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Once looked down upon for going commercial with
a family tradition, adgil is now seen as a 'sugar
jewellery specialist'
Sugar jewellery : Vidya Gadgil
Vidya Gadgil has spread sweetness and sparkle with her sugar jewellery for over three decades. Khursheed Dinshaw finds out how

Call Vidya Gadgil's jewellery good enough to eat and you wouldn't be lying. Instead of gold, silver, diamonds or pearls, she has been creating jewellery out of sugar for the past 36 years. Known as 'halva' jewellery, the technique involves making elaborate ornaments from intricately woven, tiny balls of sugar.

Gadgil learnt the art at home when she was young but her interest in it was reawakened in January 1970, when she saw sugar garlands at a halvai (sweetmeat) shop in Pune, where she lives. A casual conversation with the shopkeeper revealed that the demand for such jewellery was immense - in fact, he told her that if she could make some for him, he would welcome the extra supply. With her children in college and plenty of time to kill, she took it up as a challenge. After brushing up her skills, she took on her first wholesale order (from the same sweet shop) for a hundred garlands. "I had taken a garland as a sample and I bought the sugar balls [called til gul] in the market," she adds. Soon, she began making her own sugar balls, a process that is easy to learn but time-consuming (see 'Do It Yourself').

What started out as an effort to carry on a tradition has become much more. Response to Gadgil's halva jewellery has been so good that she now employs 40 women - domestic help or those living in nearby slums - to help her. She trains them and provides them raw material. While seven women, who get a monthly salary of Rs 800 to Rs 1,000, work out of Gadgil's own house, the rest take the work home and are paid depending on the size and intricacy of the jewellery they make. Not all the women belong to lower income groups. Three women from well-off homes, who came to know about Gadgil through word of mouth, also help her make sugar jewellery, glad for a constructive way to use their time.

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