I was 10 years old when I had my first brush with Lac. I had gone for a fair somewhere and remember being given a stunning golden bangle with small mirrors on it.
“Be careful with it. It is lac. It will break easily.” My mom cautioned me.
I looked at the shiny bangle resting on my wrist and nodded. I treated that bangle more carefully than I treated anything made of glass. I’ve always loved lac bangles since then.
Lac is a resin that is secreted by an insect when it feeds on host trees. The resin is scraped off the bark of the tree and is washed several times. This process gets rid of impurities and leaves a deep red resin which can be moulded into a bangle. Lac is malleable when heated which is what makes it versatile. It also easily absorbs colours, which is why the bangles I saw had vibrant colours unlike those I had seen before.
Unfortunately though, today, a lac bangle, like the thousands of other small and unobtrusive parts of Indian culture, is fast vanishing. With intricate and delicate artificial jewellery, nobody looks for a bangle that has the chance of crumbling, even though this handicraft is something every woman should proudly wear on her wrists.