The Age of Brass
Old may be gold - notionally. But brass is like gold - visually. It is here and now, and not something that is long lost in the labyrinthine confusion of our past.
Raiding our attic one day, made us aware of our long forgotten treasure, some of which have been with the family since mid-19th century. It was time for it to be given a respite from the unreasonably long slumber that it had been forced into. After all, they were "Brassy" things and would only be too willing to be at their shiny best and walk the ramp.
What a show it was! It made even the most conservative in the community to stand and applaud in awe, as the old brassware glowed in splendor.
The Age of Brass
Divisions of time into ages, there have been aplenty.
In the geological context, there are two less twenty.
The three-age system of classifying human history
Deem the material used in man's developmental spree,
As a yardstick to distinctly demarcate the different stages
And name them as Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages.
Brass has been known, for as long as bronze has been.
But Brass' golden hue and its glowing, glittery sheen
Made it a woman's favorite, at the hearth and in the heart.
Even for royalty, gold mostly remained in the realm of art.
Brass and bronze were derived from abundant copper,
Zinc and Tin, gave the alloys their attributes proper.
The blend of need and aesthetics, to man's dexterity, lent.
An impetus to cast, beat and shape metal as he meant.
Unimaginable time, upon this pursuit, he must have spent;
The monotonous tedium of living, to artistically circumvent.
There were brass objects associated with ethereal quests
And for routine uses that became generational bequests.
As one age-division, apparently displaced its predecessor,
Their constituents saw each other as transgressors.
There were exchanges of many a disparaging sobriquet;
One-upmanship, shameful rivalry, were in naked display.
But a few held their own, bridging the divide with ease,
And lingered on functionally, though notionally in decease.
One theme that had however, been common to every age
Was the purpose, its constituents were made to engage.
It invariably had to do with the preparation of food;
From this perspective, history can be perfectly understood.
Today's plastic or steel items that look lackluster and crass
Were chic, classy things once, made of shimmering brass.
Unlike, as it is in the modern context, where warehouses and depots
Stock edible merchandise, where in refrigerated comfort they repose,
Until required at retail outlets that maybe geographically near or far.
They journey too in the class luxury of an air-conditioned van or car.
Storage was distributed, involving every household in the days of yore;
A year's supply of essentials, in containers, every family would store.
Certain things are accorded undue privilege due to their chance association
With entities that are themselves fortunate to attain a state of deep veneration.
A sage in whatever posture or act, was incomplete without a brass flagon
As depicted in vedic lore, which is replete with imaginative stories spun.
That a brass flagon was a ubiquitous article would well support the adage
Which says that wisdom was pervasive then, and every one was a sensible sage!
Water and its use has always been closely associated with the world's history.
That ninety percent of the human body is composed of water, is no mystery.
All great civilizations have had their inception along perennial sources of water.
The Moon is now a potential colony, water being found there with other matter.
It is then no wonder that storage of this precious substance was a primary need
Of societies across ages. Without it, to imagine, there wasn't one human deed.
When abundant availability isn't the norm, things are highly treasured;
Wastage is curtailed to the minimum and their use is particularly measured.
All established societies followed standards for general transactional ease;
Containers of definite volumes were made, for this requirement, to appease.
They went by different names; if, for the British it was "Peck" and "Bushel";
The terms, "Kolve" and "Ser", or "Aazhaakku" and "Padi", served the Indians well.
Coffee is grown worldwide, but a form of consumption that is unique
Is in the South Indian states, and is called "Filter Coffee", so to speak.
Brewed in a special device with two cylindrical cups, one above the other;
The top one loaded with a mixture that has coffee and chicory together.
Boiling water seeps through it to the cup below forming a dark decoction;
Enthusiasts would vouch that it provides impulsion to thought and action.
Long-distance travel in earlier times, was pleasantly arduous
Requiring very involved planning that was greatly assiduous
A journey in a cart, lasting anywhere between a week and two;
. Needed provisions and kitchenware to be lugged along too.
Ingenuity contrived to compact the utensils into a single unit.
About a score, but when packed, into each other they would fit.
Certain sights induce lateral thoughts of an extreme kind.
Very indistinctly connected parallels they bring to mind.
Seeing the tall oil jar takes one back to one's childhood;
To the realm of fantasies, all packed with bad and good;
A story that pops out from the stacked memory sheaves
Is the one about Ali Baba and the forty wicked thieves!
Brass imparts to the food cooked in it, a definite and distinct flavor.
