Ayub Sabri and his love for his antique shop
Ayub Sabri (50) has always been fascinated by the place where his father Mohammad Yusuf worked. It was an antique shop in Mussoorie, a former British hill station in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. The young Ayub saw there a world full of wonders. Old pocket watches, grandfather clocks, maps, binoculars, paintings, lithographs, finely painted London crockery, silverware, old cameras and much more. Another thing that fired his childhood imagination was the passion and joy with which his father talked about all these things. All of this turned Ayub into an antique lover and trader, in that order, for a lifetime.
Ayub Khan’s slender frame seems lost in the jumble of ancient objects piled up all around him. It blends in perfectly with the antiques that surround it.
When asked, he talks about his love for antiques in his soft voice.
“I’m in love with all that antique stuff. I like to stay among these things, install them, clean them and explain them to visitors. Even though it has long since ceased to be economically viable, I simply cannot back out of it. I love this job,” says Ayub Sabri. His antique shop by the name of Sabri Bought and Sold is located along a rock climbing route in the Landour district of Mussoorie, a little beyond the famous clock tower. This is the quieter part of town, away from the tourist mall route.
He opens his shop at 8:30 a.m. and closes it at 9 p.m. He has been doing this for three decades now after taking over the antique shop he started in 1960. He says: “My father knitted chairs and made quilts for many Britons who lived in bungalows. When these Britons left, they sold their household items, which were generally of high quality and over the years acquired an antique value. They also sold a lot of arty stuff and old tech stuff that regains archival value over time. My father realized that there was a very good market for these things and Mussoorie with its rich colonial past had a rich treasury of such things. That’s when he opened his antique shop.
The shop flourished and the supply of antiques never dried up as over the years many old Britons left the country or departed for their heavenly home, leaving behind much of their material possessions which ended up in a few antique shops that operated in Mussoorie. . “But over time that supply dried up and now new antiques only appear occasionally. Most of the antiques we have today are just for display. Today we get a lot of hardware that has been created to look like antiques. There is a market for that, but it’s not that rewarding.
Over the years, his business dwindled. He says, “Until a few decades ago there were many admirers of antiques. But the number of people with this kind of taste has decreased over the years. People indulge in buying antiques only when they have extra cash. These are not essential things that a person with good taste or a sense of history would need. Also, nowadays people prefer to spend on cellphones but not on antiques or art. »
The times of COVID have been particularly difficult for his business. Add to that the economic crisis that the country is going through and things only get more complicated for him. “It’s a job that requires patience. Sometimes several days go by and I don’t sell anything. Then I spend my time arranging and rearranging things. But no matter what I like staying in my shop, working here. I can’t and won’t do anything else,” he said.
There was a time when young Ayub toyed with the idea of getting a desk job at an institute of technology in Mussoorie. “But my dad said it was better for me to continue his legacy. My heart was also in this antique business. So I took over the shop. He adds: “Sometimes it occurs to me that it would be nice to have a regular salary from a job. But then I think otherwise. I still prefer my antique business.
That’s when his son Haidar Sabri (18) enters the shop carrying lunch for his father. The Sabris live in a house just below their mountainside antique shop. Haidar appears to be a well-mannered young man who resembles the younger version of his father. He loves his father but not his job. He’s sure he’s not going to take over his father’s antique shop. He says, “I want to study data science and make a career out of it.” He plans to enter the Indian Institute of Statistics or the University of Delhi.
Even Ayub doesn’t want it. He said, “By antique dealer will end up with me.” I know my son won’t do this job and I don’t want him to continue.