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Collectors' collectibles

Moudgalya, the antique store in Rajajinagar, houses pieces from all over the world

Udaya Simha sources the antiques from all over the world. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

A TOWERING house at the corner of a residential road in Rajajinagar has a conspicuous signboard that reads: Moudgalya — House of Antiques. A glass door that greets visitors as they pass by reveals invaluable period pieces and antiques. This is the home of Prabha and R.N. Udaya Simha, for whom Moudgalya was born more out of their passion for historic collectibles.

"It was a childhood dream to have a collection of antiques," says Mr. Simha. And with time, the collection grew, and soon, Mr. Simha had to make space to showcase his priced possessions. "I started parking the car outside the compound, so that I could arrange the pieces in the garage," he recalls. And today, about 10 years since, the entire house is full of these period pieces and the family has moved to the first floor.

Moudgalya houses pieces from all over the world: Stafforshires, baluster jars, rose medallions, and ginger jars from China, clocks and watches from Germany and England, Hungarian chandeliers, English decanters and spodes, oil lamps from France, satsumas from Japan, milleflori and braccart paperweights, among so many other things. Mr. Simha has also managed to get hold of "original and rare Ravi Varma German prints, direct from the Ravi Varma press".

While most of these are for sale, he also has a personal collection that he does want to part with. Some of his extraordinary pieces include an English decanter with a dancing couple at the bottom of the carafe, and lilting music that plays by winding a key, still in excellent condition after nearly 150 years, European cups from 1880, with the Japanese geishas embossed on them, visible only when held against light; European litho from 1900; cast iron brackets about 200 years old, Venetian glassware from the 17th Century; an 1878 huge and heavy paperweight with a historical monument embedded within the glass casing, as also another smaller one with a litho of the Nizam of Hyderabad peering through; a set of five Taoists in different postures, all handmade from soapstone. Along with all these, what he values are his father's walking stick, a pair of spectacles that belonged to him, and his grand uncle's oil lamp.

Speaking of lamps, the couple has a multitude of them, each having a story of its own. What stands out is a tall antimony pedestal lamp, which can hold up to a litre of kerosene and burn for days on end. Some of these have been put together by Mr. Simha himself, after painstakingly collecting various parts from here and there. "Our sons are also keen on researching about antiques," says his wife Prabha, with pride. While the younger of their two sons has sourced a lot of information about oil lamps, the elder is into clocks. "He takes complete charge of setting the right time on all clocks at home, and even fixes those that need some fine-tuning," says Mr. Sinha as he shows off the first American Elgin pocket watch he holds in his possession, placed next to a spherical and weighty Waltham Brigadier's watch.

Moudgalya, named after the family gotra, has about 25 to 30 genuine customers visiting every year, from Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Australia, and the United States. Some insist that the prices are exorbitant, while "others who value the worth of antiques believe in the quality that we deliver," claims Mr. Simha. Regular customers drop by once every few months. Moudgalya stores things that suit different pockets, beginning from Rs. 150 and up to Rs. 3 lakh. "Gradually, we want to go in for exclusive collector's pieces and reduce the problems of maintaining smaller pieces."

Yes, maintenance can be quite a sensitive matter with period pieces. The couple clean and maintain all the items they have, with utmost care. Books on antiques and their preservation adorn a beautiful and old bookshelf. While antiques cost more the older they are, damage could lead to selling them off at a loss. "However, we do not keep too much of a profit margin," says this owner of a chemicals factory, who has almost given up his work to spend more time with the love of his life.

Moudgalya is at 8/75, 8th Main, 52nd Cross, 4th Block, Rajajinagar. It can be contacted on 3306059.


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