Moorthy’s for as long as 25 years. Most of them have been personally trained and hence it is easier to achieve the required level of perfection needed in these aged pieces.
Moorthy’s are primarily known by word of mouth; satisfied customers have spread the good word and have thereby acted as their only means of “advertising”. That perhaps speaks volumes about the kind of goods and services they offer.
Identifying an antique is a tough job let alone purchasing it, so how does one identify an antique? Says Mr. Moorthy, “Identifying the age of a piece requires years of experience, but one element you should look for that is very hard to simulate is patination. Patination is the natural discolouration of wood in the areas which have not been polished, such as the back, the drawer lining, or the fly rails on tables. Patination should not be confused with patina, which refers to the polished surfaces.”
Besides patination one also needs to identify the basic woods used in antique furniture making. So before you step out to make a purchase ensure you are well aware of Teakwood, Rosewood, Padouk Wood, Mahogany and exotic woods such as Satinwood, Ebony and Calamander.
Another aspect one needs to be aware of is that the antique market is flooded with many pieces which have been greatly reconditioned and passed off as original. Hence while purchasing one also needs to take a good look at the piece; careful examination may reveal many alterations. On a piece with an upper and lower section, one needs to check the sides to be sure that the graining and colour are the same.
After purchasing an antique, the next important thing is how to preserve it; care needs to be taken to ensure the piece continues to remain in good shape.
Extremes of humidity are as hard on wood as they are on people. A humidifier in winter and air-conditioning in summer will help to equalise the extremes of climate. Surfaces should be dusted with a clean soft cloth or a feather duster; wax should be applied no more than every six months and oils and sprays should never be used. Tips like these help preserve the antique in the long run.
Moorthy’s not only offer you the best of antiques but also offer you specialised services for the upkeep of the antiques. And they are definitely good at it; a testimony to that fact is Moorthy is the Curator of the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum, a museum of Christian Art which is located in the St Pius X College, Aarey Road, Goregaon East.
So if you treasure the presence of the bygone era in your life, Moorthy’s and Saudades are two destinations you certainly must visit.
Text By Vikas Bhadra
Photographs By Prashin Jagger