Have your drink, give me your empty bottles

Growing up in Gujarat where the sale, manufacturing and consumption of alcohol is prohibited by law, we had no easy access to alcohol. Yet the shukravari bazaar (shukravaar = Friday, bazaar = market), a favourite haunt of those who were looking for antiques and good bargains was abundant with heaps of faded ivy green, jaded blue and yellow tinged glassy bottles that had once housed perhaps a vodka, wine, gin or whisky.

Invariably these bottles would be bought by good humoured mothers, homemakers, young artistic girls, and transformed. A coat of paint, broken glass bangles, beads, shells and an array of such materials would be put to good use to give these bottles a makeover. Then, the bottles would perform the most important tasks of their lives.

They would house what was colloquially known in India as the ‘money plant’. (The real name seems to be Scindapsus aureus – Devil’s Ivy) An easy to grow, and care for creeper, it would often be taken from a neighbour as a ‘cutting’ and it would grow happily, and without any complains in those bottles. Asking for very little other than water. Even doing without sunlight or any kind of attention.

I grew up surrounded by money plants in bottles that were in the second innings of their lives. Perhaps that is why when I see any ‘good looking’ alcohol bottles, my first instinct is – when would these be empty of their contents and be mine? Mine to put in dried roses or flowers that I save from withering bouquets, or to put in a feather or a paintbrush?

This was my first thought when my husband eyed this gin and brought it home. I had already saved a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and used it to house a couple of roses from a birthday bouquet. There is also the green bottle, recycled and transformed by Wonky Works – and comes all the way from my hometown Baroda.

Now I am eyeing this particular bottle. My husband shakes his head in disbelief.

When will you stop coveting and hoarding empty alcohol bottles, Prerna?

I don’t know, I think to myself. I have already let too many good ones go. These bottles are embedded in my memory, they unlock memories of my childhood, of thrifty mothers and women whose fine sense of aesthetics decorated our homes on humble budgets. Somehow they seem to say to me – save us, give us a new life. Find us a corner, a window ledge or sill, and we will stay true and faithful to you.

(P.S. The husband picked the gin for me. I asked him if he could pick up the Writers Tears whiskey for himself. I am no connoisseur of whisky, it was the name that did me in!)

A jade green bottle that may have housed an alcoholic drink is filled with water and the yellow-greenish heart shaped leaves of money plant are growing out of it
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11 thoughts on “Have your drink, give me your empty bottles

    1. Nandita ben – one more reason to come and visit you one day. Your garden, so abundant with native plants and flowers as well as those from other shores, your dogs, your lotuses and now your collection of bottles!

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  1. Me too! I remember there used to be a much coveted three-sided whisky bottle called (I think) Dimple. Money plants – never was very fond of them. But yours, in the green bottle, looks beautifully lush!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what? My bhabhi (who’s from Kolkata) – she is my first cousin’s wife shared that they had Dimple bottles too! These were used to store mukhvas (saunf/fennel seeds). It made me recall that some bottles got a handmade bead work cover! (Her comment is on FB – I shared a link to this blog post there as well).

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      1. That Dimple was coveted indeed. I remember my father had brought one (empty) home and wanted to turn it into a lamp. Ultimately my mother put in some bulrushes and it looked lovely.

        I, too, hoard empty bottles. I also like the money plant and have a couple of them in those small Hajmola bottles too!
        Great post.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Jaya, and I quite like the idea of using a Dimple bottle to make a lamp. Glass bottles and jars are so precious – whether they come from empty alcohol bottles, jams and preserves or even coffee jars. My mom still has six Horlicks jars that from the time she was pregnant with me. Other six went to a family friend who insisted she wanted them for her kitchen!

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  2. Loved this Prerna ! With no interest in drinks till date but my fascination for the Shapes of the bottles is so much that I have created a oil painting with an overlapping Shapes of the bottles. Tittle ‘art lab’ It adores my living room. It’s on my Website http://www.jsartgallery.co.uk

    My sister back in India,who is art teacher was asked to decorate numbers of Shapely wines and spirit bottles recently. One can see her work on her Instagram page @suchitagajjar
    Love all your posts prerna as it connects with every one in some ways

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    1. Thank you writing in and for your kind words. I see your art work on Facebook and it is so good to see your creative energies and many talents put to such wonderful pursuits! I wish I had your talents. I did a water colour course (basics) recently from a night school for adults but my skills are very basic, and I need to devote time and energy to getting down to practising what I have learnt.

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  3. Thank you Prerna for your appreciation
    and support!

    Creative writing ✍ is an art !! You are perfectly using it in your blogs making it so interesting to read !! Keep up your good work

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  4. This is so me, Perna! I like to keep all the pretty jars and bottles to store dried flowers, seeds, nuts and even candles! I wash and reuse many of the jars we already buy, especially those for pasta sauce, which are basically the same size as large mason jars. When buying products from the grocery store, I prioritize products packaged in glass jars, particularly in lieu of plastic. I don’t pay exorbitantly more just for glass jars, but all else being relatively equal, I always buy the products in glass jars. It still strikes me as silly that I never thought about this for years and just connected the dots on this habit six months ago! Aiva πŸ™‚ xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It feels as if we are mirroring each others’ thoughts (and actions)! You know those Follain preserves and relishes special to Ireland? They come in glass jars that have lids with floral designs and motifs. Not only does their onion relish make my sandwiches tastier, but their jars are washed, labels carefully removed, and they go on to live newer lives housing fennel seeds, homemade facial scrubs, masalas and more! They are so treasured and so are the coffee jars that I reuse and recycle!

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