Friday, February 02, 2007

Kuch Gadbad Hai!

In the heart of bustling Aminabad sits a market that found its beginnings from Bade Miyan’s chaadar on which he’d sell everything from pins to bangles, all for a paltry dhaiye annas. Gadbad jhala, home to over a 107 shops is Lucknow’s oldest bangle market, “It’s been here since 1922. The sheer number of people who visited the area for the monkey shows led to its notorious christening!” claims Mohammad Ahmed who runs five bangle shops in the sparkling bauble market.

The new gadbad jhala as we know it, replaced a disorganized glass bangle selling market with a pucca market with shop numbers. “There was a school here initially and on bazaar days we’d come and lay our goods on the floor like the pioneer, Bade Miyan. Wooden planks replaced the floor market and now it’s these cement stalls that the Nagar Palika built”, says Mohammad Ahmed, sitting in a spotless white kurta pajama on a small stool at the very end of the market. Behind him is a well that was covered up when it dried, “This well as old as the market!” he laughs.

The stores at gadbad jhala sell everything from wigs to Umrao Jaan jewelry. Cheap fake kundan jewelry that shines under the glare of 200 W bulbs. So blinding is the light and the heat that it takes at least five minutes to get accustomed to the surroundings and understand which lane you’re in!

Gayatri Shukla is scouring the market with her daughter Naina for purple bangles, “Look at the variety! There must be ten types of purple bangles here” her husband Naresh grumbles. But Naina immediately places on the counter a georgette mauve kurta, asking for bangles with kangans a la carte the latest Bollywood hit Vivah. The bangle man immediately procures the correct match from the stacks of bangles. Naresh is amused and Naina satisfied, they file out of the shop looking for bindis in the next shop while the bangle man continues business.

He’s covered in cheap shiny sparkle powder, “It’s all from the bangles!”he laughs. ‘Sardar’ as he is fondly called, has sold bangles here for over forty years and knows his customers by name. He jokes with the women and helps them choose the usual dozen glass bangles for every occasion. Alambagh wali Pooja is here for cut glass bangles, “My mother likes the older designs, I of course prefer the metal ones with beads… these last longer”! she quips. Sardar hands Pooja a 2X8 size of bangles, “There are generally five sizes of bangles. They start from 2X4 to 2X14, all in even numbers”. He’s one of the few bangle sellers who has kept his exclusive bangle selling identity, “The others have started selling all kinds of women’s items, I only know about bangles!”

Next to Sardar’s shop is the sindoor daan seller, these wooden hand made sindoor daans and the packets of batna, ittar as well as cheap lipstick are all for welcoming the new bahu. “For nikaahs and engagements, we make traditional baskets that go in the sunnat or shagun”, says a harried Suresh. It’s the wedding season and his shop is abuzz with activity. In fact, the only other shop with a madder rush is the sitara shop. Colourful sitaras and gottas line the walls of the shop, burqa clad women jostle around looking for sequins to add to their dupattas. “This is a poor man’s and a karigar’s shop! You’ll find everything under the sun to decorate your suits, saris and burqas with here”, says Rahim.

It’s only the bangle stall owners who’re complaining about quality at Gadbad jhala. They are unimpressed by how bangles have now become a ‘fancy’ item. “They last only seven days! And cost thirty rupees… the quality is nothing compared to what we used to sell twenty years ago. Those bangles were washed with real gold water and stayed in tact for months. Red, blue and green were the only colours we sold!” says Mukhtar, whose dusty shelves house the now unpopular Jaipuri bangles. “These plastic ones are popular too, but our best sellers are the nag bangles with colourful stones,” he adds.

Gadbad jhala has something for every woman. The eclectic, heavy and one of a kind Firozabadi glass kada for the bohemian woman, sparkly and delicate bright bijli bangles for a marriage and the simple kareli green bangle that sell at ten rupees. Visiting the jhala is not for the weak at heart. Clutch your bag to your chest, fight for a discount, also watch out for the twenty year old fans that line the centre lane for ventilation! Carry a tissue along to wipe off that sweat, don’t forget to carry your outfit along for the perfect colour match and look out for the ‘Made in China’ golden bangles. They’re a huge hit at the Gadbad jhala.