The tinkle of payals

Ask any mother why she wants a daughter and buried somewhere among all the other chaff is the truth – we’re just little girls at heart and we want to play dress up.

The Bean and I were at Nana home and I was playing in Ma’s costume jewellery drawers, pulling out beads, holding up earrings, separating the silver that needed to be polished. The Brat took a bunch of beautiful old heavy silver bracelets with coins hanging from them and tied up a dragon and began a complicated story about a fire breathing dragon tied up in chains.

The Bean sat with us and sorted out amethysts from tiger’s eyes from jade to be re-strung for her mother. And then we found an old pair of payals. I’ve never liked payals on little kids for some strange reason – maybe because I associate the tinkling with a blushing bride and seeing them on kids bothers me. Kids should just come pattering down the corridor; the slap of barefeet on stone floors is all I need to make me smile.

But this is one set I fell in love with. It was bought for me by my mother on a trip to Hyderabad. It was too big when it arrived but I insisted on wearing it because the design was so pretty. The toe ring kept sliding off and I had to finally admit defeat and give it back to ma. Of course we forgot all about it and by the time we rediscovered it, I had outgrown it and was forcing my long feet and hobbling around painfully. Yes, I can be stubborn like that. Anyhow, I eventually gave up the idea and put it away, telling myself I’d have a daughter someday who’d wear is.

It says something for how time flies that I can remember all of this like yesterday and yet, I already have a daughter (whoulda thunk it!) who eagerly slipped her toes into it. Time has a nasty habit of shuffling along through a bad Monday morning, dragging it’s feet over Tuesday and then taking a flying leap twenty years ahead.

I’d just been painting her toenails after mine and I carefully slipped the silver payals onto her feet. It hit me like a Β blow to the gut. Suddenly her ugly, stubby, miniature OA toes (I sent him a pic and he had the gall to respond with – ugly bloody toes!) looked almost bridal. The contrast was brutal. Bridal payals on baby feet. And I began to think of balika badhus. Child brides. What must it be like to send your precious little daughter off to a stranger’s home at the age of ten when I’m not willing to let my son go down in the lift at the age of 6. It is all a matter of the times you live in I suppose and I’m sure I’d have been one of those bride’s mothers who cried and collapsed in a heap as the palanquin turned the corner and disappeared from sight. I still will be. Be sure you’re here to hold my hands if I’m still blogging.

Anyway, the payals were too big for the Bean too and within minutes with the childish amnesia that kids are famous for, she slipped them off and scampered off to play with the dogs and the fish in the pond. Leaving me sitting there holding a tiny pair of payals in my hand and wondering what Ma feels like to have her daughter and her grand daughter back in her arms even if it is just for a few days.

It also reminds me of when we dressed her up in a little Bengali saree sent to her by Sue (thanks again, Sue!) for some school event. The kids were asked to come in ethnic wear and I didn’t want her to go in a salwar suit or lehenga because they aren’t really what we wear. She ended up being the only 2.5 year old in a saree! She Β came back from school with the saree still in fairly good condition and I was impressed. I’m hoping someday she’ll Β value the extensive saree collection I will leave behind for her.

The bindi suited her to a tee and she had a butterfly cleep in her hair

Excited and ready to leave for school, pointing to the door

This one is my favourite. Little baby toes peeping out from under her saree. Very Balika Badhu (the original movie).




91 thoughts on “The tinkle of payals

  1. Whattay cutie in that sari… such a little memsaab. And you are right, the real reason we want daughters is so we have someone to dress up, or play dress up with.

  2. Hi,
    Delurking for the first time. Have been following your blog from ages. I really admire your writing style. Just had to comment today.The Bean looks awfully cute. She reminds me of my niece a lot. Love the beanisms and brattisms. Have introduced your blog to many of my friends and they also lurk around your blog *Embarassed smile*.

