Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stringing along!


The 'patua', or jewellery stringer, is still part of the North Indian market scene. New Market in Kolkata has a few patuas, usually sitting outside large jewellery shops. Not only do they string your pieces for you, they also have a large array of colourful necklaces and bangles and earrings for sale.
On a recent visit to the patua, I sat on a small stool and gazed in fascination while he did my work. I have a beautiful black and gold pendant, strung onto golden thread which had become dull with use. I planned to have it put onto thin strands of tiny black beads. The patua first measured out the length I wanted, and told me how much it would cost. Then he slipped what looked like a crooked curtain ring onto his big toe, essentially a large hook, on which he pulled out sufficient lengths of black thread. He then slipped my pendant onto a nail on his work table, and attached the threads to both hooks. What was totally fascinating was how he transferred the tiny black beads from their original white thread to the black thread. You'd think it would be a lengthy process involving a very fine needle and eye-straining concentration. But no! The man clipped and then combed out, with his fingers, the ends of both threads, twined them together, and simply pushed the requisite length of black beads onto the locket thread. He repeated this process several times, and then fixed the strings and pendant onto the closing tassel. All this in between dealing with customers who were looking at and buying his 'pearl' bracelets and necklaces, answering his mobile phone, and drinking tea! His work space is actually tiny, perhaps six feet square, with a neat display of ready products, plus bundles and boxes of the materials needed for his trade. He has to dig through many bundles to find what he needs, but does so with equanimity, knowing that he has all that he requires.
When I asked him if I could take a photograph of him, he readily agreed, saying that many foreigners have photographed him.

Some of our traditional craftsmen, like the local dyers, (the rangrez of so many classical bandishes) make our lives so colourful and so simple, and, of course, do not charge very much money. Long may they prosper!

13 comments:

Aneela Z said...

we should make a list of all these friendly characters, possibly a photo archive. So many are disappearing...

Anonymous said...

great idea Aneela

Sands said...

So true. I see these people every time I visit home and go to these shops to re-string jewelry or buy new ones :) Their multitasking capabilities simply amaze me!

Uttara said...

I completely agree. May they llve long. I love the word "rangrez," esp the way it's used in our music

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Most people would not even see him, even as they get their stuff re-strung, and you have written such a glowing tribute to him and his kind. You are a wonderful lady, Dipali, and I am proud to know you.

SUR NOTES said...

well said aneela.lets do this on our respective blogs. and link each other.

dipali, the rang raliyas are so ahrd to find. i was looking for them for a shoot once, found one community after ages.

and the knife sharpner, and the mattress fluffers(what are they called in hindi?)

Banno said...

lovely, Dipali, and what sonorous names these professions have. yes, yes, we must make a photo archive on all our blogs, fab idea.

Nat said...

I never knew what rangrez meant and never knew of patuas....have yet to spot one on any of the railway stations I' was on! thanks!

radha said...

These guys are fantastic. There fingers are really nimble and quick. They string together beads in a jiffy. Long live their breed!

eve's lungs said...

I have seen a patua creating magic with beads and thread in my friend's house . Totally fascinating . I must try the patuas in New Market - which one was this ? Outside Chamba Lama ?

eve's lungs said...

Oh and I plan to call the mattress waala to the house next weekend . Will take some shots . Thats a great idea about posts of this kind . Calcutta , till now still has these people - the knife sharpener , the chabiwala , the dhunkar .

Sue said...

Such a lovely post. I forgot to comment when I first read it. You know what I miss from Gurgaon? The dyers who'd dye your chunnis in 20 minutes. Now I have to take my stuff all the way to New Market if I want them properly done.

@Evie -- Baba is looking for the wickerwork guy, if you know one? The one who walks around in our neighbourhood doesn't seem to be seen much these days.

Mumbai Diva said...

completely agree. In fact Mumbai has fewer of these services. Or maybe I'm yet not aware of them. But in Delhi, my patua, tie and dye guy all of these were a really important part of my life :)