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    A blog from the Friends of St Annes Library featuring stories from the people who live and work in St Annes about the objects that are most special to them.
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Seetha’s silver box

My name is Seetha Shearer; I’m an Indian, married to a Scotsman, and with our three children we came to make our home in Lytham St Annes in 1985.

My treasured possession is a small, smooth, round silver box that belonged to my maternal grandmother, my Thai. In it she stored betel (areca) leaves and chopped betel nuts, cardamom seeds and crystallised sugar. The nuts, sugar and cardamom were either eaten on their own after a meal as a digestive, or were placed in an betel leaf, folded into a parcel and eaten as a ‘beeda’. Thai’s silver box was always with her.

Seetha with her silver box

My grandmother, after whom I am named, never got to see me because she died a few months before I was born. When my mother gave me this treasure I was thrilled because I can hold it in my hand as my grandmother would have done, and think of her.  I have a few photographs so I do know what she looked like.

Seetha's grandparents

One of these is shown here. It was taken when my grandparents visited London to attend the King George V Levee of 1916, and then got stranded there for a while due to the war. I understand there was a big party held to rejoice at their safe return.  My grandfather is in full ceremonial dress, with a dagger in its scabbard at his waist. Thai is wearing a gold bordered silk saree, an embroidered headscarf tied at the nape of her neck, and fine traditional jewellery. Her saree is worn in the unique way of the women of Kodagu, held in place by a brooch on the right side below her shoulder. She has her feet on a cushion which intrigued me because she looks a bit grand, but it was more likely to have been because her legs were too short for the chair she’s sitting on!  In 1935 she was awarded the Kaisar-e-Hind (from Persian/Hindi meaning Emperor of India) Gold Medal (for recognition of Public Service) for her charitable work.

My maternal grandgarents belonged to the hill country of Kodagu, which was absorbed into Karnataka State after India became an independent federal republic in 1947. They owned land on which they grew coffee, rice and black pepper.  I have cousins in Kodagu who farm coffee, tea, rice and black pepper there today, though not on the family property which was sold a long time ago. Thai’s silver box holds a host of precious memories and connections to my background which I hope will inform and enrich my children’s and grandchildren’s understanding of their Indian heritage.

Close up picture of the box

Seetha's box with betel nuts, sugar and cardamom

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