Objects of my affection

Turning the spotlight on the men who are fiercely loyal to their favourite things

It's that time of year again; when millions of inanimate objects change hands in the tired, overused name of love. In a few days, most will get thrown away or simply forgotten as people wrap their attentions wholly around other people in their lives. Thus, you have John Abraham, whose name is as easily associated with the heavenly Bipasha Basu as with the gorgeous bikes he rides. Or Nicholas Cage, who says his comic book collection helped him learn to read, and in gratitude chose his stage name Cage and his son's name Kal-el from them. And like them, dozens of everyday people hold a special place for the special things in their life. Like corporate media consultant and anthropologist, Kartic S. Godavarthy, who held onto his first car for almost 13 years and upgraded it so many times that when he let it go, the music system fetched more than the car. "Some of my best memories are in that car. Every free moment in those days was spent thinking of what to do with the car." The proper care of the cherished object, often involves long hours that either amuse or annoy the hell out of everyone else. The late T.G. Vaidyanathan, popular critic and retired professor of Bangalore University, for instance, considered his many books to be his children, says journalist C.K. Meena, one of his students. "I remember how he gave us detailed instructions on how to handle the books we borrowed from him. We were supposed to wash our hands, dry them, lightly dust them with talcum powder, and open the book at a 45-degree angle so that the spine would not feel the stress! I didn't dare laugh, because the man was being deadly serious," she says. For others, the very idea of letting others handle their cherished objects is too frightening. Ravi, an engineer and quite the handyman, cherishes his toolkit. While no one gets to touch his most valuable tools, he is occasionally willing to lend out his other "aam janta" toolkit, says his wife Revathi. "Everyone in our building knows that my husband has an electric drill, which he got ten years ago. But not a single person has ever seen it. He either says it's been lent to someone, or if I'm at home I'm supposed to say it can't be found in the house," she laughs. Ask what it is about these objects, and almost always the answer is personality. They're special, individual. "I wouldn't love 100 cc bikes as much as my Bullet," says Ajay Singh, a freelance writer. "Those bikes have no character. A Bullet has a lot of character because everything is customised," he explains. Agrees guitarist Gaurav Vaz, who recently spent upwards of a lakh on a new Warwick Streamer guitar. "It's like getting a friend for life. And the personality does affect your music. Because of the way it sounds, and because when you are familiar with a guitar and are comfortable with the string positions and distances and so on, it's easier to improvise because instinctively you know where what goes and what sounds you'll get." Of course, that process of getting accustomed isn't complete until one formally names one's cherished objects. Gaurav's latest guitar, for instance, is called Debra after the woman from the U.S. who paid for his guitar with her credit card and shipped it down to him even though she had only met him for three days. And his first guitar is called Gretchen, which means "little black pearl" in German. The only other necessary thing for most of these men is the wife or girlfriend that understands that she has to share his love with other things in his life or even take a backseat occasionally. Revathy, for instance, was first annoyed that when she had a crash on her Luna and received a pretty nasty black eye, Ravi (who loves his vehicles even more than his tools) gave her hardly a moment's notice, but went on for days about the Luna's fork being bent out of shape. But now she's learned to indulge her husband more. In the eyes of these men, there is probably no greater crime than calling their most cherished objects mere "things." RAKESH MEHAR

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