It was a WhatsApp from my friend that was teasing my senses. My heart tingled with familiar joy, a soft warmth crept over my cheeks and my lips instantly curved gently into a smile. My friend was talking about wearing the exotic earring called Jhumkas. Jhumkas? I said the word aloud and it was enough to make my head dizzy with excitement.
What is so great about Jhumkas — you could ask. Well, these special earrings that have triumphed the test of time are not only traditional but also are adaptable to any occasion. To a novice, they resemble two hangings that open out like a parasol or an umbrella. But, to a connoisseur, they are flowers in full bloom that dangle daintily on the earlobe and when they sway in mid-air, they can send an entire generation crooning in hysteria.
I fell in love with Jhumkas when I was a little girl. Back in my village, almost every household boasted of one pair hidden inside the safe of some closet. On festive days, mom would dress us up in long silk skirts and then would begin the fight because, between my sister and I, we had just one pair of those heavenly beauties.
Sequenced the edges
Although, we never quite agreed on whose turn it was to wear them, at the end of every celebratory day, we would sit down to admire the artistic finery that bloomed out from a dainty string. Our little fingers would trace those thin lines of lotus petals that curved gracefully from a central point and our eyes would light up watching the pearly droplets that sequenced the edges of those petals. Finally, we would hold the little earring between our fingers and wave it in mid air. It was this delightful moment we would wait for and we almost always twirled rhythmically with those lotus blooms.
It was only in my early 20s that I found out that Jhumkas came in different colours, sizes and shapes. It was impossible not to smile or welcome those vibrant beauties into our lives. Colourful umbrellas in zircon, beads and metals graced the display of street hawkers and stores. Some of them came with encrusted stones that dazzled blindingly against the morning sun and some others were made with little bells that chimed melodiously against the wind. It was not all.
The shape of the blooms varied in multitudes of sizes — squares, pyramids, hexagons, ovals — all of them unfurled with a great view of the earth. Naturally, I couldn’t resist. I indulged myself with ownership and fantasies. Jhumkas were the gateway to freedom and joy without inhibitions. I continued to wear them and shake my head to watch the swinging in my ears — just enough to escape from the dreariness and smile limitless possibilities.
Set my heart aflutter
Naturally, the WhatsApp message set my heart aflutter. As the conversation regaled with colourful exuberance, my fingers longed to feel the curves and edges of my Jhumka collection. A little thrill filled my heart and I dashed to get my hands on them. I pulled out the large box full of little umbrellas and opened it as the morning rays streamed through the windows. This would be a while I giggled childishly.
The exercise lasted longer than I thought. Jhumkas are not just earrings. They are symbolic of beauty, dreams and possibilities. As I sway, dance, admire and reminiscence, I see many pieces of my life spread out in a fine piece of box — each Jhumka with its own story — a part of my life entwined with its sheen and glamour. I was even reminded of my elderly aunt who had once remarked that I would outgrow these little pieces of jewellery when I have a family to care.
I wonder what that aunt would say when she watches me from the heavens above, I wonder what my extended family would do when they realise I hold a collection that dearly. I chuckle at that thought. But, for now, it is time for a little game. To hold one in mid air and give it a little shake. The rhythm and the chime fill up the room with pure happiness. I laugh hysterically, take a picture and send it to my friend.
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.