A young art collector makes a sudden discovery in a Mirabai statue

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The Blue Jade


Shobha Nihalani

It was at a time when life was secure. She had a promising career path in antiquities research and recording archaeological finds. One afternoon, Neelam had returned home from one of her archaeological travels to Cambodia. She had brought back a small Khmer artefact, quite unique in its heritage. She wanted to display it and decided that the glass cabinet in the living room would be ideal. She shifted her grandmother’s large Mirabai statue to make space for her Khmer piece. Mirabai was old, slightly chipped and yellowed with age. As Neelam gently lifted it aside, a clink from inside the statue caught her attention. What secrets did Mirabai hold within her? Khmer artefact forgotten, Neelam carried the sculpture out of the glass cabinet. She shook it gently and heard the distinct sound of a solid object inside. Something must have broken inside; it was an old piece that her parents treasured because of her grandma. Neelam shook it yet again and realised the sound was in the wooden piece reverently held in Mirabai’s lap. She placed the statue on the table and pulled at the wooden stringed instrument. The pressure of Neelam’s touch broke it. She placed the wooden segment aside and peered inside the ball-shaped hollow end of the stringed instrument. There was something there. Carefully, Neelam tried to feel it out. It was a hard, smooth object that she got a grip on and pulled it out. It clattered on the table. Neelam froze wide-eyed, shocked at the flash of azure. ‘What is that?’ she murmured to herself. She never expected to find anything so uniquely beautiful. The stunning piece was a Krishna pendant. But it was no ordinary pendant; it was a deep cerulean blue. Neelam picked it up and studied it carefully. The relic was made of jade, not the commonly seen green variety. This piece was intricately carved with such attention to detail that Neelam was amazed at the skill of the artisan who had created such delicate etchings. Even without appraisal, Neelam could tell this was a rare piece; it would be extremely valuable in the art market. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. With the help of her father’s magnifying glass, she studied the piece carefully. It was perfect; no chipped edges, just the tiny hole through which one could loop in a string to wear around the neck. This particular jade artefact must have had Chinese origins. Jade was not popular in India; idol pendants were never made in jade, usually silver or gold. Neelam recalled that at a recent auction, a pale greyish-white jade figural pendant had sold for over two hundred thousand US dollars. Blue jade was equally extraordinary, and rare. Neelam’s heart thudded excitedly. She had to tell her parents about this discovery. With her cell phone, she took a few pictures of the relic. The colour was so striking it reminded her of the iridescent shades of peacock feathers.