December 12, 2023
It was the early 1940s in Lahore, pre-partition India, when a psychology teacher named Teji Suri met the man who would become her husband. Poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a lecturer at Allahabad University, was attending an event at her college. Legend has it that when novelist Raja Mehdi Saheb asked Suri on a television program about her marriage to Bachchan, she responded by saying that her jhumka had fallen in the Bareilly market, referring to a poetry recital she and Bachchan had attended in the city, likening it to Bachchan stealing her heart. Saheb, enchanted by the response, jumped to encapsulate the sentiment into lyrics for the film Dekhoji (1947).
And so, a sensation was born. Shamshad Begum sang “Jhumka gira re, Bareilly ke bazaar mein” in 1947. Decades later, the lyrics persist, both in a 1966 rendition, and now, in 2023’s Rocky Aur Rani. “What jhumka” is a question many asked many times this year, but never really answered. While other forms of jewelry, like the hoop or choker, seem to be constantly evolving due to the latest trends, the jhumka has stayed true to its initial design for millennia. (Jhumkas from the 19th century, for example, look like jhumkas today.) So what makes jhumkas so eternal?