  3. Lovely payals. I somehow prefer silver, over gold. So chic and classy it looks. And the Bean, mashaallah !!!!

    I have a pic of myself taken when I was 6-7 months, dresses in a red banarsi saree, and some jewelry, for my “mukhe bhaat”. Sadly, I am bawling my lungs out in all the snaps. The heat/humidity/too much attention had gotten to me I suppose :P…but its still my fav pic of myself πŸ˜€

  4. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl. I want a baby girl.

    You think if, say, copy+pasted it a 108 times every day in a word doc, I will get a baby girl (and perhaps, the man to make one with? ;))

    Your little Beanie girl turned me into a mush puddle, early in the morning.

  5. I also dont like payals on little girls, dont know why. It seems inappropriate somehow.
    Bean looks adorable in that saree and thank you for the idea. I am so sending my girl in saree when the occasion comes. She is two month old and bald, but I can keep dreaming, right! πŸ™‚

    And those payals are sooooo pretty. I want. I want! My brother’s wedding coming up. I need those. πŸ˜€

  6. Lovely payals! Am seeing this type for the first time (the payal with a toe-ring). And you are right. Looking at the feet, its difficult to assume that they belong to a little girl and not a bride πŸ˜€
    BTW, Bean is totally rocking the Sari! I can’t believe a youngster like her can look so at ease with it (I still dread to wear a Sari for fear of tripping over myself 😦 )
    And as always, it pays to have a daughter πŸ™‚

  7. aiyoo so damn cute… and i did not like the pic of her feet in payal, not because of her toes, but because yes, it reminded me of a bride’s feet. no no no… she is our cute sweet beanie dear and let her be like that for sometime

    sorry, may be i have no right to say such things, but…you know…

    • πŸ™‚ sure you do. And I agree with you. I hate little feet in payals. Or little hands in bangles. Or bindis on little foreheads. They immediately make me think of brides/married women. And if not for just playacting or in the other case, a school event, I never put them on the Bean.

  8. I have to admit this is the first time i am seeing payals like this. When i read about toe rings slipping off was wondering what do toe rings have to do with payals. All i have seen so far are the ones that go around your ankles.

    Well, may be that’s why god gave me 2 brats 😦 😦 😦
    BTW, the stubby toes look absolutely delicious to me πŸ™‚

  9. I am so glad you reposted those pics of Beanie. Made me smile so much. For some reason I thought she had worn those to school when she had to dress up as a teacher… maybe I am just mixing up.

    And those payals are gorgeous!

    • You’re probably right. I can’t remember what the deal was, but she had to wear an option of Indian wear and I picked the saree over salwar kameez because even I wear my salwar kameezes only under duress.

  10. The bean looks so cute & relaxed .She carries the saree so effortlessly .I think you had posted about this school event before although I don’t remember whether u posted photos then.The payals are very unique.I’ve never seen these type before.

  11. This is so strange! I like tinkling payals ONLY on kids (boys and girls). I find it annoying on grown-ups. And I thought that’s the case with most people. Well, what do you know!

    Other than being cute, I feel it’s also an audio indicator of the current route of your hurricane πŸ˜‰

    I also have to disagree with you on wanting daughters to play dress up. I, and a lot of other girls, want to have daughters so they can show the world there’s nothing wrong with the girls who don’t dress-up. Yeah, crafty! Our poor would be daughters.

    • πŸ™‚ I don’t think you can miss the sound of baby laughter and noise.

      The thing on wanting daughters to play dress up – err… joke? A case of tongue in cheek taken too seriously! Clearly I don’t do humour too well.

  12. For some reason, I don’t like to dress little girls up in sarees. They look awfully grown up. Payals are gorgeous… Agree with most ppl here, havent seen one like these!

  13. My little niece has eagerly worn mekhela-sador (the Assamese two-piece sari) since she was about two and loves to dance the Bihu. Very unlike both my sister and me! πŸ™‚ I’m glad she also loves jeans and shorts!

  14. I am from Hyderabad and I have never seen this particular variety of payal. Even though I dont wear them, may be I should buy one just for collection purpose.

    You know, MM, there is a reason why we are not allowed to wear gold on our feet. Gold according to us is Goddess Lakshmi and by wearing it on our feet we are insulting her.

