Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Girl’s Guide to Mysore, Part Seven – My Indian Nose Bling

I got my nose pierced on a lovely fall day in NYC’s East Village. Accompanied by my good friend Jenna, I chose a simple gold stud and kept it in for over a year. My mother had strictly forbid me to even think about doing such a deed. “It’s gross,” she insisted. But after her initial repulsion, even mama conceded that it looked cute on me!

I’ve always been fond of and fascinated by body adornment, what girl isn’t? I played with henna in high school, contemplated (but thankfully never completed) dozens of tattoo options, and even rocked a bellybutton ring for a hot sixteen-year-old second.

In India, nose piercings are much more than common. I’d estimate that in the city of Mysore a good 70-85% of adult women have piercings in their nostril. What my fairly liberal and usually accepting American mother thought was “gross” is almost a required mark of femininity here on the subcontinent. Some of the piercings I’ve seen are on the left nostril, like mine. Apparently your region of origin determines which nostril you pierce, as I have also seen my fair share of right ones. I’ve even seen both nostrils pierced (yes, Brittany Lauren Groth, believe it).

I think the jewelry is just magnificent. There are no miniscule diamond studs bashfully hiding on these noses! The designs are larger than we’re used to seeing in the U.S., and extraordinarily ornate. My favorites are round shaped studs, almost like undersized coins, with details including balls, curves, flowers, and indentations. There are also hoops, complete with diamond embellishments and dangling ornaments.

I immediately knew India would be the place to update my sniffer’s style (sorry, couldn’t help the alliteration). I couldn’t find any suitable jewelry in the markets popular with tourists. Obviously the women in Mysore are getting their bling somewhere else. Deeper downtown, I guess I stumbled on the jewelry district. On Ashok Road there are tons of jewelers; it’s gold and silver galore! But I actually purchased my new ornament right in Gokulam at Ashwin Jewel Palace (right across the street form Nilgris Grocery). Problem number one: I couldn’t get my nose ring out! After days of gentle experimentation, and a little coconut oil (India’s cure all) I managed to slide it out last night. Success! Problem number two: I couldn’t get my new nose ring in.

Apparently the gauge my piercer used is totally common in the U.S., but a tad smaller than the Indian norm. Also, we’re used to using a simple one-piece nose ring. Imagine a tiny nail inserted through the piercing and then gently bent to keep it secure. Indians usually use a more complicated two-piece stud. One piece is a screw with the design on it…and the other piece is a larger tube with a stopper on it, into which the screw piece will twist. The tube-like piece is inserted into the nose from the inside, and then the screw piece is put into place and twister from the outside.

Confused? Yeah, me too. Try doing this alone, with your hands (which you now realize are, compared to your nostril, HUGE) and an unsuitably sized hole. Fail.

Luckily, I live next door to a beauty salon. They advertise full-scale bridal makeovers, and since jewelry is such an important part of the Indian bride’s look, I thought they might offer piercing services.

It took all eight hands belonging to four Indian women (all with nose piercings, by the way) about six minutes to insert my new jewelry, but here it is! They didn’t even charge me, I guess they don’t actually offer piercing services, but still insisted that they do it. I’ll be sure to see them again for a pedicure. The design is 22-karat gold. I liked the shape because it almost resembles a heart. It’s still super subtle compared to a lot of the fantastic jewelry I’ve seen here, but after all, I am going to mom’s house for the holiday’s…hope she approves!

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