Connoisseurs quite often go gaga, its subtle tinge, when they savor.
The reason attributed to this bit of nuance is the metal's peculiarity,
Which causes it to heat and cool languorously and in uniformity.
It may not fit into the modern world of fast food and instant stuff;
But among those with time and inclination there will be many a buff.
Human's affinity for unwholesome food seems a congenital defect.
The range of savories in the market, is a sure measure of this effect.
Many business empires have been established exploiting this failing;
Adorns pages and viewing screens, does the medical world's railing.
The Brass Age society wasn't bereft of this debilitating weakness;
Tools existed in every kitchen, for this perpetual craving to address.
A shape that immediately sets imagination rolling at a frenzied pace
Is that vessel's; to cook rice - with milk, jaggery and condiments to lace;
Resulting in a dish that has an entire celebrative event named after it.
In the wake of a copious harvest; to the title of "Pongal" they both submit.
Sugarcane stalks for a backdrop and turmeric stems adorning its bosom
The ambiance is truly pleasurable, and its effect on the palate, awesome.
Steam cooked items have their own delectable charm;
They aren't harsh on the stomach and do the least harm.
The yesteryears had their own design of a pressure-cooker;
That came in two models - as a single or a double-decker.
The most common eatable, for which it was employed
Was "Idli", that both the sick and the healthy enjoyed.
Condensation of liquids require vessels with a special contour
A vast surface area of the liquid to be exposed, that ensure.
If allowed to concentrate on a low flame for a period of time;
The consequence that ensues is an object, inspiringly sublime.
"Paayasam" and "Tarattipaal" are two of the many sweet dishes
Created by this process, and are habitual foodies' eternal wishes.
A material fashioned into every convenience that came to mind;
For gods to be wrought so, the urge couldn't have been far behind.
Not just the gods, but their vehicles, weapons, adornments, etal.
They came in all possible sizes - huge, big, medium, and small.
Whether the gods liked it, is something that is best not told,
It would have been a disappointment, to be not made in gold.
The glitter of brass or that of gold, is totally dependent on light.
In darkness, everything has a similar value and an identical plight.
Perhaps, the philosophy of life and death, is subtly so revealed.
Inequity is the basis of life, while death is a homogeneous field.
Whatever be said, it is certainly a pleasing and soothing sight;
To see lamps lit with oil and wick is a never-ending delight.
The obsession with brass, soon stepped into the realm of dolls and toys,
And there were many things for girls to play with, some even for boys!
The tradition of tastefully displaying such curios during festivals followed.
Religion, with its sophisticated logic, divinity to this exercise endowed.
An elaborate collection of souvenirs began to be maintained in every house.
To be cleaned and polished for the annual ritual, for visitors to browse.
The advent of modernity brought about a priority and value shift.
The change was rapid and abrupt, causing a deep generational rift.
What were prized possessions not long ago, were now fit for discard.
Items of brass lost their shine; lying forgotten, unkempt, and scarred.
They were sold by weight to scrap dealers and recycled for industrial use.
The age of stone and brass had come to an end, to linger they had no ruse.
Nostalgia can be quite a helpful thing, but can also be to the contrary.
It provides inspiration at times; at others, takes one on a gloomy spree.
The mind has this unusual knack to sift away the negatives of the past,
And present it to reminisce in all radiance, with just the positives cast.
The stimulus that it provides could manifest in a multiplicity of ways;
It flowered as a thematic display of our "Brassy" heirloom, in this case.
In communities of olden days, life revolved around a place of worship.
Faith held sway over people's hearts, on their actions it had a firm grip.
This was depicted in our exhibit with a model temple as the centerpiece.
Seen in the light of a host of wicker lamps, it made time almost freeze.
With vessels of all shapes spread around and potted plants interspersed.
There were magical moments when imagination and reality conversed.
The end product of our three-day effort sent our spirits soaring;
We hopped and skipped in abandon, and nearly lost our bearing.
Guests arrived eagerly to witness it, in drove after appreciative drove;
To willingly go astray in the world of fantasy that was our treasure trove.
It made us wade in happiness now, and now become emotionally terse;
Our assortment of feelings soon transformed into an easy flow of verse.
As all things come to an end, whether good or bad;
So did our show, we admit that it was a moment sad.
But there will be another time to live another dream;
And dare to conjure up an equally interesting theme.
Daunting though, to actualize, it may initially seem;
Nothing is impossible when we are a well-knit team.
If you have enjoyed this presentation, please do record your comments. It will add to the glittering glow of the brass!