Traditional puja thalis have acquired a designer touch. And Hyderabadis splurge on made-to-order gifts for the festive season, finds Sangeetha Devi Dundoo
Danseuse Deepika Reddy loves to visit the chudi bazaar near Charminar to buy colourful lac bangles by the dozen. Shopping isn’t a bad idea when there’s a wedding and a sari-tying ceremony in the family and a line-up of festivals during Sravanamasam. “There’s an emphasis on puja thalis and return gifts given as thamboolam these days. My gifts are not lavish, but they are carefully chosen and artistically gift wrapped. There’s a touch of Andhra tradition to it and I like the gifts to reflect my personality. I like to give away the gifts in Kalamkari or Pochampalli cloth bags,” she explains. The art of gifting for the sake of custom has transformed into gifting a utility item, she points out. How about multi-coloured lac bangles with stones that women can match with any outfit? The idea is to make people cherish the gift.
Puja thalis were traditionally sourced from wholesale dealers and retailers in set patterns. In recent years, puja thalis have a designer feel to them. The customary thamboolam included a blouse piece, betel leaves, haldi-kumkum packets and bananas. The new additions include made-to-order chocolates, saris, dry fruits, imported apples or pears, silver coins and custom-made kumkum-akshantalu boxes.
Larger stores and designers are ready with fresh stocks of Indian wear, jewellery and puja thalis. Smaller stores in General Bazaar, R.P. Road, Monda Market, Begum Bazaar and Koti stock small pouches or cloth potlis for gifts. The prices begin at Rs. 20. Women specialising in gift wrapping, home-made chocolates and traditional Andhra cuisine have orders to meet.
Neighbourhood chains of stores like Swagruha see brisk sale of traditional sweets and savouries. Freshly-made pulihora and bobbatlu are available on festive occasions. Working women have turned to caterers to organise traditional lunches during pujas. “Even for traditional occasions, people incorporate a few North Indian or continental snacks to cater to North Indian and Marwari friends invited to these festivals. While Kakinada kajas, kajjikayalu and bobbatlus are in demand, they also order Bengali sweets for the calorie conscious,” says Atul Mehta of Atul Caterers.
Rakhi is big business with the festival being celebrated by South Indian families as well. Jewellery designer Suhani Pittie has orders for rakhi/puja thalis and silver gift objects. She says, “People don’t mind spending more. Instead of the regular round puja thalis, they like square or oval thalis. Use of opaque stones or cut stones is also appreciated. There are new designs in silver coins and kumkum-akshantalu boxes, agarbathi and dhoop stands.” Does all this mean business is back to usual? “People were careful with their expenditure and bought only what they want. Things are looking up this month with more weddings and festivals,” she says. To cater to clientele that had veered away from designer ware due to recession blues, designers are exploring different price segments. A puja thali that would, for example, Rs. 600 at a regular silver store, would cost Rs. 750 at a designer store.
When there’s an urge to splurge, who’s complaining?