Monday, January 29, 2007

Piercing babies' ears - the gun replaces tradition, but a lot is lost

Little N turned seven months old and it was high time we got her ears pierced. Yes, I know, just even saying it sounds gruesome, but it needed to be done (family tradition, culture and all that good stuff, plus I didn't want her to lose valuable real estate to park precious earrings, studs and jhumkis when she got older). So Little N and I went yesterday to Ganjam Nagappa on Infantry Road.

These days if you want anything pierced, ears, nose, navel or other assorted body parts, apparently that's what you do - you go to a jeweller or the doctor or to a beauty salon, where the "piercer" will place a gun loaded with the stud against the relevant body part and shoot it and a second later, the pointy end is nestled neatly in its lock behind.

This is a far cry from the ear piercing ceremonies I remember growing up. Parents would arrange for a goldsmith known to them to arrive on an auspicious day and at an auspicious time and have the baby bathed and dressed in a new dress. After a small puja, with the rest of the family hovering around nervously, the mother would settle down on the floor in front of the goldsmith with the baby in her lap and the baby's arms held firmly in her own hands.

The goldsmith would have his minimal paraphernalia ready - coconut oil and two thin, delicate, pointy needles made of gold about an inch long. He would dab the baby's ear lobes with the coconut oil and pick up one of the gold needles and pierce one of the lobes with it. Right on cue, the baby would start bawling, but the goldsmith would move quickly to complete the process with the other ear lobe. The ends would be left hanging until the baby had calmed down sufficiently when the goldsmith would quickly twist them locked.

This would be followed by an arathi where two of the older women in the family waved a plate, with turmeric and kumkum mixed with water, in a circular motion three times in front of the mother and baby to ward off the evil eye.

A few days later, the goldsmith would replace the gold needles with earrings or studs of the parents' (or mother and grandmother's) choice.

While I was not expecting the warmth and fussing over the baby that are the hallmarks of the ear piercings of my memory, the process at Ganjam's still left a lot to be desired.

For one, although I had talked to the lady in charge of piercings in advance and told her I would be there at a particular time, it took her fifteen minutes to even come see us. By the time she organized her paraphernalia - the gun, the studs, a ballpoint pen to mark the spots on the ear lobes where the studs would go, and some kind of a disinfecting solution - and she settled us down in a chair in a small, dark back office, the shop lost power. A few lights stayed on in the showroom, but the back office had no light.

Power was out for a good half-an-hour during which time I wondered whether a store like Ganjam's could not afford a generator to keep lights on in their offices. Then even those few lights went out. By this time it was a good hour since we got to the store and the ear piercer had disappered. I located her attending to some clients in the far end of the show room.

She had not only made no attempts to locate an alternative to the back office, some place that had sufficient natural light, but she had also busied herself with someone else. It was ironic, since there were atleast ten other saleswomen who were sitting around the store twiddling their thumbs.

By this time, Little N was hungry and was looking to be fed. I managed to distract her hoping that we could finish what we had come for and leave shortly.

When the power finally came back on, we were back in the cramped office. As expected, Little N bawled the second the stud pierced her ear lobe. The piercer quickly moved on to the other ear lobe and the job was done. Little N continued crying and as I tried to console her, I asked the piercer to leave us for a few minutes (she kept shaking her ID card in front of Little N's face which was not helping at all).

Little N continued sobbing and did not feel like feeding. The lady came back into the room and said Little N was crying a lot. I was taken aback. What else did she expect? And it had hardly been two minutes since she left the room. She tried to shush Little N down. I decided to leave.

To me, it appeared that that she was concerned about a baby's crying spoiling the ambience of Ganjam's jewellery store, which was totally unwarranted.

If Ganjam wants to provide the service of piercing babies' ears, they should do a way better job of preparing themselves and their store for it. Why not dedicate a small room, close to natural light? If they are so concerned that their other patrons might be disturbed by a baby's crying, locate the room away from the main showroom. It's not as if they don't have enough space or financial resources. I realize that piercing ears is a low margin activity, but if that is a concern then they should not hold themselves out as a provider of that service at all.

Little N calmed down as soon as we got out of the store and did well on the ride back home and at home the rest of the day.

While I accomplished what I set out to do, I wish it had gone better than it did.

27 comments:

Thenraj said...

Now a days people started thinking of time is precious..this happening only in city areas, even now in my town one month back my niece got her ear pierced, for that my uncle and cousin invited everybody in our relatives and friends and made the event very grand, in olden days as there were no communication devices like now people can meet their relatives only in these kind of occasion, now everything is becoming extinct. Sad na??

Sujatha Bagal said...

