Low wages and high temperatures — how delicate Eid bangles go from furnace to forearms

Low wages and high temperatures — how delicate Eid bangles go from furnace to forearms

More than a dozen people can be involved in the making of a single bangle.
09 Apr, 2024

Layers of intricately decorated bangles are a staple fashion accessory for women in Pakistan, a carefully considered part of their Eidul Fitr celebrations.

More than a dozen people can be involved in the making of a single bangle, from sweltering factories to the homes of designers who skilfully decorate them by hand.

“Whatever the fashion trends, when we attend any event and wear any outfit it feels incomplete without bangles,” said 42-year-old Talat Zahid, who uses beads, stitching and embroidery to embellish bangles.

“Even if you don’t wear jewellery but wear bangles or a bracelet with your outfit, the outfit looks complete.” In the lead-up to this week’s Eidul Fitr festivities that mark the end of Ramazan, market stalls are adorned with a glittering array of colourful bangles, each turned over and inspected for their beauty and imperfections by women who haggle for a good price.

They are often sold by the dozen, starting at around Rs150 and rising to Rs1,000 as stones and silk are added.

Hyderabad is home to the delicate “churi” glass bangle, where a single furnace can produce up to 100 bangles an hour from molten glass wire shaped around an iron rod.

The work is arduous and frustrating — labourers are exposed to oppressive temperatures in unregulated factories prone to frequent power cuts, while the fragile glass threads can snap easily.

“The work is done without a fan. If we turn on the fan the fire is extinguished. So the heat intensity is high. As it becomes hotter our work slows down,” said 24-year-old Sameer, who followed his father into the industry and earns less than the minimum wage of Rs32,000 a month.

After the partition of British-ruled India in 1947, migrating Muslims who had produced bangles in the Indian city of Firozabad took their trade to Hyderabad — where hundreds of thousands of people rely on the industry.

But soaring gas prices after the government slashed subsidies have forced many factories to close or to operate at reduced hours.

“The speed at which the government has increased the gas prices and taxes, (means) the work in this area has started to shrink instead of expand,” said 50-year-old factory owner Muhammad Nafees.

Most bangles leave the factory as plain loops, sent off to be embellished to different degrees by women who work from home, before they’re finally passed on to traders to be sold in markets.

The production is often a family affair.

Saima Bibi, 25, works from home, carefully adding stones to bangles with the help of her three children when they return from school, while her husband works at the furnaces.

“They go through a lot of hands to be prepared,” she said.

Originally published in Dawn, April 9th, 2024.


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Syed Hasni Apr 09, 2024 01:55pm
True art is not just about creating something beautiful, but about evoking emotions and telling a story. The Glassblower of Murano I think it's time for someone to write a book about our beloved Hyderabad glassblowers- Mira Sethi is a good contender. I see the similar theme of family and the connection to one's heritage. The protagonist, Nafees, discovers his family's long history of glassblowing in Hyderabad, and through his journey, he learns about the significance of carrying on the traditions and values of his ancestors.
Taj Ahmad Apr 09, 2024 05:04pm
Simply beautiful and amazing, let it go.
HUMAYUN KHAN Apr 09, 2024 09:10pm
Thanks for sharing this. I am really touched by this article. please let me know how to help them. br Humayun
Fast comment Apr 10, 2024 08:09am
The bangles factories use very toxic & harmful chemicals in procedures. The old method still in use in Hyderabad- Sindh. Some better way out should be invented by manufacturers. Check out how Indians are producing glass bangles these days.
Zain Apr 10, 2024 11:47am
32k per month in this economy. You should've highlighted how those people whose art produces these are exploited so much