Home museum Society

Hyderabad’s octogenarian YK Murthy’s passion of a lifetime

Water jug   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Tucked away in a quiet residential neighbourhood in Lothukunta — some seven kilometres from the Secunderabad Railway Station, is YK Antiques Home Museum. This is actually 81-year-old Yenugu Krishna Murthy’s house where he treasures more than 850 antiques in brass, copper, bronze, stone and ghantam (palm leaf writing instrument) as well as period furniture.

On a warm November afternoon, we ring the brass temple bell at the entrance. The sprightly octogenarian ushers us through an 150-year old antique front door that has a traditional locking system.

Priceless collection

Priceless collection   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Each piece in this 2100 square feet independent house has its own place in history. What takes our breath away is a 52-kilo antique brass gangalam (traditional storage vessel) that has been transformed into a glass top dining table. Exuding an old-world charm is a three-feet four-inches tall Chettinad book shelf, exquisitely carved with three rotating shelves. Recalling he had purchased it from an antique dealer in Mumbai in 1989, Murthy says, “The dealer had purchased this unit from Alagappa University in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. The university’s library had a reading chair placed next to the bookshelf. When the library was upgraded, this unit was sold. Made of rosewood, this mini library’s uniqueness is its workmanship.”

How it started

YK Murthy

YK Murthy   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

This antique collection of more than four decades began quite fortuitously, he admits. On a visit to his native village Someswaram in Andhra Pradesh in 1970, his mother, who was to travel with them to Madras (Chennai) had packed four brass cooking vessels. “She said she was not comfortable cooking in a pressure cooker and wanted to bring these utensils,” he recollects. Visitors to their house became nostalgic seeing these vessels and reminisced about their childhood spent with grandparents. “I was amazed at the way these four vessels could create an emotional connect. These were not just vessels but storehouses of memories and bonds,” he says of discovering a lifetime passion.

The first item in his collection was a Buddhist trumpet that is used to call monks to prayers. Later he saw an advertisement about an exhibition and the sale of household items and rushed to a bungalow in Madras. He was drawn to the piece made of copper and silver with intricate metal carvings. “I could not make out what it was but had a gut feeling that it was precious,” he says.

Pursuing interest

Traditional cooking pot

Traditional cooking pot   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A management consultant, Murthy’s stints at Blue Star and latter at Mather And Platt, a British company (subsequently acquired by Manu Chhabria) took him across cities in India and to Kuwait, Dubai and Baghdad for three years. His free time was spent in search of antiques. Most of his collection is sourced from Chennai where he lived for 10 years and Chettinadu and Srivilliputhur in Tamil Nadu. His collection travelled with him; he would hire three trucks to transport them. “I treat them like my children. I never negotiated for higher pay but was particular about spacious accommodation to keep them safe.”

The main challenge in collecting these antique items was to locate them. His relatives, friends and colleagues who knew of his interest, provided information. “It was tough to make the owner part with an item and fix a price. Since most of these antiques are purchased from my hard-earned savings, I had to be prudent and also not miss an opportunity.”

Vegetable grater

Vegetable grater   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Heart-warming stories and anecdotes abound within the house. An avid reader, Murthy collected antiques and the stories behind them. He would talk to experts and elders in families to know their lifestyles, food habits and rituals to gain knowledge of the anitques use and ways to preserve them. “The conversations used to be fascinating. Vessels used for cooking had a dedicated purposes. Brass was used to cook rice, bronze for dal; sambar and pulusu were made in stone vessels and tin was used for rasam; curd was set in a clay pot. Vessels were shaped not only for convenience but also to preserve the food’s natural taste and flavours.”

What attracted him were stories of how these utensils were an integral part of festivals and family gatherings and were family heirlooms passed on to the next generation. “These are cultural antiques, living legends of the time gone by. There was no ‘use and throw’ concept back then . Artisans created items to last for generations. The form, texture, beauty and utility were unique.”

Most of the items in the home museum, like the biyam kadugu butta (rice cleaning basket with holes), nippula gariti (a big brass spatula-like item used to borrow burning coal from other’s houses for cooking), chembu (a container for water), and marachembu (a container with a lid and handle to carry drinking water while travelling), were part of daily life till a few decades ago.

Maintaining the antiques is a laborious process, with a team of four women cleaning the metal items with tamarind paste, wiping it with a cloth and sun-drying before the items are returned to display. Transporting, restoring (if there are damages), cleaning, maintaining and finding a place to display are some of the challenges. “Security is paramount. We cannot acquire a similar item even if we are prepared to pay money.”

His (late) wife Venkata Ramana supported his endeavour. “To demonstrate the use of the items, I sometimes would take pictures with models. She would arrange the setup for shooting, including the models. In a particular shoot for a cradle separator, we needed a cotton cradle and a six-month-old baby. She searched for half a day to find a house with a six-month old. She finally found one and convinced them for shooting. That is the kind of support I got from her.”

An active member of DOBARA, seniors well-being network, Murthy is also social media savvy and often posts articles on antiques at ykantiques.com. The octogenarian hopes to create a trust and hand over the museum’s collection to it.

The home museum is open for all those interested, on appointment.


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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 5:53:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/yk-murthy-on-his-passion-and-antique-collection-at-yk-antiques-home-museum/article37519636.ece

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