Mission Delhi – Meharchand, Sadar Bazar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Jeweller Meharchand’s shop is in the Millennium City of Gurgaon. But the vibes of this small cozy establishment in the town’s Sadar Bazar goes far beyond this millennium. Here’s the glass counter, this afternoon, filled with boxes containing gold rings and gold necklaces. And behind is Meharchand, dresssed in a safari suit. He is sitting cross-legged, a light smile is playing about his lips. “I opened Vinay Jewellers in 1985.” It’s named after his son, who isn’t here at the moment.
Despite the distraction of the gold, a visitor’s attention is more likely to be claimed by the tijori, the mobile metal closet in the corner. The shop’s most stately object, it is a thing rare to spot these days. In old Hindi movies one would see a family matriarch keeping the money in such a tijori. “These days you don’t need a tijori to keep your cash, there’s the ATM,” Meharchand remarks. Gesturing towards the gold things in the counter, he explains he keeps them in the tijori while closing the shop at night.
Possessively touching the front face of the metal chest, the way a book collector holds a prized edition, Meharchand recalls that this iron heavyweight symbolises the many struggles his family has overcome. His father too was a sunar, his grandfather and great-grandfather were also sunar. But there was a break in the continuity due to the partition in 1947. If the forces of history hadn’t uprooted its victims so abruptly, Meharchand might still had the tijori that his family owned in their original hometown in Dera Ghazi Khan (in present-day Pakistan). “We had to leave everything behind.” Meharchand is talking of the partition as if it were something he personally experienced. He is in fact 65, and his account comprises of the stories told to him by the family elders.
“This tijori is newer but continues our family traditions.” Painted in grey, its doors are in pale green. “We got it from (Old Delhi’s) Chandni Chowk for 6,000 rupees… there are no shops in Gurgaon that sell these.” The tijori is sacrosanct to the jeweller. A niche on the wall, just above the locker, is filled with idols of gods and goddesses, including a copy of the Hanuman Chalisa. “Every morning and evening I ignite a dhoop batti on the top of the tijori, I also ignite the Bhagwan Jyot, and then I pray.”
Again placing his hand on the locker, respectfully, Meharchand says, “Tijori sunar ki shobha hoti hain (it is sunar’s pride).
[This is the 434th portrait of Mission Delhi project]