Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 90, Tuesday, November 3, 2009



Cover Story

going for gold

With little over 230 riyals in my pocket, standing inside what apparently looked like a shabby jewellery store in the heart of Mecca at the middle of the night, I was flabbergasted. Mecca is truly a city that never sleeps. With thousands of pilgrims pouring in everyday, performing religious rites day and night, the city has accommodated itself to a schedule that continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Truth be told, it livens up more at night when the air cools down and life becomes bearable.

Coming back to the jewellery store, for once I felt like Bappi Lahiri in front of his jewellery cabinet. Gold on men is appalling, on women however, it adds to feminine grace and a touch of sophistication. As the younger of two sons, my mother often showed her wedding jewellery to me. “One for your wife, and the other for your brothers”, she used to say. My first lesson on 'what women want'.

But now, years older and wiser, I realise my mother just shared her emotions; a time long tradition the passing over of wedding jewellery from one generation to the next. Men however, are out of this picture.

Or are they? I feel no shame in admitting the fact that I love jewellers! From Rifle's Square to Eastern Plaza; from Baitul Mukarram to Tanti Bazar's whole-sellers...I visit them all. Mostly window shopping really, but looking beyond your age does have some advantages!

Whenever I enter a shop, the attendants make themselves busy for a prospective client. As I point towards pieces that catch my fancy, they comply. No questions asked. But I try to look tough-to-please, especially because I carry only two hundred takas in my wallet. After taking a solid look at the entire collection, I politely leave, promising to return.

I love to handle intricate works of meenakari and the dazzling, sparkling stone studded kundan. Over the years I have learnt that most basic designs of Indian gold jewellery are Mughal influenced, later concocted into modern forms in various regions of the empire. Some however, are influenced from Persia and even Arabia.

The sheer bling of a colourful meenakari necklace, in dazzling colours of red, blue and green, charms me like a boy fascinated with a kaleidoscope. I also happen to like meenakari on silver set against the oxidised, dirty-white metal- the colours become vibrant. But having said it, gold is gold!

This is window-shopping at its best. I have learnt, through handling jewellery at the stores that meenakari involves the fusion of coloured minerals, such as cobalt oxide for blue and copper oxide for green. This, on the surface of the metal, gives the effect of precious stone inlay work. This was like a revisit to my high school chemistry where we learnt about compounds and their colours.

Don't misunderstand. I don't just window-shop; I do buy at times. I remember giving a pair of golden rulis (thin bangles) with elephant head makars at both ends to my grandmother.

It was like the roles were reversed. Instead of family treasure being handed down to the generation, it was like paying an ode to love and affection, for the women in my life. She was happy and so were my mother, sister and niece. I said I don't buy much, well I guess it was not quite true!

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif




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