Friday, March 20, 2015

First Word: Tessa Too-Kong: Carpet

A consignment of eleven hand-knotted Persian carpets appeared one day at our home in the country. My parents had bought the lot off the wharf. It was the ‘sixties, a ship laden with carpets had escaped Iran and found no port to dock until it reached Georgetown. This boon flooded the house with colour.
            The largest was a thick garnet-red pile Iran Tabriz Shuhai Bat desert carpet, ten by thirteen feet with intricate diamond-shaped geometric patterns in petroleum blue and russet, laid out in the living room and out of bounds to us children. We were allowed to walk around the edges and admire the motifs, and only step into the mystical quadrangle when invited. There, my mother would teach us their names and show us how to work out the knot density and value the imperfections as authenticity. The tribal craftsmen believed that God was the only perfect being, hence the Persian saying that “a Persian carpet is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise.”  Two other carpets were hung on the walls, the small Mori in the dining room a dark, blood-red prayer rug with an arched gold minaret design, and the creamy silk-inlaid Keshan in the living room with its pale rose and gold pattern of trellised flowers and birds, not unlike an oriental garden. The Kharak Mosul  with its huge central medallion lay in the dining room, the delicate Russian Bokharas (my favourites) of warm ruby, topaz and sapphire with their octagonal patterns were scattered around like gleaming jewels on the polished floors.
            It was like travelling the ancient Silk Road to Samarkand when we had to skirt around the carpeted landscape to get to the piano and playroom beyond, a corner behind the front staircase just below the steep tower stairs (that were also out of bounds). That tower room gave a magnificent panoramic view of the ocean, cane fields, village cricket ground, canals and back dams, making you lord of all you surveyed, looking down on nature’s carpet of lush greens and mud browns. It was our dream house, complete with the ghost of the previous owner, who walked the corridors at twilight trailing a scent of liniment behind him, to the chimes and chants of the Hare Krishna monks across the canal. We children were certain he lived in the tower room. My mother had the Swami, Father and the Minister over to exorcise him. He never came back. I wondered what his restless spirit had been seeking.  I was glad he at least got to see our carpets.


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