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Living Room Series: Diya Sarker

For the first edition of the Living Room Series, visual artist Ayesha Kapadia writes about Mumbai-based design professional Diya Sarker’s living room.

Diya’s home, much like her mind, is a treasure trove of colourful collectibles and tales of faraway lands. It’s like walking into a memory box. The one made of precious cardboard that I loved to store pretty sweet wrappers, emerald hued leaves dotted with ochre spots, perhaps a ticket or two and a plethora of sparkly beads from a broken necklace. Don’t we all have a version of this box tucked away on a shelf somewhere? Well, her home reminds me of my box and the sentiment that comes with it.

Even if you don’t know Diya, her living room engulfs you with her poignant personality and playful use of everyday objects. To describe Diya’s living room in one word is difficult, but it comes close to a brew of nostalgia mixed with a teaspoon full of stories and a squeeze of celebratory exuberance.

Ayesha: How would you describe your living room space?

Diya: A random collection of memories. I love fantasy, and I love reading. And I want my environment to look like what I read. I surround myself with things that interest me, things that I relate to. I can date everything back to different phases of my life. For example, I started collecting textiles when I developed a taste for patterns. The masks in the room are from when I used to travel to Africa for work. A frame I have is something I found at Chor Bazaar in Mumbai - with the man’s head popping out of sand, it’s so bizarre I had to have it.

A: What do you like to do in your living room?

D: Watch movies, listen to music, and read books. Since I was a child, I’ve always loved cozy corners. Once, I even tried to make a tent in my living room. I like to recreate any kind of fantasy scene, mix of western and Indian, my version of it. I didn’t choose this house as I got it with the job, so I worked towards making it my own with the things I collect. They all tell stories.

A: How did you cultivate this energy in your home?

D: I’ve been living by myself for over ten years now. It is instinctual. Just like when you start designing, you are raw in the beginning but eventually you understand composition and aesthetics. It begins to come naturally and that comes with practice. For me, I have to think about my cats. They run around, jump, and throw things. I’ve lost so many things that were valuable to me. But because of the way I’ve been raised by my parents, whenever we broke something in the house, it was always ‘did you get hurt?’ and not ‘what did you break?’. So, I’m the same way with my cats and my collectibles.

A: Through the process of changing multiple homes, what have you been able to discover about yourself?

D: I’m a traveller. I’ve spent all my life growing up in different places, reinventing my room with every new city that I moved to. So I’ve never been attached to my things. I’m good with complete change. Of course, I wouldn’t voluntarily throw away these things.

All the photos are by Ayesha Kapadia ©.