The Chandni Chowk Chronicles – 2 ‘The Elusive Pagdis’

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Chandni Chowk continued to enmate its flavor. While A and I were whizzing around Delhi checking countless things off our list, My Mom and aunts visited CC on their own many times. And each time, they brought back a haul!

 The wedding came with a whole slew of requirements. There was so much needed in terms of the small ceremonies that it was quite a feat to gather everything. For unthinkable things like a ‘praath cover’ to the more conventional gifts like shawls (to be presented at the ‘milni’ ceremony), from the aarti thaali Mom would need for when the baraat is at the door, to the pot or matka needed to fill water by my sister in law the morning of the wedding, from my ‘gaana’ which is a sacred thread tied to a bride’s hand, to my bridal pashmina, my Mom absolutely squeezed out CC. If this is not a mothers’ love, what is?

Each time she brought back stuff like this, I understood that CC and Kinari Bazaar really does have potential – perhaps we were just looking in the wrong places. So A and I decided to go again. We really needed to get this ‘pagdi’ thing down at this point. This time, Lady Luck was with us. I am convinced that you get every kind of trader in CC – some cater to your needs, and some don’t. It’s a treasure hunt to just find ‘that’ perfect shop – but trust me, it is there.

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Pagdis or turbans hold a sacred place in Indian weddings. They convey dignity, self respect and authority of the wearer and so it will be the heads of the family who wear the pagdi at weddings.  Younger cousins and uncles get to wear similar coloured stoles around their necks, also known as ‘saafe’. It makes it very easy to identify which is the grooms’ and the brides’ side this way. The groom, of course, wears the ‘dulha pagdi’ which is usually the most blingy of them all.

 On our next trip to Kinari, A and I were passing by this shop, which was larger and way busier than the surrounding ones, and we asked if they have ‘pagdis’ for the groom. The answer was yes, and right there on the counter, we were shown some samples. As usual, nothing really clicked. We were going to move on when the shopkeeper saw us leaving, and asked what it was we needed. “A non-tacky custom dulha pagdi please”. He informed us that he owns a ‘factory of pagdis’ and is capable of creating anything we wanted. He then sent a boy from his shop to lead us to this said factory.

We walked through a labyrinth to get there! Twists and turns, and blind alleys which really weren’t blind, a temple in the middle of a crossing, a cow at another. I couldn’t have found my way out of there for the life of me. However, it was quite an experience, and I felt like someone right out of a National Geographic show covering this old historical place.

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We finally made it to the ‘factory’ which was essentially a warehouse-like place. The walls were absolutely crammed with pagdis of all shapes and colours. There were a couple of tailors in the corner stitching more, and in the far end there was that white bedsheet-mattress that is the trademark of old-Delhiness. We both knew something would click here… their collection was, after all, massive.

So we settled down and told the owner what we were looking for – a dazzling dulha pagdi, not gaudy, but very, very royal. I really liked how Jimmy Shergill looked in this pagdi, but the shop owner said that was too sober for a groom.

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He then asked for A’s outfit colours. This was where we were always getting stumped, because there just were no ready-made pagdis in his colours – A was wearing white and royal blue to the wedding – no hint of a red or a pink. And even in that huge selection, there was no white-royal blue combo. It was just not the ‘done’ thing. 

The shop owner went on to say that they will make the pagdi specially for us and asked us to  just choose the style. A inquired about getting a hand-tied pagdi at this point. That service was available as well – the only thing that stopped us was the fact that getting the pagdi tied also meant that the person who ties it (pagdi–tier for want of a better word) tags along at the entire event. The shopkeeper explained that this is because hand-tied pagdis may start to loosen, or unravel. And there is a lot of superstition involved with the dulha’s pagdi. If it falls off, or unravels, it is the epitome of bad omens. So to prevent such a calamity, the pagdi-tier will remain on hand to tighten it should the need arise. Well, that sounded flimsy to us, and we abandoned the idea.

We got to work checking out all the pagdi styles, laughing and joking the whole time. No one style clicked, but we did identify elements from 3 pagdis that we liked. The shopkeeper said he could incorporate all into 1 pagdi- I was so impressed with his craft!  He asked if we could get cloth from the designer itself to make this pagdi – that way it will truly match and complete the ensemble – 7 meters of the white cloth, and 1 meter of the blue velvet.

Dulha pagdi finalized, I also asked about regular pagdis for the families. My family has a tradition of something called a ‘kulha pagdi’ which is basically a turban with a risen center. The last wedding in our immediate family had been 20 years ago, and these  turbans had been available at the time. However, after that, their availability decreased, and family weddings started to feature the regular rajasthani turbans. Dad was adamant about using the traditional pagdis – but they were nowhere to be found. I randomly asked this shopkeeper if he knew about those pagdis, and to my delight, he brought them out! Beautiful baby pink colour – I knew this was the right type because they matched what had been used at my Uncle’s wedding 20 years ago.

 Weirdly, there was no cell phone service in that little corner of Delhi, so I couldn’t call my Mom to give her the good news, but I did take pictures of the turban I found – I was so excited to find this elusive little part of my culture.

Mom hurried to this ‘factory’ to pick up the pagdis – she came home with 25 pagdis, and at least 50 stoles or ‘saafe’. All in a beautiful baby pink colour. Things were getting checked off the lists like crazy!

A’s family also needed the same number of pagdis and saafe. On our next trip to the place, we gave the cloth for A’s pagdi, and chose the design for the ‘baraati’s pagdi – wine colour with a beautiful golden strip going on them. The ‘saafe’ were red and golden as well.

ImageMy side of the family with their pink pagdis and saafe

 

ImageA’s brothers

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                                             Both pagdis on proud display :)

In the end, the pagdis were entirely discovered and chosen by A and I. These small touches that we worked on together – I can’t describe the pleasure of seeing those pagdis on all our familys’ heads – his and mine – bobbing up and down as they danced.

And then of course, there was the dulha pagdi – the crown on my Price’s head – glowing with regality, it took my breath away… or maybe it was just him!

 ImageThere he is!                                                

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Chandni Chowk Chronicles – 2 ‘The Elusive Pagdis’

  1. So cute!!! But yes..get on to the wedding jaldi jaldi!

    I hated my husband’s pagdi though I chose the base turban in baby pink.. the rest were the twenty thousand add-ons that punjabis have along with that ghastly money ka haar! So different from what both of us wanted-a simple and elegant turban matching his awesome shervani!
    While the pheras were on..I made so much fun of him..and its all caught on camera..and our pics! He looks sooo mad and uncomfy and I look like I’m having the time of my life..so unlike the demure shy bride that I should’ve been!
    The good thing is I am supposed to use his pagdi as a sari..and I love the colour

  2. Hi I love your posts..very original and informative. I am in Delhi at the moment and i am originally from Mauritius. Have got very limited time to scan chandni chowk with tons of wedding stuff to buy. Desperately looking for both groom pagri and family pagri.can you maybe tell me what is the name of the shop where u got all these pagris? Or even just the street. That would be tremendously helpful. Thanks. X

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