Today, when the sun was bright and high in the sky - and the baby was napping - I trekked out into my backyard with a stool, a white bedsheet, and these two boxes. It was a windy day, but I braved the wind and the cold (slash slight chill) so that I could bring you this informative post. I am nothing if not a serious journalist.
(You: I'm gonna have to go with "nothing.")
Yay! Jewelry! (I needed the bright sunlight to take the pictures. A flash would have really ruined all the beautiful colors.)
One of the first cultural items I learned about Pakistan - waaay back before I even knew we were talking about Pakistan - was these bracelets called choori.
One day, very soon after meeting M, he told me that girls in his home country wore these glass bangle bracelets and that the tinkling sound that the bracelets made was so renowned that there were songs and poems written about just that bracelet sound. I almost immediately pictured a bracelet that looked like the one below, and I also immediately wondered whether M was smart enough to ask his sister to send one for him to give to his new girlfriend.
I couldn't have been more wrong. My brand of Pakistani boyfriend wasn't about to tell his family about his new girlfriend. Not for awhile, and usually not ever (although thankfully it worked out differently in our case.) I thought about those bracelets many times in the months to come, especially as I came to realize there was probably never going to be a FedEx package from his sister to me with some choori inside. Also, I was wrong because that's not how those glass bracelets look at all. The bracelet I was picturing was glass beads, strung together and pliable. But these choori are actually very rigid - a firm circle of glass, usually brightly colored and worn in sets.
my wedding were red and gold, and the ones I wore for our wedding reception in Pakistan a year later were pink and gold. Usually you buy a set of these bracelets to go with whatever fancy outfit you buy.
These are most the choori I've bought or been given, except I've broken probably the same amount over the years as well. The first set M ever bought me was from the desi store near his apartment when he was a student. They were green, I broke the very first one I ever tried to wear, and I kept them until all the paint wore off. When the very last one broke, I saved its pieces. I still have them.
I once bought a few sets from Toronto too, but they were metal. I couldn't find any glass ones there. They don't make the same wonderful sound, but they travel a whole lot better and you never run the risk of cutting your hands and wrists and bleeding out all over your nice fancy clothes!
These particular sets were sent from Lahore by one of M's very distant almost-relatives as a gift for me. I've never worn them because they are slightly small. These bracelets, because of how rigid they are, come in many different sizes. But have you seen most Pakistani women? They are often tiny. And therefore have tiny, delicate wrists. So it can sometimes be difficult to find these chooriyan in a size that will fit my big American wrists.
Buying choori is also a fun experience. The first time I went to buy choori with M after we were married was in a small shop in Houston where we paid $25 for a set similar to the ones above - with maybe 3-4 slightly nicer ones spaced throughout the set that had hanging bells on them - and they weren't even glass, they were metal.
Before we traveled to Pakistan for the first time, we knew we'd want to stock up on choori while we were there because they'd be so much cheaper. But I was really surprised at how cheap they were, and these sets cost less than a dollar. As you can imagine we bought a lot of them. They wrapped them all up in tissue paper or old telephone book pages, and we tried to pack them up so they wouldn't all break on the way.
You can also buy plain kinds of choori to wear everyday or to use in designing your own sets of them.
And you can also buy much more elaborate and expensive ones. They often come with bells or tiny chandelier-looking things that hang off of them, or even mirrors, wire work and gemstones on them.
In the picture below are some of my old wedding bangles. The top one is from our actual nikah or wedding ceremony. That set had some red glass choori with gold glitter on them, and some of these larger metal choori throughout the set with mirror accents on them. It was a "bridal" set, so it was pretty elaborately decorated, and it was two of them - one for each arm. Unfortunately, this kind of larger metal choori always makes my wrists break out in a rash, I'm not sure why.
The bottom three in the picture below are from the wedding reception we had in Pakistan a year after we were married, and they were an all-glass set with a few of those bells and glitter throughout. I like that in the picture you can see the paint on the outside of the bracelets and then you can see the clear glass too.
Below are the choori that I wear most often. They are the biggest size choori they sell, and they slip easily on and off my wrists. I can wear the next smaller size as well, but it's much harder to get them on and off, and it usually includes lotion or soap, a fair bit of coaxing, and some choori casualties along the way. Since these are so much easier, I wear them a lot more often. They're also a purply/maroon with golden paint, so they end up going with a lot of desi clothes. (The maroon/gold combo is very strong in my desi closet, for some reason.)