How my beeji’s hasli necklace was worth much more than all my jewelry?

I have always had a strong fascination with jewelry. I feel it has the unquestionable ability to bring out the best in a woman’s features, making her feel beautiful and confident. For me, a look for any special occasion is incomplete without the right kind of jewelry. Over the years, I have added stunning pieces of jewelry to my collection- glittering gold and scintillating diamond pieces decorated with rubies, emeralds and pearls. I like to collect distinct ornaments that represent varied styles of craftsmanship- the South Indian temple jewelry, the Mughal Jadau designs, the Persian Meenakari or the Rajasthani Kundan designs.

But nothing melted my heart more than the memory of a necklace that I had dreamed of wearing all through my childhood. I would imagine as a kid how that necklace would perfectly adorn my neck one day. The necklace belonged to my beeji (dadi). She was an extremely elegant and graceful woman in her time. I still remember the portrait shot of her and my grandfather at a family wedding, framed beautifully in our living room. Every time I looked at it, I would just marvel at her beauty and grace. But what caught my eye every time was a royal-looking haar (necklace) that she wore. On some special occasions, beeji would go to the locker, get the haar and complete her outfit with this gorgeous ornament. And the haar always added something special to her beauty.

This haar was a statement necklace called a hasli- a collar-like neckpiece that sits beautifully on the wearer’s neck. Made in 22k carat gold, this necklace was decorated with stunning emeralds and rubies. The pink and green hues of these gemstones against the striking gold, and a floral motif hanging from the center added a fine touch of grandiosity to its design. Yet, it wasn’t just for its intricate craftsmanship or the exquisite design, this piece held a strong sentimental value for me. Amongst the many stories that my beeji told me, the one about this necklace rings loud and clear in my memory.

My beeji had told me a lovely story of why my grandfather had bought this necklace for her. Being an army man, he was unable to be home for his first wedding anniversary. And so he decided to say sorry with this necklace. He had visited the famous Jagdish Jewelers in Chandigarh and spent hours selecting the perfect haar for beeji because he felt for someone as elegant as dadi, the haar must do true justice. Along with the haar, he had written a beautiful love letter for beeji professing his love and expressing his apology. To me, the necklace represented a beautiful love story that stayed true all their lives. Even at 90, they were the cutest couple I had ever known.

When my bua’s first daughter was born, my beeji gifted this necklace to her. But bua never wore it as she always thought it was a little heavy. All the years, bua just kept this necklace in her locker and never really donned it. When beeji passed away, she left all of us with many pieces of jewelery- my mom, me, and bua. I was happy to inherit all these heirlooms but my heart still wished for that one necklace. But I never said anything. A year later, I was talking to bua and she told me how she was planning to get the hasli necklace redesigned as she would never be able to wear it. I was hesitant but this time, I decided to ask bua if she would be willing to give me the necklace in exchange for all the jewelry that I inherited from beeji. To my surprise and happiness, bua was more than willing to exchange it. I gave beeji’s 2 necklace, a jhumki and 2 bangles to bua in exchange for this hasli necklace. My mother and bua were confused and found this childish but wearing my beeji’s hasli necklace meant so much more to me than any other jewelry ever could.

Adorning this timeless and oh-so-precious necklace brings a sense of nostalgia and happiness for me, sometimes welling up my eyes. It is easy for memories to slip away through our fingers with the passage of time but jewelry stays forever. I feel a strange exhilaration when I look at this necklace, carrying the weight of the many stories that it holds. Even today, no matter how many jewelry pieces I buy, this haar will always hold the most special place in my heart. A symbol of my grandparent’s true love, a testament of my grandmother’s beauty and carrying memories of the many occasions it has been worn by beeji.