City Landmark – Goldsmith’s Workshop, Nai Basti, Gurgaon
Inside an old-fashioned world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In the so-called Millennium City, yet so far. This old-fashioned goldsmith’s workshop in Gurgaon’s Nai Basti in the Greater Delhi region. You get custom-made lockets, rings, and necklace pendants from Dharmender Kumar Soni, the goldsmith, or the sunar.
The middle-aged Mr Soni is an excessively polite man, the kind of genteel traders encountered in the long-time family-run shops in colonial-era hill stations, who vividly remember the families of their customers and are capable of chatting with them for hours.
Explaining his work, the sunar explains that “when you want to build a house, you first get its map made by an architect… well, I’m that architect for lockets and rings, and I’m also the builder who constructs the house.”
There’s nothing industrial about Mr Soni’s establishment except for a hefty strange-looking metallic machine that he calls press. “It’s more than 50 years old,” he says. The business was founded by his father, Shri Chhoturam, a retired fauji (army man), who runs a similar workshop in Sector 10.
The hefty press occupies most of the tiny room. Mr Soni sits cross-legged on the floor. The shelves on the walls are stacked with little curious-looking metal pieces “used for making designs.” An earthen angeetha, or stove, in the corner is employed to “heat and expand the metal.”
The workshop is permeated with an ambiance of unhurried but profoundly resilient concentration, evocative of a time when there was no Gmail or WhatsApp for distraction, and people were obliged to engage exclusively with elements that were physically around them. You may, of course, come here to order a “manchahi” locket or some such accessory. Or simply drop by to marvel at the survival of such a traditional way of making a living.
Also, look out for Mr Soni’s designing boards, the metal sheets containing samples of his designs. They seem like pieces of art.