Wandering through Sunder Nagar market in Delhi, I step into Jaipur Jewels just out of curiosity. What is 'Jaipur' about their jewelry, I want to know.
It's one of those quiet, understated showrooms that people like me rarely visit. I think, "This was a mistake." My handloom kurta is very plain and very crumpled. Only my Kandy-style earrings look remotely like they belong in this store.
I have not reckoned on the warmth and hospitality that are at the heart of the North Indian merchant's marketing genius.
I am welcomed like an old friend and when I say I just came to look, one person steps out to show. He takes out the most dramatic display pieces with pride and then shares design and provenance details as if I were either a serious buyer or a fellow expert. No condescension, no 'don't waste my time.' I begin to feel really bad and then, I am invited to just sit and see.
I reluctantly sit, feeling guilty because I know I cannot afford any of this.
With the pride of an artist, the whole team shares their favorite pieces with me. A casual visit becomes a gift.
I cannot find words to describe what I saw.
A sakla so supply crafted that gold flows and twists and winds around your imagination rather than your wrist.
Bangles that combine every lapidary art and stretch one's imagination -- polki, jadau, enamel... I wanted to tweet but I knew words would fail me.
Earrings that are cascades of colour... A pair of cascading lotus petals in pearl, pink tourmaline and delicate gold... But wait, he turns it over and it's even more stunning. It's enamel painted as exquisitely as a Jaipur miniature.
Strings of stones and pearl that look sunlight glistening on the ripples in a backwater pool.
They make me try on a beautiful pearl necklace with lovely gold kairis in the pendant and a small, delicately dangling polki pendant. It's lovely. Looks better on me than I would have imagined.
They keep telling me that the tradition and the stones and the work are valuable. Yes. But the imagination and the devotion that makes this work happen is invaluable.
As is their warmth.
PS: I bought nothing. But in another life, maybe.