Thursday, December 2, 2010
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!