What’s life without passion? For retired Wall Street consultant Danny Mehra, it would mean bare walls and floors. His tryst with carpets began over three decades ago, with a wedding gift from his mother-in-law. It sparked his interest in tribal carpets and, since the late ’90s—when he could afford his first one—he’s been collecting them. “I am interested in 19th century carpets that came from the Caucasian countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. As they were made by women from nomadic tribes, each piece reflects the weaver’s everyday life,” begins the Bengaluru-based collector, who is bringing down 72 carpets (“a small part of my collection”) for an exhibition titled Carpet Stories, at Amethyst.
Loose yet lively
Mehra has just bought his umpteenth carpet when I ring him up for a chat. “When you buy a carpet, you buy a story with it,” he says, elaborating, “My latest, a 200-year-old prayer rug, is badly damaged as it was in two parts—one in Germany and the other in the US—separated much like our ‘filmi brothers’ at the Kumbh mela, before my dealer in Massachusetts tracked them down.” The 2×4 foot piece has a minimal composition—a green background (a rare colour to find) with a red mirab (arch). While he plans to get his restorer in Mumbai to work on any big damage, he won’t tamper with it much because “I don’t want to make an old object a new one”.
Speaking about the carpets, the 58-year-old explains that, unlike a Kashmiri one—which is very refined—tribal creations are simple and childlike. Loosely woven with sheep wool, they were made as a hobby rather than for commerce. “So you don’t really look at how many knots there are per square inch, but rather their beauty. Iconography is one of their most interesting things. Though Muslims, the weavers had a liberal interpretation of Islam, stemming from their shamanistic past. So the carpets have a lot of flowers, people, animals and folklore (the Tree of Life to show everlasting life),” says Mehra, who spends nearly 12 hours every day, researching and reading up on them.
His desire now is to turn a nomad himself, and take the carpets around the country. Pondicherry and Mumbai are next on his agenda. “At the exhibition, you will find some popular styles. Like the Karakalpak, from the northern region of Uzbekistan—a happy piece with a lot of life and colour—or a rare Karachopf from Armenia,” he shares. But instead of wondering if your carpet would appreciate in price, he says you must buy one only if it puts a smile on your face. After all, there is no price tag for passion.
Today till Sunday, at The Folly, Amethyst. Rs 50,000-Rs 5,00,000. Details: 45991630
—Surya Praphulla Kumar