Bling in India: Bangles, Bindis & Pashmina Co-Exist with Poverty Dust

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Another of the contradictions of India is how so much wealth and poverty dust and …so much bling, can co-exist.  Beggars with monkeys on their shoulders lead painted oxen on rope and try to block your way until you give them a rupee on a street that is lined with  brand-new multi-story houses. American and Japanese cars attempt to pass cyclists and hand-drawn carts. Even if you’re floors are marble, scrubbing one’s feet clean is a recommended daily, if not twice-daily, practice.

As a tourist really, wielding a dollar, I’m automatically a privileged class. A bumpy dusty rickshaw ride brought me near city center and a luxe store full of pashmina, silk, weaves and wall hangings, Kashmir carpets, and silver jewelry. Salesmen served me cinnamon tea in a china cup while I looked a wool and silk pashmina in a rainbow of colors, prints and embroider. Mysore is known for its silk, the fabric made in the factory here according to high standards and turned into colorful sarees and shawls.
The selection is boggling. “All colors,” the clerk tells me, pulling out handfuls of carefully folded fabric and unfurling it before me. It’s not a drill new to me, the tea, the fabric, the bargaining— last year, I bought a saree — but the selection still boggles. A half hour later, arrangements are made to mail my purchases home.

More tea is offered but I’m also on a mission for gifts for the children of Operation Shanti and bangles top the list for the girls. Bangles, the colorful bracelets not the band, are hugely popular here and the range of colors, sizes and sparkles matches that of the silk. Stores selling bangles and bindis are as common as tea stalls. Ten bangles per wrist, pashmina over the shoulder,  and a bindi on the forehead and you’re ready to go. Bling!


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