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Collector relives old culture

Siliguri, Feb. 23: In his room filled with relics of Nepali culture, J.B. Mangranti often relives the times when more than 100 years ago the maruni (dancers) tapped their feet to the tunes of the madalay (drums) and men played bansuri to woo women.

For the 69-year-old collector, the instruments, associated with old-world charm, are his treasure trove. “This is the age of globalisation and everything works at the click of a button. But I have a fetish for old articles and take pride in them because they are an integral part of our Nepali culture,” he says.

A host of ancient costumes and weapons too adorns Mangranti’s house in Salugara.

Explaining the historical significance of each of the items, Mangranti said: “In our days, we used to woo women by playing the murchunga. If she played the binayo in return, it was understood that the marriage proposal had been accepted.”

All this has changed and the instruments, too, are no longer in demand. “But I made it a point to collect them from people who used to make them in Nepal. I collected some from Assam too.”

Crooning a Nepali folksong, Mangranti tries to match it with the beats of the madal (drum), one of his collections. “I am not an expert,” Mangranti said sheepishly.

His collection also includes the damphu (drum) of various sizes, tungna and sarangi (stringed instruments), panche baja (a group of five shehnais) and bansuri (flute).

“The old world always attracted me. In my youth, when other boys enjoyed watching cinema, I used to take a tour of museums or remain huddled with a book in a library,” he said.

A set of six different types of khukuris (Gurkha knives) and three chuppis (daggers) hang decoratively from the wall. “The khukuris and chuppis are not just weapons. Even 50 years ago, they were used as accessories by men to enhance their appearance,” Mangranti said.

“In the contemporary age of fancy pants and T-shirts, these accessories have lost their relevance.”

The only job in Mangranti’s retired life is to preserve the artifacts.

With an aim to acquaint the new generation with the old culture, Mangranti lends his collection to various exhibitions. “That’s the only way I can ignite their interest in our heritage. They have to know the basics of their culture,” he said.

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