    I also know that there is a health purpose behind this. Silver is very good for health and it works wonders for my aunt. I belive silver is good for your ankles and prevents aches in the foot region. Similarly there is a reason as to why we should wear bangles…i heard its good for women’s reproductive system….dont know how this works. In fact, I read an article which specifies the scientific significance for all our Indian accessories that women have to wear. Intersting right.

    Btw, Bean looks so cute in that saree…wish I could carry myself so well in a saree.

    • Very interesting reasons and most of them are right I hear. I do wish we could find a study on this though.

      We have no belief regarding gold being sacred which is why we wear it freely. I am rather grateful for that because I am allergic to all metals other than gold and would have to keep my arms and legs bare!

      But some communities do wear them on the feet too, don’t they? would you know which ones? Rajputs I think? I have worn gold payals for years and am planning on toe rings too – my mother too has mostly worn gold toe rings.

      • MM, I do know what Preethi is talking about here.Apparently, wearing gold for anything below the waist level is disrespectul to the Goddess Lakshmi. So toe-rings, anklets, waist chains, etc are always made only in silver.

        I have a two year old girl, and right from the morning when she wakes up and comes running to find me, till when we do a cuddling good night, the single lovely sound of her thick anklets keeps me smiling. I love them on baby girls, and have bought several of them for her. And I did put them on my SON too ( ! ) till he was two – as is the custom in many south indian ( tamil ?? ) houses – more as an indicator for me to track which room he is being naughty in !!

        As for elders wearing the same, UGH! is all I can say.. Imagine a middle aged neighbour doing jhal-jhal-jhal while walking down quiet cool corridors of my apartment.. audible even in my innermost room of my house, and you will hate it too.. Reminds me of Z-grade horror movies…

        One more qn. Women who wear anklets on a daily basis… what do you ppl do when you err, um .. sleep with your hubby ?? Do you take them off before getting busy? What about their embarrasing noise heard even outside a locked door ??

        • So yeah, that might be a Tam thing. In the North all married women wear payals, ever the older ones. Toe rings are only for married women but most young girls wear it as an accessory and I don’t know anyone orthodox enough to prevent them anymore. Walk down the road in any market and you will see the cutest little designs. Very funky. I think widows are meant to stop wearing them. I personally find the whole newly wed look very appealing. It’s everything I am not, but love to smile at – the red sindoor, the tinkle of payals, the clink of bangles. … It’s delicate and musical. And no, definitely not for my son! He did wear nazariyas (little black and gold beads for the evil eye) that a friend gave. I’d not have put it on him if it weren’t for the fact that she gave it with so much love.

          My current payals are slim gold chains – the kind you wear around your neck. They don’t make any sound and look very pretty – I wear only one, anyway and it doesn’t even look bad with my jeans. They make no sound regardless of whether I am busy or not πŸ˜‰

          • But some communities do wear them on the feet too, don’t they? would you know which ones? – We does! your peeps, The Malayalees. I’m not going to veer into controversial territory by suggesting ALL malayalees do, but I can speak for my family and we wear both gold and silver anklets. I’ve worn mine precisely once, for my wedding and don’t think I will ever again.

    • I’m so glad you brought this up, Preethi. My husband’s family is from Hyderabad and we’ve had this discussion about wearing anklets, bangles, nose rings, bindis etc…most of which I dislike deeply. My mum-in-law brought up the benefits of wearing the aforementioned accessories and I was very iintrigued. Do you have a link to the article that talks about the health benefits? I’d be very interested to read it.

  15. MM, I didnt mean to say that anybody who weard gold on their feet is insulting Goddess Lakshmi…i was just stating what I heard. Sorry for that.Even in my region, some people(belonging to Raju community) wear gold anklets. Nowadays, my mom wears toe rings made of panchloha(something similar), they look like coppery gold and it is believed to be very good for health.

    I love the simple anklets, the ones that make little or no sound. In Singapore, I usually see the litlle kids wearing only one anklet. I remember from your Goa pics that you also wear only one anklet πŸ™‚

    • No, no.. you didn’t and I didn’t think so. I think all metals worn on the body are good for health, but there is also the matter of suiting you, so its nice to have an option.

