The name Shri Nagindas Gordhandas Challa may not ring a bell in the minds of many Kenyans. But for most of those who got engaged or got married since 1969, the name Nagin Pattni is more familiar.
That was the year when 30-year-old Pattni established what was to become the most popular jewellery shop in town, attracting lovers like moths to fire. The jeweller died on Friday, aged 83.
A brief death announcement posted on the business’ social media pages states how Pattni founded the business along Nairobi’s River Road by sheer grit and determination.
“He started and built up the firm to where it is today through honesty and hard work. He was a great soul who touched the lives of many and brought a smile to all,” read the statement.
Like many budding businessmen of his generation, Pattni, who assisted by Madam Rama Nagin Pattni, started by setting up a small shop through what family members termed “hard work, honesty, patience and experience.”
“The keys to our growth have been honesty, personal service and quality of our products. Today the firm continues to grow and follow the same basic policies laid down by our founders,’ states a post on the shop’s page.
Though the business later expanded to more high-end locations such as Kaunda Street and Thika Road Mall; and included, among other things, international watch brands and invitation cards, the shop in downtown River Road has remained as the flagship store where family members coalesce.
It is in this shop that visitors would find Pattni leaning on the counter with his orderlies beside him.
He is perhaps one of the few Kenyans who have listened to some of the most endearing love stories as couples trooped to the shop for the perfect wedding ring.
Single men, deeply in love and eager to surprise their fiancées, would come to the shop and hand over a ring obtained from the girl’s collection through subterfuge. Pattni would then search through the shop for a gold or diamond ring.
David Maina remembers the day in September 2002 when he went to the shop looking for an engagement ring.
Maina had a thread whose circumference was the same as the ring finger of the bride-to-be. Because she was the only girl in the family, it was difficult getting a ring he could use for a sample. He was feeling a bit embarrassed, wondering what the guys at the shop would think of him.
“Mzee Pattni noticed my apprehension and took me to the side and told me to hand over the thread. He personally rummaged through the rings until he found the perfect fit. He saw the glow on my face, patted me on the back and even told me to let him know how things went. At least now my wife of 18 years knows how I got the engagement ring,” said Maina.
Three generations of Kenyans talk fondly of the man who made their love blossom through engagement, wedding, promissory and friendship rings.
Some described his shop as “Mecca” when it came to matters love.
On the company’s Facebook page, Kenyans talked of Pattni’s personal touch, with some narrating how he would call them to check if the ring fit.
To others, Pattni’s shop was an extension of their homes as they would drop in anytime to have their rings polished.
“My wedding ring is still perfect 21 years later. I could pass by the office for polishing at any time,” said Jackie Mbala.