‘I still see that same old house of ours in my dreams’ is based on the narratives of my maternal grandmother, Chiniya Devi Bijukchhe. The artwork revolves around a house bought by my great-great-grandmother Purna Kumari Bhaidya at Bhotahity, a neighborhood located next to the city’s central marketplace, Asan. Asan lies along the historical India-Tibet trade routes that passes through Kathmandu. Just like her grandmother, Chiniya Devi was also raised in the Bhotahity house.
She remembers the storage room in the house, the bhandaar or storage space. Inside the bhandaar, there were many wooden sanduks, boxes of different sizes. Inside the sanduks were objects that belonged to my grandmother and her ancestors. But when that house was demolished, some of those sandooks were misplaced. The objects that carried her history were lost.
“What do you miss the most?” I once asked my grandmother, referring to those lost objects. “My vadakuti,” she replied, referring to a set of miniature pots and pans gifted to her by her grandmother.
I constructed Chiniya’s narrative using materials remembered and imagined. I recreated the ancient objects as accurately as I could, using the same kind of wood, as well as copper and bronze. Along with those, I also used old, tattered photographs (most of which came from my family’s archive) and wrote related stories on them.
Chiniya described the drastic social transformations of her lifetime: how close-knit communal spaces became to commercial centers; how businessmen from India gradually introduced Indian industrial textiles; how Tibetan refugees adjusted to the city; how plastic products invaded the market; how peaceful historical places became noisier, overcrowded and more polluted; and how traditional houses in the neighbourhood which were made of clay and wood and had beautifully carved windows, started to be replaced by drab, tall concrete buildings. In more recent years, this Bhotahity house was demolished to build a shopping complex.