  16. Awww – your daughter looks like a total doll :)) I absolutely adore payals, but can’t wear them for more than a short while coz I find them so damn uncomfortable, itchy and poky! I can never resist buying them – especially the beady ones – but I hardly ever wear them. Same with toe-rings – I hurt myself every time I attempt wearing them 😦 Maybe I’m wearing them with the wrong footwear.

  17. Awww! Beanieee! Im going to squish her! πŸ˜€ And yet again you made me long for a second child – a GIRL this time… ONLY because I want to dress her up…

    Muuuaaaww to Beanie.

  18. Funny! The better half and me were discussing about the very same thing y’day – he hates payals and bindis and kala tikas on kids. I don’t particularly like the kala tikas and bindis but I love the sound of payals on little ones. πŸ™‚ Personally, I LOVE anklets, whether they are worn by adults or kids.

    This is the first time I am seeing a payal with toe rings too. They look amazing. They look wonderful on the Bean, though I must admit, they do look like the feet of a bride.

    The Bean carries off the saree look so well – as if she has worn it almost every day! She looks adorable. Super cute! πŸ™‚

    BTW as some others have already commented, we have a belief in our family too about wearing gold ornaments on body parts below the waist. It is supposed to be disrespectful to Goddess Lakshmi. I have also seen some people rocking them though, and they look quite classy. I have heard about the scientific reasons for women wearing various ornaments too, specially the nose ring. It is supposed to aid an easy childbirth.

  19. pretty pretty payals. and pretty pretty bean.

    and yes, i wanted to play dress up dress up with a daughter. at five we have already reached the point we would reach in her teen years- she does not approve of my dress sense-i dont approve of hers.
    pink with more pink. frocks over shorts. frills over funk.
    and my funk over formals has the little nose turned up in disgust.
    oh dear, she is reading out loud over my shoulder, have to stop NOW!

  20. uff. they are NOT ugly toes. next – i will personally come by and dhaap you. they are perfectly wonderful little baby girl toes. however my humble two penny advice is not to paint them as they lose their colour ! i say this as my fingernails are impeccably pink as i have hardly ever painted them in my life unlike my toe nails !

    • no no.. i never paint them. hate paint on little girl toes too, but she begged and the summer holidays were on, no school to scare her with, so i let her have her evil way.

  21. oh PS – i have succumbed to baby girl dress up mania. my niece has adopted an adorable little doll – and yesterday i picked up this amazing pink and white kurta pajama set for her. check out her pics on my FB page…

  22. I am yet to put payal or put saari on my little one… wify has tried to convince me.. girl is 6 years old…
    the whole thought of she growing up and leaving me somehow kills me.. and that is why i do not want to here tinkles

    She did had/ does have payals, but without tinkles

    like most of the people from UP… I think I am gonna some tough time to the kid who will be with my daughter

    Wife had asked me once how will i feel if she hangs out with a kid from other nation.. and i said that it dosent matters to me… what matters is that kid treats my girl properly…

    please cut off parts of the comments cause you have global coverage

    Also, did you had a chance to see the video?

      • I am a big MF..

        To me it doesnt matter who she chooses.. what matters me is that she does not have to travel to theese stupid countries…
        that is where I do not have control…

        kid, i am 5″9 and i weigh 140 pnd.. but all along i was the fighter..
        you will not beleive that people open doors for me in office when i walk in..

  23. Bah, you Northie! I see your Tamil blood has retreated in sheer outrage over this :):) Payals SHOULD be worn by children – the noisier the better! And yes, both genders, with boys wearing “Thandais” – they look like bangles – they’re hollow and filled with beads, so make a noise.

    And before your N.Indian readership ups and attacks me, will state that I am joking – I understand that preferences in Indian clothing for children are very region specific, so to me, saris on little girls are disturbing while lehngas are the norm, and the reverse is true for you.