That's a sweet tradition. It is a bit sad that there is no time for such elaborate rituals any more.

mumbaigirl said...

My sympathies are entirely with little N. Sometimes I wonder if the old method is less painful than the gun and whether the thin knotted gold earrings were more comfortable. My ears were pierced the traditional way when I was a baby and then much later I had a second earhole pierced with a gun. I couldn't take the screw top earrings off for a month and it was really uncomfortable when it came to sleeping etc.

Sujatha Bagal said...

MG, thankfully she had no pain once we got home, I've been twisting her stud regularly so it doesn't get stuck in one place and the studs or the screws in the back don't seem to be hurting. Touch wood.

Anonymous said...

I did it the traditional way for my daughter in the privacy of my inlaws home..While she did bawl her heart out, I could atleast rush to the room and feed her.
Cannot imagine somebody else passing comments about my daughter's crying !
I felt guilty for a long time afterward thinking that the gun thing might've been better. After reading this piece, I'm glad I did it the other way !
Glad to hear that little N has no problems.

Anonymous said...

Hi

I live in Bangalore too and after lot of contemplation on gun-shot vs traditional, i went with the traditional way - done in Bhima Jewellers near MG Road. I would say the ear-piercing person was very experienced and did it in a jiffy. As expected my daughter did bawl for about 5 mins (she was 3 yrs old when we got her ears pierced). He used a sharp pointed needle inserted into the thin stem of a earring we chose and pushed it through. I still feel guilty for subjecting my daughter to this trauma if i recall in my head the moment that the sharp needle piercing through her small ear. And nobody hushed up my daughter when we came out of the small but organized room of this goldsmith. Having a lollipop handy helped us. We both went out for icecream after the ear piercing.

Thanks for sharing your experience on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Same commenenter as the above one - although the gunshot is more popular, i have heard that it is not completely sterilized (due to its intricate parts) and causes more trauma to the ear lobe tissue than a pointed prick. Something to consider if someone is thinking about gunshot vs traditional.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Anon, thank you for commenting and for the tips.

Siva said...

... the mother would settle down on the floor in front of the goldsmith with the baby in her lap and the baby's arms held firmly in her own hands...

In most parts of Southern India, i believe the baby is seated on the uncle's lap. Atleast, that was the case with me. I held three of my nieces. I was too young (rather petrified) to hold my first niece...

No gunshots. The same old traditional way. My father too reasoned against it in the Anon ... which i believe in a way is right too

Glad that little N has no problems. :)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Siva, thank you. Wonderful cultural detail. I have to ask my mom about that.

krishnachaitanya said...

Good one ... Although i am 24 yrs old , i still Dont like to have an injection on my hands . .Dont know how it will be for a very young kid when her ears are pierced

Tiki said...

Interesting post and comments thereafter. Quick question: is the gunshot thing sterilized? And is the traditional method sterilized? ... I'd like to have my 1yr. old's and 2.5yrs. old's ears pierced, but am frankly very scared of unsterilized equipment. Any advice? (I've only been in Bangalore 4mths.). Thanks!

Sujatha said...

Tiki, touch wood, my daughter is doing well so far and has had no infections or anything. The ear studs are immersed in disinfecting solution for a while before being inserted in the ear in the gun shot method. I know of other people who got it done at jewellery stores with the gun who have had no issues either.

If you are still concerned, the other option is to go to a doctor who pierces ears as well.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

double pierced ears look better

Anonymous said...

It's a sick culture that encourages this practise whichever method is used. At the end of the day, you parents have caused your children pain. The fact that the earrings are worth money and you list this in your reasons to inflict pain upon your child disturbs me more. I ask you, if I offer you £100 would you burn your child with a cigarette?

Anonymous said...

Why, of course! Cigarette burns make beauty marks!

Anonymous said...

Girls can accept thier feminimity through having thier ears done-pierced-I think it's very important that girls must submit to having thier ear lobes pierces-and so does the community.A girls acceptance of this procedure demonstrates her ability to accept her role as a women.I think the gun is better-having the lobe circumcised as well allows the girl to accept this is done for good now-and we need not ever turn back-how feminine !

Anonymous said...

Ear piercings are a crime! You are torturing your baby for your family traditions? Are your family traditions more important than your baby?

Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

For outsourcing chat, email or back-office support

If you are considering offshoring your processes, or would just like to know more about the various BPO / KPO services that can be outsourced to us in India, kindly contact

us and our customer service representatives will get back to you soon.

For outsourcing chat, email or back-office support, visit the website: http://www.outsourcebackoffice.com

Neha said...

