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An adornment of unbreakable feelings

2021-06-05, 1:00pm Art & culture

The Mohenjo-daro Girl-d856dcc757cff3d02ce1f8d7eae212751622876433.png

The Mohenjo-daro Girl

Sudhirendar Sharma
In these times of overwhelming stillness, nostalgia revives itself like baggage moving on a carousel. With not much demand on time, one begins to notice each of the moving baggage for its designs and colours to create a kaleidoscope in mind, which sends me on memory trail when the bangle-seller - churriwala - used to come calling to charm the young ladies and pull all of them out from their closet into the courtyard. The ensuing mini-celebration of the kind would curate many eyeball moments for youngsters like me. Much would get shared without a word being spoken, bangles being the romantic medium for the lucky few!  
Such occasions used to extend temporary escape for suppressed emotions, creating naughty moments of youthful exuberance. Lyricists have rarely let such moments wither away by trapping it into musical compositions that resonate for life. तेरे हाथों में पहना के चूड़ियाँ के मौज बंजारा ले गया (By squeezing bangles onto your wrist, the bangle seller had all the fun) from film Jaani Dushman (1979) clears misconceptions about the churriwala overstepping into the love birds' domain. Unspoken words get musical wings!  
Bangles have adorned women since antiquity, and may remain so for aeons. Ever since the alluring damsel with one armful of bangles and the second at her hip emerged from the Mohenjo-daro excavations (see pic), women's romance with bangles have only expanded through precious metals and exquisite glass. However, the collapse of imperialism and the triumph of capitalism have had the least of impacts on its tinkling presence in society. And, married women love bangles for the colour distinctions that signify stages of blessedness.
The green is conspicuous for being virtuous, its colourful features vividly captured by Shailendra for the title song वादा लेंगी हरे काँच की चूड़ियाँ (Green bangles will seek a promise) from the film Hare Kanch Ki Chudiyan (1967). While red bangles signify energy and prosperity, it is green that helps women make the most of good luck and fertility in their lives. Covering a period from childhood to adulthood, the melodious voice of Asha Bhonsle captures the many vignettes of women's life leading to much anticipated betrothal.    
More than a colourful ornament of feminine adornment, churri as a medium with multiple messages hasn't been adequately acknowledged. For veiled women the tinkling chime of bangles comes handy to direct coded messages in a joint family. In more neutral situations, the message is subtle but direct. Anand Bakshi's lyrical expression मेरे हाथों में नौ नौ चूड़ियाँ हैं (I have nine bangles on my wrist) carries a teasing invite to her trolling lover from Chandni (1989). The musical appeal of the song is enduring.
Churri has a socially demeaning side to it as well, Although the practice of breaking bangles by widows has largely been discontinued, the proverbial message that it is the end of a part of her life she cannot repair continues to haunt. दिल हूम हूम करे, घबराए (The beat of the heart is disturbing) poignantly captures the longing the woman feels for her lover in the film Rudaali (1993). It documents the disturbing ritual, and seeks the society to disband it. The sound ‘hoom hoom’ denotes the beating of the heart to that effect.
Bangles may have come to symbolize many stages of women's life, but men have not remained untouched by it either. Legendary poet Gopal Das Neeraj was inspired to equate churi with dil in his memorable song चूड़ी नहीं ये मेरा दिल है देखो देखो टूटे ना (Don't let it break, bangle is like my heart) for the film Gambler (1971). With a tinge of philosophy, Neeraj found the shape of a bracelet akin to the cycle of life with no end or beginning. In fact, it is a rare tribute to the cultural artifact of all times.
Predominantly made of glass, its inherent value lies in bangles being a breakable piece of feminine adornment that has evoked unbreakable feelings for poets and lyricists to weave magic of beauty, romance and enduring luck around it.  
(Press the highlighted text to view the song under reference)  
(Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer on development issues and is based in New Delhi)