    BTW, the no-gold-below-the-waist rule was apparently waived for most royalty who were held to be direct descendants of various Gods in many cases. Some years ago, a way around this was for folks to melt down the old 20ps coin (remember them – the brass alloy ones) – and make payals that were very gold looking – they didn’t blacken with time etc.

    I used to have a set of payals like the ones you posted – mine were costume jewellery though, part of a large collection of junk I owned as a kid – most of it was bought in B’lore, so must have been around then…they were called “marwari payals” – at least in my memory. (Though, in the Bangalore of that time, anything non-S.Indian was usually deemed “Seth” stuff so who knows!)

    • LOL! nope. the Tamil side of the family doesn’t put payals on kids either. Maybe Tamil Hindus do and Christians don’t. AND people do put payals and bangles in the north too. It’s not regional, its personal for me. I have no idea. And no, sarees are not the norm in the north, but in Bengal. Geez – Southie with no idea beyond own borders :p
      I think I want to be royalty in that case. They seem to get all the sops.

      • Dude! To a true southerner, Bengal *is* in N. India! πŸ™‚ and yes I realized that was the origin of your saris-are-ok-but-not-suits bias. And of course Royalty is the way to go. With the attendant money of course!

  24. Where I grew up, I’m used to li’l anklets on babies’ feet..boys or girls. Alerting people when they move their feet while on their back or when they learn to crawl. They come off only when the baby is a li’l over a year old. But again, I had anklets of the β€˜regular’ kind in mind. The payal you have, sure does remind me of brides…something very gorgeous and adult-like about them.

    N my my..the beanie looks very very very cute in that sari. Please do something to ward off the evil-eyes.You get saris that are small enuf for 2 yr olds or is that a regular 6-yard that you cut up or something?

    N sigh! Girl babies!

    • Yes, this is special. Babies only have tinkly payals and bracelets. I think I also don’t like the way they look with onesies, shorts and little dresses.
      In Bengal you get little sarees of this kind for girls of every age group. You don’t need to cut a regular one.

  25. My mom made my sister and I wear noisy anklets until we were almost 2 years old. She said it would alert her to when we were crawling around or when we had woken up in the crib.. πŸ™‚ And I find the sound of a just-learning-to-walk-baby wearing anklets adorable πŸ™‚ I always wore noisy ones as a kid at festive occasions. Amma always says it helped her know where I was. And if it was too quiet, it definitely meant that we were up to some quiet mischief! πŸ™‚ Its only now that I’ve started preferring the tinkly-mild bridal ones πŸ™‚ Maybe its a community thing? A Tam-Brahm thing maybe? Most of the little kids in my family grew up wearing anklets..

    • I’m sure that is it… since most of you who spoke up are Tam Brahms, you say. But it’s very common in the North too else I’d have never have seen it since I didn’t grow up knowing any Tam Brahms.

      I know what you mean about knowing where babies are πŸ™‚ But its one of my many aesthetic grouses like bindis with western wear and sneakers with salwar suits!

  26. Oh and on another unconnected note… maybe you shouldn’t refer to the Bean’s toes and fingers as stubby? My grandmother’s mother did that to my grandmother and till date she has such a complex about her toes and fingers. I’ve told her a million times that it doesnt matter that her toes and fingers arent long and graceful.. after all she has brought up, hugged and held children and grandchildren, but she refuses to get over it.. I had the same problem with people at home teasing my hairy legs as I grew up (unfortunate genes inherited from my appa) It was never intended to hurt, but till now I’m not entirely comfortable wearing shorts and skirts.. I’m only slowing getting over it.. When I have kids, I would never want to say something that makes my children feel even mildly uncomfortable about their body.. Just a thought!

