A Love Affair — with Gold
I have always loved how pretty gold ornaments look. I do not wear them much but I enjoy admiring the craftsmanship of some of the traditional designs. It gives a certain joy to posses a beautiful work of art, art that you can wear and is an investment. Today’s blog is a reflection on some of the dark aspects of this “joy”. Day 13 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.
It was 11 am on a Sunday morning. I was sitting in the low floor, ac volvo coming from Fort Kochi to Edapally. A woman and 2 children occupied the seats in front of me. Each of them were in casual Indian attire, probably going to visit a relative. What caught my eye was the thick gold chain the mother was wearing and thinner versions of the same the younger ones had around their neck.
This is not a special sighting in Kerala. In fact, if you do not wear a gold chain around your neck, then that is considered weird.
So why did this “regular” visual catch my attention? It was a conversation with my maid that was playing in the back of my head.
I call her “Itha” ( she is a muslim and “Itha” is a respectful way of addressing a muslim woman who is elder to you). She has been with me for the past 3 years. Every now and then I threaten to fire her — sometimes I think she is actually worse than me at cleaning- but I don’t. That’s mainly due to her honesty and trustworthiness.
Another reason is that I respect her tremendously for the way she is educating and bringing up her children. Her husband passed away when the kids were toddlers. Her family is not financially well off to take care of her. Instead of begging for charity or pleading helplessness she started working multiple households to pay for rent, food and the children’s education.
Her daughter who is doing her final year of graduation is getting married soon. I was very happy when she told me the good news as I knew that this was a BIG worry for her.
Fortunately, the groom’s family has stated explicitly that they do not expect any dowry.
All good so far.
But yesterday, she came home and started crying. She is an incredibly strong woman. I have never seen her cry in all these years.
As I spoke to her the story unfolded thus — she is trying to raise money for buying gold ornaments for her daughter. She has tried relatives, various loan sharks ( as the banks will not touch someone like her), her various bosses to no avail.
I was a little surprised as I knew that there was no dowry expectation. I realised that I had judged the situation incorrectly.
The “expectation” was in her mind. Her only daughter is getting married and she feels like an abject failure because she is unable to afford gold.
Thoughts of “what will the boy’s family think of me, what “value” will my daughter have in her new house, how will my relatives judge me” are killing her from within.
Before you judge this as her “ego” step back and think for a moment. This is the “rule” we as a society have created and imposed on the subconscious mind of every person. That gold = prestige.
No gold = No prestige = No respect.
This is bothering her so much that despite all the time I tried to convince her that she should opt for gold covered ornaments (apparently her daughter suggested the same thing — smart girl!) I am sure she will do some jugaad and end up in debt which will take her the rest of her life to pay off.
In May 2017, I wrote about the farce that Indian weddings have become
Weddings were supposed to be beautiful moments that symbolized the beginning of a journey that brought together two…medium.com
While most of the people identified with my sentiments, I was also at the receiving end of some violent outbursts — a guy called me “stupid” because I do not appreciate Indian customs and another lady gave a lot of fake sympathy that I was not able to appreciate my D Day — they clearly understood the point I was trying to make.
I didn’t expect my words to change anyone when I wrote about Indian weddings. I doubt anyone will get over their gold fixation with this article either. But I will continue writing and talking about it.
I used to think that women buying gold made sense as an investment for the family. In some ways, it really is. But how can we reduce this from becoming less about investment and more about ego and prestige?
Did Reema Kallingal have the right idea when she gave up gold jewellery and wore only silver for her wedding? I think so, yes.