For a man who makes his living figuring out how individuals and institutions can double their money, Vinay Pande, managing director and chief investment adviser at Deutsche Bank in New York, makes his personal investments on the counsel of a clutch of experts who have little to do with finance.
Pande, a collector of antique rugs and handwoven textiles, puts his faith in other connoisseurs of antique fabrics. “Betting your hard-earned money on a rug that has no value can be a costly error, and I find it better to validate my gut feeling about a particular piece by seeking help from experts,” says Pande, who has one of the largest rug collections in the US.
The Pande family (with Vinay’s mother) amid its heirlooms
He has, of course, landed a few lemons over the years. He once bought what he thought were rare Turkoman rugs, only to discover they were factory-made by Russian prisoners during the Stalinist era. But despite the occasional dud, so rich is Pande’s collection that he is now vice-president of the Hajji Baba Club, the oldest dedicated rug collectors club in the US.
Pande’s six-bedroom, 8,000 sq. ft Connecticut home, which he shares with wife Shonu, nine-year-old daughter Malavika and their dog, is a veritable museum of fine antique textiles displayed on walls, floors, even furniture. Within that treasure trove is a rare kilim rug that he picked up from a Kashmiri trader in Mumbai for a paltry $5 (about Rs200), and a collection of saddle bags and accessories used by the desert nomads of Turkmenistan.
According to Pande, each rug in his collection tells him a story, transporting him back to the ancient civilization to which it belonged. Most of his pieces were once utilitarian. For instance, intricately woven rugs were often used as door and window shades; and in some cultures, new brides brought with them a collection of handwoven items such as kilims that were fashioned into sacks to store grain.
It was during a stint at the World Bank in Washington in the late 1980s that Pande got involved with textiles. His passion got him a place on the advisory board of the Textile Museum in Washington. Here, collectors join in a weekly “show and tell” session. “I was converted after a few sessions and got into collecting,” he says.
Pande’s latest assignment with Deutsche Bank usually leaves him with little time to devote to his hobby. He now depends on the Internet and a network of experts at auction houses to verify the authenticity of his picks. And his reputation as a serious collector has spread enough for sellers to contact him directly.
Unfortunately for them, the rest of the family does not share Pande’s love for textiles. Wife Shonu often cribs about the house being overrun with rugs: The collection has grown so much in the past few years that in some parts of the house, rugs are just piled in stacks.
“Not only is this a very high-maintenance hobby, but it also leaves me and my daughter with virtually no space for things we might want to bring home,” says Shonu. But there are happy after-effects too: “I get to wear the most amazing Jamawars.”
The standing joke in the family is that while her friends will inherit handsome trust funds from their parents, Malavika Pande will spend her life vacuuming rugs.