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  • solarastills

Old is Gold

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

A recent post about old sarees in an FB saree group I am a member of reminded me of my mother's tireless way of collecting old zari borders.

In the 70s and 80s in Bangalore and Chennai, there used to be street vendors who went house to house buying good zari for steel, yelling "steel patrae samaan" to advertise their wares. When my mom had sarees which were too worn to hand down to the maids, she would cut down the good zari borders and pallus and recycle the remaining cloth for various household chores. She would collect such zari for a year or two, and when she had enough, would flag down the zari vendor to barter with him.

The vendor would test the zari by rubbing it on a calcium painted wall or on the ground (in later years, they carried a chemical liquid tester). If the gold threads turned black or colorless, they were made of plastic and hence worthless. Mom would haggle back and forth about the authenticity of the gold zari and its worth. They would finally settle on a price and the vendor would either pay in cash or give a new steel vessel of her choice for the price agreed upon.

I always found great pleasure to watch the back and forth between my mom and the vendor and the shiny new vessel which came home in place of some old cloth I didnt care about. Its amazing how we were enamored by the tiniest of pleasures in our childhood. It feels so nostalgic now to visit those small things in life which used to elate me to no bounds, but now hidden in the depths of my memory.


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