"Look at the face of this clown, though he smiles, his eyes are watery. The artist wants to express the emotion of a clown. The Japanese bride and groom in the church, see their prayerful faces, fully involved in spirituality! All of those are bells, they have got clappers hanging inside," says Latha Mahesh, a bell collector from Thiruvananthapuram, who has set up a private museum of bells from 90 countries. The museum is located near her home, in the same compound.
A huge bell hanging from the ceiling of the museum attracts the attention of every visitor. "That is from Mannar in Alappuzha, which is known as bell metal town, the costliest among all the bells here. It is around Rs 1.5 lakhs," says Latha.
The small museum was built with Canadian wood with the help of Latha's husband, N Mahesh, who is an architect. It was after she arranged the collection in order that she realised she had over 7,500 unique bells. These include a bell made from the remains of a German aircraft that crashed during the Second World War in 1945, Jesus Christ & Twelve Apostles bells, a rare pyramid bell from Egypt, a collection of First Lady bells from the USA and many more. Each bell in Latha's precious collection is unique and has a story to tell. She also has a huge collection of wind-chimes and Tibetan bowls that produce beautiful sounds.
It was in 1988 that Latha first bought a couple of Wedgwood bells, a collection from the 1970s. "That was the first time I bought bells. Then we traveled to many countries and I collected only bells as souvenirs," she says.
Now, Latha has bells made of ceramic, porcelain,
She remembers her friend Veena Sudheer gifting her a Chinese bell, which Latha believes brought her luck in collecting more bells. "After getting that Chinese bell, I got a chance to source many bells. Maybe that bell brought me luck. Many of my friends, relatives and acquaintances gift me bells. I collected so many with their help," she says.
For 30 years, Latha sourced bells from wherever she went. When the house was full of bells, it was Mahesh who suggested that it was time for a museum. "Earlier, we had a kitchen garden here, in this place. In December 2018, we decided to construct a small place to keep the bells safe. I shifted my collection here, and also recorded all the details about each bell. That is when I realised that I remember so much," she says.
Just by looking at each bell, Latha can describe when and where she got it. She even remembers the place and lane where she saw the bell, and what is unique about them. "There are tales associated with these bells. Wedding, love, fairy tales, legends, witches, nature, myths and thousands of different themes are behind these bells" she says.
The museum is not open to the public yet, but those who are really interested are welcome to enter Latha's bell world.
"I spend evenings here, just watching the bells. It is a recreation," she says.