The Burial Urn


Monday morning I walk into office and switch on my laptop, a message pops up saying my manager wants to meet me right away. I know what it means, it means travel. I love my job because it lets me travel around the world. Who would say no travel when your company pays business class tickets and puts you up in five star hotels. Of course, the work is tough, but who cares.

Mr.Sinha, my manager tells me that my next destination is Istanbul and I have to fly in two weeks. I eagerly look forward to the trip as I haven’t been  to Istanbul before.

Two weeks fly by and I fly to Istanbul. It takes me nearly a week to finish my work. Work is tough and when I am working there is no day or night. It is work, presentations, meetings, official dinners, the whole works! The last day is free and I go sightseeing and decide to finish the day by doing some shopping.

As I step into the second hand and antique shop in Cukurcuma, Istanbul and a strange sense of peace envelopes me. This always happens to me. As soon as I enter the shop, I expect a typical smell of antique shops to hit my nose. But I am in for a surprise. Nothing like what I expected. This shop seems to be bigger than what I expected it to be. There is some Turkish music playing in the background, very softly. Just enough to keep the listeners mind away from the stress of life, but not distract them from enjoying the shopping experience.

Any place I visit, one definite thing on my to do list would be to visit an antique shop. Many times I like to just walk around the shops, looking at different things and wondering what the history of that particular thing would be. I rarely buy anything. If I bought antiques from every single shop I went to, then I should be the Queen of England to spend so much money and shifting to Buckingham Palace just to fit everything in!

As soon as I walk inside, a man looking like the manager comes to ask me what I want. I tell the manager guy that I just want to look around and I will call him if  needed. He refuses to be ignored. “Madam”, he says, “I have this lovely bronze pot which came in only this morning, would you be interested?”

I realise this guy is not going to leave me alone till I consent to at least just have a look at the pot. May be it was a mistake to have walked into this shop I think as I nod my head!

He takes me to a different corner of the shop and calls someone and says something in Turkish. A  very young boy brings something very carefully wrapped up in a cloth. He puts it on the table beside which we are standing and moves away as to give us both our space.

As he removes the cover, my heart stops. What a beautiful piece of art! I’ve seen bronze pots with work done on them, but nothing as beautiful as this. I have to know the history of this pot. I just cannot leave this place without knowing.

I ask him if it was original, and even before I asked the question I knew what the answer was. One could not make a duplicate pot like this. They hadn’t even cleaned the pot and I could see specs of dust and the greenish tint. The pot has an unusual shape, like a ceremonial pot and has intricate work done all over it, with a few pearls and other stones decorating it. The man tries to explain it is a original piece and proceeds to tell me that a very old woman in rags came and sold it to him only this morning.  I am not sure if he is telling the truth. But I want to listen, I want to know where this came from and who in their right mind would have sold this. It looked pretty expensive and I am sure even with my generous credit card limit, I couldn’t have bought it with my card. May be I could use the unlimited Amex card my company has provided but then I would end up getting a loan to pay for my credit card bills.

I ask him if he knew the woman who sold him this, has he ever seen her before this. He answers in the negative. He says he has never seen her in the vicinity before. He said he did not pay much for this piece, the woman did not want much and also she did not know the value of this piece he said. He said he initially thought it must have been stolen because the old woman did not want much for it, but then what the old woman told him made him change his mind.

He went on to say that the old woman said “This is a pot that my husband got from his grandfather who was a gypsy. This pot only brings good luck to wherever it goes, if it is bought rightfully or given to you rightfully. I was with us for so many years and we had a great life. Then this pot was taken away from us by someone in the family who thought they needed some good luck, but they did not know that it has to be given to them rightfully or they had to buy it. They stole it from us and it brought bad luck to both our families. It came back to me finally only a week ago. During the period it was gone, I lost my husband of 40 years and my children have all moved abroad. I live on the streets now and hardly need anything to survive. I am now selling this pot so that some one would buy this and give it a new home. Also this will bring them loads of good luck. Adding to the good luck of the pot itself, is my love and blessing for the person who takes care of this.” Probably all the woman wanted money for was for some food for the next few months. While she could have made a fortune selling this, she refused to do so. That shows what a wonderful person she is.

I look at the pot once again and think about the story that was told to me. My mind started thinking. I automatically ask the manager how expensive the pot was. What he said was very reasonable for the pot, something so old and so beautiful, yet expensive enough for me. I think over it, only for a second before I ask him to pack it for me and get my card out to pay. If the pot is going to bring good luck for me, then I don’t have to worry about anything anyway!

May be all the story he said was just to convince me to buy the pot, But I am sure something as beautiful as this has a history. May be If I put the picture on the internet, I would get some bit of information about it. May be… just may be.

The manager swipes my card gets my signature and packs the pot for me so that it is safe for travel to another part of the world. As I step out, I realise that I hadn’t even seen around the shop and I am walking out with something that I never intended to buy in the first place.

That night when I boarded the flight, I was thinking that I was taking some part of this country, history and may be some good luck with me. I had to find out about this pot though…who owned it before it came to the old lady’s hands. Who sold it or gave it to the family? Is it really true that the pot brings good luck? Why did the first person who sold it, actually decide to sell it. If the pot only brings good luck to those who are righteous, then will there be ever one person or family that will be able to get the good luck thing working, are we all righteous?

As the plane takes off, I push my seat back and relax, my mind is brimming with questions but completely at peace. I know I have done the right thing, I have bought an antique piece to give it a new home. A place where its value will be appreciated. May be that is all the old woman wanted, that it should be appreciated rather than sit somewhere, covered in rags and dust. May the old woman be happy and be blessed with good luck too I think as I fall asleep!

I land in Chennai, reach home and unpack. My mother as usual is complaining about how much weight I have lost while my father laughs from behind saying I look as though I have put on weight!

I pull out the bottles of wine and chocolates and boxes of Turkish delights and hand them over to my mother and as I pull out my pot, my domestic help nearly jumps. The old lady has been working with us for the past thirty years or so. She asks me where I got that and WHY I got that.

I was surprised by her question. I tell her that I got it in an antique shop. She starts telling me that when she was with her father in Burma, the house that her father worked in had a similar pot and that these pots were burial urns. That was enough for my mother to ask me to return it!

I wasn’t going to do that. I tell her that though this looked like a burial urn, it wasn’t and it was supposed to bring good luck. She gives a strange look which says she doesn’t believe me. I tell her, give me a year Amma, if nothing good takes place in the one year then I will sell it or give it away or do something about it. Till then please leave it in the show case. She bargains with me and says she will wait only for three months. Finally we agree for six months, and I forget about it.

The next couple of months goes uneventful. All of sudden there is a buzz of activity, my sister finds her dream job, followed by a transfer for my brother from the North to back home and then my marriage gets fixed. All in a span of couple of months.

Days fly and after marriage as I am packing my things to take away to my new home, I ask Amma to bring the pot to take it away with me. She looks at me as though I have asked her to sign away her life! I understand… She doesn’t have to say anything anymore, I happily give it to her as my gift. She can have it and let the pot bring her all the good luck in the world. She is a woman who only wishes good for others and I am sure the pot has reached the right place now.

*Image courtesy of Google Images.

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