May 12, 2004 12:08 PM IST

It took Jatin Das 24 years to assemble and preserve hand fans from all over India. The pankha collection can be seen at Delhi's Crafts Museum from May 6 to June 5.

One summer afternoon, 24 years ago, upon seeing a friend sitting depressed in my studio at Nizamuddin, New Delhi, I picked up a pankha  (hand fan) and with mock seriousness said, "Let me stir the still air." Suddenly and almost unwittingly, I had given myself an idea for a book on the pankha.

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HT Image

The journey of collecting and documenting pankhas that was envisioned that summer afternoon has since come a long way, with many villages and towns in India and abroad contributing to the collection.

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Everytime I used to visit the countryside, I would ask chowkidars, cooks and peons for handfans. At first they would laugh disbelievingly, but later they would produce beautiful hand fans made by their mothers, wives and daughters.

Sometimes, I would also intrude into the private spaces of village homes and discover exquisite little pankhas.

(Of course, every time that I picked up a fan from a home, I would be weighed down by the guilt of depriving people of their personal belongings. Although the cost of making fans is minimal, the workmanship, effort and personal touches that go into the craft makes them worth much more than their actual price.)

Many friends from all over the world also sent me beautiful fans.

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