Jungle Mei Mangal started five and a half years back, not physically but somewhere in my mind. I had joined a new job in Delhi and just came back from Muscat. And like always I was carrying my cartons. It was easy earlier because I would usually keep the cartons in different places wherever I have stayed. So far it was mostly domestic travel between cities, but this time around it was sent via international cargo.
Life full of boxes
As a kid I have been hoarding a lot of waste. I would just collect anything broken and dream of making them into interesting artifacts. After sorting them into boxes I would keep them to be up-cycled or transformed into something. But in the process it had been lying at friends’ places, home lofts, garages. So one day my dad called up and told me if I was really going to do something with my boxes. He was angry and asked me if I was mad? He gave me the ultimatum, that he needs to get his house painted and I need to get the stuff out-quickly. “My stuff” as it was called, was lying in Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Pune and Bananas.
Not that I had not done it before, but really for one last time took the massive exercise of transporting all these boxes to the current Jungle Mei Mangal. I leased one room as a dumping place for all my boxes and spent a huge amount of money on transporting the junk from wherever it was scattered. What otherwise made a good spare booze money from Kabadiwalas was not only gone, but I did spend almost INR 50,000 on it. It seemed quite foolish!
It was summertime and I looked at the heaps of boxes lying in a small 8*10 room. It was exhausting, picking each of the 34 odd boxes. More than 30-40 kilos and climbing the stairs up to the top of the building on the fourth floor. As I looked, drenched in sweat, wondering what to do with them, the thought of giving up came multiple times in my head. But it was really lying for the past 10 or more years and I felt very defeated at the very thought of giving it up after keeping it for a very long time. I really needed to do it for myself. I needed to prove to myself that I was not mad.
A museum of me
As I started opening the boxes, looking and reliving memories, categorising each one of them, i started building piece by piece as some idea struck. It was difficult as I had my job and I tried to work at nights or weekends. Sometimes, immediate neighbours would come and knock on my door at night telling me that it was making noise. But then slowly, I somehow managed to make a small kitchen and a folding bed with a working table first. I also made a loft area where I kept all the remaining boxes. At that point, I thought of making a nest where I would keep all my junk together so that I don’t have the world telling me to throw that stuff. I imagined it to be a resting place for all the hoarding. I also thought that once it is in some shape and I’ve managed to fit most of it, I would pack my bag and leave the country.
I had specifically chosen this place because it didn’t have huge rentals, it was in the heart of the city, well connected. Additionally, it had a terrace and a patio which I could use as my workshop for carpentry. Every weekend I would rush to the hardware stores and get new tools! I already had a lot of tools with me. I did all the woodwork, nailed, sawed, hammered and even welded. Everytime I opened up a box, it would be a mix of hardware,wooden pieces, broken plates, letters, pictures, old and rejected home appliances, wires, souvenirs and a lot of other items. It would take me a lot of time non-stop to regroup and keep them sorted. While the initial 5 months were most difficult, I would often get very confused. There was barely any space in the room to move and I mostly slept in a small corner of the room.
I would sometimes visit Paharganj to meet some of my biker friends or just to hang around in old pubs. On the personal front, in the last 10 years I had a failed relationship, a couple of fleeting flings. I was heartbroken and was definite of not going to settle again. Paharganj is where I bumped into Malvika- just an acquaintance at work at TBWA then. I was amazed to find her there and never thought that someone like her would be found in those lanes. She has a liking for leather and junk jewellery and would visit the thrift shops. She took me to a rooftop and that’s how we connected. After many more such rooftop sessions, we eventually started dating here. I thought it would be one of the many such relationships as we were the odd couple with a huge age gap. This phase went on for sometime, but I truly enjoyed it. It was healing me!
On one side, I was finding it difficult to pack the entire world into one room and on the other side, I wanted to spend more time with her. So far nobody had seen this place. I have always lived in a gated society and it made me conscious to invite her over to my pad in Hauz Khas village. So I took up an apartment in Noida which was closer to my office. It was one of the most pleasant and confused states of my mind. All the thoughts of running away vanished and I wanted to live again.
Finding new purpose
Now that I was not looking at the place as the epitaph, the realisation occurred that all my junk can not fit in one room that size. I thought that this facility could be my studio/workshop, while I stay in Noida. After much deliberation I took another adjacent room. The first thing I built here was a wall to wall storage rack.To hide the storage rack, a sticker of books was pasted on the flaps. “The Library room”, I decided to call it, allowed me to free up space in the previous room. It had now evolved to a very nice micro-living space. It gave me more room to think! I painted it all white and named it the “White box”. With two rooms to me, it offered me more privacy as the entire top floor was rented by me. The terrace was still accessible to all the residents of the building, but with no immediate neighbours, it gave me more freedom to work more furiously.
So one lucky day I invited Maal to come over, she had gifted me a Beatles wall hanging on my birthday and I certainly felt that it belonged more to the stairway unit I was then working on with leftover wooden cut pieces. I had started developing a liking for her and felt like sharing this part of my life with someone for the first time. When she saw the place, she was very impressed with the interiors and convinced me that the place can have better utilisation. She also petted the stray cat that came visiting us. Over many chilled beer sessions, we wondered if this could be a thrift boutique shop selling up-cycled things. We even thought of a name- we would call it Kachra Club. I’ve always been very sensitive about the environment and it is certainly an under current, why I would hoard in the first place. However, by now I had understood that to work with waste you need a much open space to sort and work on things, it was for the same reason it had taken me much longer to work on things. So despite being very affable to the idea, I knew that it was not for this facility.
Until one day a friend of mine called me from Assam and Jungle Mei Mangal.