    • Actually I hope when you have kids you do tease them and let them lighten up. Criticising is one thing, teasing another. I find a lot of us treat our kids like they don’t have the strength to face up to their inadequacies. My nose has been the butt (eh?) of all jokes since I was a kid, but that is the entire point – it was a joke. At some point you have to stop taking yourself so seriously and be able to laugh at yourself. To be aware – that okay, this body part is not perfect, but it’s funny and I should be able to laugh.
      What would be terrible is if I told the Bean her feet were ugly and she should wear closed shoes so as to not draw attention to them. Instead, we tease her, but we paint her toenails radium orange and dress the same stubby toes up with payals. They’re stubby ugly toes but we love and celebrate them anyway.
      I think it balances out the fact that I rock her sleep in my arms crooning ‘my darling, my pretty baby, my beautiful shona..’ Don’t want her to grow up thinking too much of herself either πŸ˜‰

  27. First off – Beanie is so cute! I remember that Saree pic when you first posted it. And the feet do look all grown up with the payal and the nailpolish!

    Totally with you on why we want little girls – I am currently pregnant and will know in 26 hours what I am having and a selfish part of me really really wants a girl..bad! I wonder if I will be disappointed if they tell me its a boy! I wonder if I will cry! I wonder if I will feel guilty that I am having a boy and all I want is a little girl! I am sure you can relate as I remember you really wanting a girl! How did you react when you had a boy the first time? I am sure you talked about it sometime but I do not remember.

    Also when you were describing the payal, I was wondering what the toe ring part of the payal was. I am from Hyderabad originally and I can say this is the first time I have seen payals with toe rings. The ones we usually wear (and make little girls wear) are more anklet style without a toe ring! I can see why the toe ring especially for South Indians would signify a bride/marriage.

    • Sammy, Sammy.. have you had the baby yet? We’re pacing and chewing on our nails. Done with fingers and am now down to toes.

      Me? I cried for 3 hours and refused to nurse him. A poster girl for mothers I am certainly not.

      • hehe..I am not close to having the baby yet..just completed 20 weeks/about 5 months so exactly half way there I think! or a little less.

        But we found out that we are having a GIRL!!!! YIPPEEE!!! I am so excited. I told myself a gazillion times telling myself my reaction at the dr. office should be of excitement even if it was a boy but I JUST wasn’t feeling it!! I was jumping up and down after I heard from the tech it is going to be a girl! I asked her three times to confirm for sure and she said she is very very sure it is a girl and she said to come hunt her down if it turns out to be a boy!! Ahh..cannot contain my excitement.

        Funny story is: My dear husband and I want two kids and we decided that if we end up having 2 boys, we are going to adopt a little girl.

        • πŸ™‚ awesome. So can I take the liberty of saying I dont believe little sammy is having a baby? I feel so tickled each time one of you announces a baby here. Almost like watching people grow up. So now, eat well, read lots, kick the husband around and have a blast … don’t worry about weight gain. It all melts off if you want it to. hugs.

          • Thank you! I have definitely stopped worrying about the weight gain. It just seems to pile on no matter what I do or don’t do. I am not eating a lot more than I used to so I am hoping it is all baby :)! I am determined to lose this weight mostly because none of my Indian wear fits me anymore :(! I am hoping the thousands of rupees stuck in a closet (and the thousands of miles from a decent store that sells Indian wear) will be enough motivation?!

  28. very pretty!! I noticed her index finger is shorter than her middle, my toes are like that and I was made fun of by my sis & my cousins for that 😦 but hers look pretty πŸ™‚

    • Oh we tease her and we’re teaching her to laugh at herself. The Brat too sticks his toes in my face and says – look ma, I have Dada’s ugly toes. And then we all roll on the bed and laugh. It’s a good balance because too many people look at the Brat (not so much the Bean) and go – what a good looking boy. It’s healthy to balance it out with his stubby toes πŸ™‚

  29. Ah and sigh ! at the same time. Having a daughter is such a dream come true for most and the sigh for the fact that by the time you are dreaming of dressing her up, you find her standing next to you shoulder to shoulder.

  30. Ole babe the Bean looks like a little Bengali doll! So sweet! I had tiny sari when I was little, in yellow chiffon no less…I guess an influence of the famous Yash Chopra movies of the day πŸ™‚

  31. Our side of kerala we associate padaswaram, bangles etc with childhood memories. It reminds one of care free days.

    Bean look so lovely in saree ( in all attrire πŸ™‚

  32. Pingback: Matching, matching! | The Girl Next Door

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