The Rajasthan Fort Festival held in Meherangarh Fort every winter is a treat for music enthusiasts. There is a line up of Sufi singers from all over the globe. You are transported to another world where religion melts into the bountiful world of music and poetry. The songs sung are of the union of the spiritual with the soul. As usual, I booked my tickets for the festival. I couldn’t give this a miss. I knew I would be moved and touched at corners of my soul, that was lying dormant in the chaos of the city life. I had forgotten the sight of the rising sun against the Meherangarh Fort. The rays breaking from behind the peeping clouds into the blue-walled homes of Jodhpur. It was like a painting done by the miniature Rajput school of art. Where every woman is endowed with large hips and a larger appetite for ornaments that bring out her sexuality.
I have a crazy, mad love for vintage silver jewellery. To me, it’s an ode to the artisans who have created the “solah Shringar” pieces. I am yet to stop myself from falling into pieces when my greedy soul chances upon a beauty like the jewellery of Rajasthan. It has the elegance of a Rajput queen and the art of a lost lover. Trying to carve stone after stone into that piece de la resistance.
I met Jirni at her small silver shop in the bylanes of Jodhpur. Her shop was in her home. Just behind the shop was her Haveli. I was constantly peeping inside to see what’s going on. There were a tulsi plant and a charpoy. That frugal bed made out of thick ropes and four pillars of wood. Next to it was a long hookah. She saw me curious and asked if I smoked. I told her I wouldn’t dare to start my smoking with a hookah.
She was showing me silver and I could see her hand resting on a red stoned necklace. She held it against the light and I saw the brilliance of the red against the woven chain of silver. She said that she liked my smile. And if I promise to send her a photo when I wear it. She would sell it to me. I knew she was a smart business woman but I could also catch the sadness in her eyes. I said hold it against yourself. Let me decide if I want it.
Her hands automatically held the pendant against her head like a maangpatta. She looked like an old weary queen. She told me, The maangpatta is a Rajput head ornament. Brides wear this on their wedding day. It has a deep-rooted significance of the tikka falling on the “agya chakra”. It’s the spot on the forehead of a woman which is considered the seat of preservation. It signifies the union of a man and a woman on the spiritual, physical and emotional level. It’s one of the most exquisite hair adornment among the jewellery of India.
I asked her the price. She said if I negotiated, she wouldn’t sell a single piece from her collection. Her times are bad and that’s why she is selling her pieces away. I asked her whose maangpatta was that? She reluctantly told me it was hers.
Then she told me her story over a milky ginger tea on her shop floor. I listened with empathy. He had come to sell silver many decades back. Jirni was 22 and he was 20. He was handsome and rugged with a beard and a big moustache. And it was one evening during his stay. That he held Jirni by her arm, made love to her, kissed her passionately making her fall hopelessly in love with him. What ensued was not what Jirni should’ve done. But who could say no to a lover who told her she was beautiful against the fading Jodhpur moon. His face over hers cupped, he said that he wanted to drown in her beauty. He had gifted her this maangpatta. Promising her marriage and many children.
He left after few days, never to return. He called her “sawan” which meant the rains. Jirni’s eyes went dry waiting for him. Now she wants to sell that dream away forever. She used the maangpatta and attached it to a woven chain to make it a necklace. I told her I can keep it for her. She sold me the piece wrapping it in red thin butter paper. Without looking back, she said to wear it even if it doesn’t rain.
Love, lust, desire is all transient and what eventually stays are the memories of the dust gathered around them. My maangpatta is now on my neck. I can feel Jirni’s eyes on it wherever I turn to go. I hope Jirni can forget that night and realise some experiences are not meant to last forever. They are beautiful because it is short lived and they end with a reminder of a beauty that’s only a moment and nothing more.