If you are from South India especially Karnataka, or familiar with old South Indian houses, you would be acquainted with the traditional ‘hande’. For the uninitiated, the ‘hande’ is a huge copper pot that is built into an earthern stove in the bathroom to heat huge quantities of water. The pot is firmly affixed using cement and allied material and is refilled from the top as and when water is used up for bathing. On special days like the day before Diwali, the ‘hande’ was cleaned and decorated and filled with fresh water which was then used to have the ‘traditional festival bath.’
Lighting of the stove from the bottom with materials like fire wood, coconut shells and leaves was a daily ritual, usually performed first thing in the morning by the men of the house. This was indeed a truly eco friendly way of heating water and degrading organic waste to generate energy.
Like with most things, the ‘hande’ today is being replaced by more convenient geysers and the earthen stove really does not fit in the scheme of the modern tiled bathroom. Therefore, it is quite common to see these age old structures being demolished to make way for the modern style of living.
When I chanced upon yet another bathroom being renovated, I requested to keep the cauldron for my sheer love of antiques. While I did expect the pot to be old and worn out, this one was completely black with unending layers of thick soot and grime deposited over at least the last 6 decades! Unfortunately I do not have pictures of the pot in its ‘original’ state but what you see below is the pot after subjecting it to multiple ‘wash treatments’ using a combination dish washing liquid, soda bi-carb, lime and anything I could find on google that would dissolve soot! (Normally such pots and utensils are cleaned professionally wherein they are first subject to heat, but this one apparently would not withstand any heat and would break immediately given that it was really ‘over-used‘).
After I was finally convinced that it could not get any better, I decided to give it a ‘make -over’. The latter was quite simple; first I got a cast iron ring at the base so that it would remain steady and not wobble as it did earlier. Next, though I was not keen, I got the ‘neck’ of the pot painted in a copper shade as many of the cement stains were really stubborn and would not go. Finally, I got the carpenter to fit a piece of round glass on top so that it could be a small display unit in any corner of the house. Depending on how I feel, I style it as I like it!