Anyone who has slept on an Indian khatiya knows it isn't exactly a luxury item that spells comfort. Its criss-crossing web is created by pliable strings, usually made of rude materials like jute, to keep the structure from snapping under the weight of the sleeper. Even so, the charpoy has been popular, historically.
Moroccan traveller and scholar Ibn Battuta sang praises of its functionality and light weight when he arrived in India to join Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq's court in Delhi. In 1350, Battuta wrote, "The beds in India are very light. A single man can carry one and every traveller should have his own bed, which his slave carries about on his head. The bed consists of four conical legs, on which four staves are laid; between they plait a sort of ribbon of silk or cotton. When you lie on it you need nothing else to render the bed sufficiently elastic."
Chanelling Battuta's spirit in 2017 is an Australian man named Daniel Bloore, who was floored by the humble khatiya while travelling through India in 2010 in search of a music teacher. A year-and-a half ago, Bloome fashioned himself a charpoy bed and about six months ago, he started selling them after making one for his friend.
Now here's the catch: India's humble charpoy, used mostly by poor village-dwellers, seems to have gotten a thousand-dollar makeover in Australia. Bloome's flyer advertises the khatiya as "Made from beautiful timber with strong Mortise and Tenon joints" and "100% Australian made to an ancient Indian design". It is also priced at $990, which is just over Rs 50,000.
Naturally, as soon as Indian Twitter got a whiff of the exorbitant price the khatiya is being sold for, the floodgates were thrown open for sarcasm, jokes and, of course, lamentations about the West cashing in on India's age-old wisdom.
While India marvels at and ridicules the steep price tag on the khatiya, down under, Bloome justified it saying that it takes up to a week to make these 'handwoven daybeds'.
"It's a lot of work to make these beds. The timber and the rope cost almost half of the price and then it takes many hours to make the frame," an Australian website quoted Bloome as saying. Although business isn't exactly booming yet, Bloome says he's constantly fielding calls from people curious about the desi charpoy.
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