“The what? What did you say was the name of the coffee shop?” I asked with some amount of disbelief.
“The Stolen Coffee Room,” Deepa repeated patiently, with barely suppressed excitement. “You heard it right the first time.”
“The. Stolen. Coffee. Room.” I repeated slowly. “What an intriguing name.”
“It’s an intriguing name for an intriguing place,” ” Deepa declared. “You know Sudha, I didn’t want to leave this place at all and if the kids hadn’t been there with me, I probably wouldn’t have. You will love this place.”
Now I was more than intrigued. “Tell me more about this place.”
“I’m not going to tell you anything. You have to visit it and see it and experience it yourself. In fact, let’s go there together,” said Deepa.
So that’s how I came to be standing outside The Stolen Coffee Room (TSCR) with Deepa one rainy evening in July. The bright blue entrance glowed in a welcoming manner as did the neon red “Open” sign. And with a mix of anticipation and delight, I stepped inside.
When a Tamil Iyer girl gets married, she is given brass and silver lamps, or vilakku as they are known in Tamil, to aid her in the many rituals and ceremonies associated with her being an Iyer wife, an Iyer daughter-in-law, etc. It is a tradition that is followed even today by many Iyer families, the community that I belong to.
When my paternal grandmother Meenakshi N (1910–1989) got married in 1922, she too was given her own brass and silver vilakku. Among the 6–7 vilakku given to her, is the one featured here in this blog post. Nearly 3 feet tall, this bronze vilakku was not bought off the racks in a store, but was specially commissioned and made at her house. That is, the lamp-maker came to Meenakshi N’s father’s house with his implements and made it as per the specifications given to him.
My mind still boggles at how this must have been done and the preparation that would have gone into making the vilakku. To begin with, an auspicious day and time would have been set after consulting the panchangam or the almanac. A coconut would have been broken before the start of the lamp-making process, prayers offered… As for the lamp-making process itself, I wouldn’t even know where to start imagining!