Hello

I found your post very interesting. Although I already have my ears pierced, I need to get another round of piercing done as I am marrying a Kashmiri Pundit and married Kashmiri pundit womenfolk have to wear ear-ornaments as a symbol of marriage. I am now considering a goldsmith and traditional method of piercing, thanks to your post! :)

Anonymous said...

Good Blog

Anonymous said...

I'm sickened by the involuntary nature of the practice of piercing the ears of an infant helpless to defend itself. Given the choice (as evidenced by the instant crying) your baby obviously would have preferred NOT to have her ears stabbed. Let kids grow up and decide on their own whether they want body mods. This practice of doing painful, nonconsensual things to helpless babies disgusts me.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE:
"I'm sickened by the involuntary nature of the practice of piercing the ears of an infant helpless to defend itself. Given the choice (as evidenced by the instant crying) your baby obviously would have preferred NOT to have her ears stabbed. Let kids grow up and decide on their own whether they want body mods. This practice of doing painful, nonconsensual things to helpless babies disgusts me."
END QUOTE


THANK YOU!!!! Very well said!!!

It's beyond disturbing and completely disgusting that someone would do this to their child. I feel the same way about circumcision in general.

Anonymous said...

I have a 4.5 month girl child whose ears I/we got pierced yesterday.It had nothing to do with tradition.Practical sense suggests that she would like wearing earrings at a later stage in life and the earlier we pierce the less traumatic and easy it would be for her.Got it done at C.Krishnaiah Chetty in Bangalore.Was thoroughly impressed with the way they went about it.Extremely sterile,safe environment with adequate privacy.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "QUOTE:
"I'm sickened by the involuntary nature of the practice of piercing the ears of an infant helpless to defend itself. Given the choice (as evidenced by the instant crying) your baby obviously would have preferred NOT to have her ears stabbed. Let kids grow up and decide on their own whether they want body mods. This practice of doing painful, nonconsensual things to helpless babies disgusts me."
END QUOTE


THANK YOU!!!! Very well said!!!

It's beyond disturbing and completely disgusting that someone would do this to their child. I feel the same way about circumcision in general."

End of Quote!

Well, I have read and done some research on this tradition. I have grown from a non-believer, to understand some of the best logic a society could ever put together behind some of the traditions.
Did you know the importance of sindoor? I was amazed at the significance. Anyway, ear piercing is not just for the femininity, but also health. If done well, it is suppose to tingle a nerve, which in accu-punture equivalent is cure for Asthma and respiratory diseases. Apart from the fact, I could never muster up courage to get my little angel's ears pierced ever (even as a father) my wife is more protective, but now she demands to have them. I told her it would pain, she inquires how much... means she is measuring the pain she would have to put up with to get it done. She keeps wrapping clip-on's and is eternally attached to the concept. Maybe influenced by seeing things herself. She is 2 and 3 quarter years old, and I think it is high time. This blog has been a good spot to read and assimilate a lot of views. Except for the 2 above, everything is well written and shared. Everyone has their opinion, please choose your blog before scribbling.

The last message, it is... so finally I plan to take my daughter today to Krishnaiah Chetty, for the old traditional way (they do not have the gun option) with well medicated gold wires by the doc (in-house visiting surgeon) from whom I just took an appointment.

Women, in India need a different kind of liberation. I really hope I see it in my life-time. Generally heavily loaded in customs, culture, traditions and responsibility lot, much earlier in life than guys.

Rashmi said...

My daughter was 5 months old when we decided to get her ear pierced. The non medical ear piercing options are painful and unsafe with possibilities of hepatitis, viruses and even HIV and I can never recommend it. My husband and I were looking for a safe, modern, gun shot piercing option which is completely safe, pain-free and with a traditional touch as well.

I finally ended up at Dr. Patil’s ear piercing clinic in Bangalore. It turned out to be a wise decision. I enjoyed professional services with a personal touch at Dr. Patil’s clinic, quite commendable!

Rashmi Prakash


-- Dr. Patil's contact details are:
Tel: 98455 43015, 93438 26182
Email: drashokmpatil@gmail.com
Website: www.earpiercingdoctor.com

Christine said...

Hi Rashmi and the others,

I was also looking for ear piercing and body piercing in Bangalore. I looked at many options within Bengaluru itself but I could not find a good ear piercing doctor in Bangalore. My local doctor in India was not experienced in this and I was surprised that even good hospitals were not properly offering this facility. I’m glad I found Dr. Patil and this ear piercing doctor in Bangalore procedure was clean, safe and very precise. His contact number is 93438 26182 and site is www.earpiercingdoctor.com. Getting it done at a mall, by my jeweler or by a non medical professional was not an option due to the inherent risks involved during body piercing. Thanks for the recommendation, it helped a lot.


Christine Larson from USA living in Bangalore

ShareThis