Not very long ago, there was something called Sofa. It was the finest piece of furniture in the house. If you are a boy, I am very sure you never cared about it. For girls, we devoted our Sunday, Saturday and all other holidays dusting or decorating it. Only worthy guests were entertained on the sofa. Rest of the lot - Sharma Aunty, Priya ki Mummy and Neelam Aunty never saw the light of our sofa, let alone had a feel of it. I remember, I truly grew up the day my mother said - Jaa ab sofay ki dusting kar! My eyes welled. From side table to sofa was a huge transition, and I stood up to the challenge. I washed my hands with soap, and searched for daddy ki purani baniyan and switched on the drawing room light. I even remember the cut-color-clarity of our sofa. It was of rexine. Rexine was the middle-class version of leather. We had no idea how to differentiate leather from rexine. We judged it by the standard of the house - Bada ghar toh leather, varna duplicate! I liked rexine. It was easy to clean. Once a guest spilled samosa chutney on it and I cleaned it with Rin. Such was its durability! It was dusting-friendly too. Faux ki duniya mein sabse vafadar!
Time changed. Rexine was kicked out and Velvet Sofa came into being. It looked royal, but was difficult to maintain. However, the most difficult decision while upgrading our sofa was not of fabric, but color. It was around Diwali. We went to the market and Dukaan wale Uncle ji showed us velvet sofa and said, ‘Sofa in magenta color is in.’ ‘Yeh to Dulhan vala color hai,’ was my brother’s golden reaction. I think he must have seen too many brides in magenta Lehenga. ‘No-no-no!’ my mother rejected it in three words. Dukaan wale Uncle ji pointed towards printed brown velvet sofa. Mother felt a little comfortable. Brown and black are two favorite colors of middle-class women. Purse, shoes, back-clips, lipsticks - when in doubt, buy brown or black. Middle-class ki tarah, ye do colors har kissi situation main adjust kar lete hain! We bought the sofa and two kilos of gulab jamun to treat the neighborhood. The highlight of that evening was me and my brother stuffing gulab jamun in our mouths whenever mom asked us to bring it from the refrigerator to treat the guests. Calories ka to pata nahi, par aadha kilo gulab jamun to kha hi liye honge!
We took good care of our brown velvet sofa for many-many years. It’s such a pity that our sofa was the first thing that submerged when flood hit our town. We couldn’t save it. And Sai Baba ji also failed. I told my mother 13,200 plus freight doesn’t make it worthy for Sai Baba ji. He must be busy saving Chauhan’s sofa costing whooping sixty thousand rupees. After all, even God has to set his priorities right. Right? Now, true to our middle-class nature, we didn’t change the sofa. We fixed the broken parts, puffed the foam from here and there, and dry cleaned it. ‘Ab naya sofa to bete ki shaadi mein hi aayega!’ as one wise neighborhood aunty professed.
Our parents still own that brown velvet sofa. It is the biggest survivor of our house, sizewise. It is, also, a jukebox of memories -
I remember my mother’s winning smile when she negotiated down the price of the sofa by 300 rupees. ‘Itne mein mithai aa jaayegi,’ her five-word winning speech!
I remember when my mother used to iron the sofa back covers, I placed them instantly to avoid creases. I also made sure no unworthy person sat on it, just to avoid creases.
I remember my family celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and even entertaining one super-worthy guest, their ‘son-in-law’ on that brown velvet sofa.
Best of all, I remember post my marriage, when I asked my brother to adjust the cushions, he snubbed me by saying, ‘Apne ghar ja kar sofa-sofa khel!’ To which, I said, ‘I have a couch, not some middle-class sofa!’
By the way, till date, I don't know how to differentiate couch from sofa. One thing I surely know, middle class may own one average sofa for many-many years, but they knit hundreds of memories around it. That got me into thinking - Papa ne ‘Sanam Bewafa’ ki cassette aaj tak sambhal ke kyun rakhi hai?
Post Script - Not very long ago, there was something called sofa - jo ab couch ho gaya hai!