City Life – The Art of Currency Garland, Chitli Qabar Chowk
The poetry of money.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Money is a kind of poetry, said a corporate lawyer who was also a great American poet.
Nowhere is Wallace Stevens’ maxim more evident than in the work of the “note mala” makers—their nimble fingers deftly turn a prosaic medium of purchase into a work of art; indeed, the craft of making a garland of banknotes has its own rhythm, like the cadence of poetry.
These garlands are made for bridegrooms, many of whom keep the garlands for life.
The Delhi Walla came across note mala maker Muhammed Sadiq in Old Delhi’s Chitli Qabar Chowk. He also sells flowers and his stall is next to a “ladies tailor”.
While ATMs spit out crisp small-value notes into eager hands, Mr Sadiq’s practiced fingers do it with much more delicacy.
He usually gets orders for ₹1,000 garlands made of ₹10 notes.
The young man charges Rs 200 per garland. Each time he receives an order from a wedding “party”, he takes a short walk to the nearby money exchange stalls for wads of crisp tenners.
One evening, I watched him make a note mala. You would have never imagined it to be so complicated.
Our artist effortlessly stapled the notes, folded their edges and rustled different shapes out of the paper currencies (one looked like a Japanese fan).
He went on to do many other complicated manoeuvres with the notes, as expertly as a seasoned baker kneads his dough.
Mr Sadiq’s note mala was ready in 20 minutes. Worth a few hundred rupees at face value, it looked priceless.
The beauty of cash