'Have you bought enough gold?'
How does one justify mortgaging property and going out of their way to buy gold and gifts for a daughter’s wedding?
In her second column, Divya Nair talks about the unreasonable practice of elaborate gifting and exchanging gold in the name of tradition and why it bothers her so much.
In the last few months, the most commonly asked question by some of my South Indian friends is: “Have you bought enough gold? The prices are rising like crazy. If you haven’t bought any, you’ll be spending a bomb.”
As a Keralite, I could very much relate to their concerns. The first time I realised the value of the yellow metal was when I attained puberty.
My grandmother told me that from now on, at all times, I would have to wear something made of gold – either a pair of earrings, a ring on my finger, a bangle or a chain.
Across religions gold is considered sacred and is known to bring good fortune and is hence worn and gifted during important ceremonies and events in life.
So, every year after I attained puberty till the day I started earning, my parents would religiously invest a sizeable amount of their savings in buying gold.
When I started earning, I did the same, to make enough gold for my wedding.
Over the years I have noticed that South Indians spend more on buying gold than on the entire wedding expenses put together. My friends’ concerns were this justified.
So, reluctantly, I told this friend of mine that I had managed to make about 30-40 tolas of gold, which I felt was more than enough for my wedding and future put together.
She said: “That’s all? And you’re happy? Don’t you think you should settle for at least 50 tolas? You must look at it as an investment.”
Frankly, given the chain snatching incidents and robberies in town, I’m rather discouraged from buying, wearing and/or securing physical gold. But when it comes to splurging on weddings, we South Indians rarely think about all that.
The bride, I’m embarrassed to say, wears enough jewellery to give Bappi Lahiri a complex.
I’m sorry to break this to you guys, but we South Indians would mortgage our properties, take as many personal loans as we can afford to, even beg and borrow if need be, just to ensure we have enough display of gold at a wedding.
In certain regions down South, people explicitly demand gold as dowry in the name of ancestral tradition.
Recently, a friend’s father who is about to retire in three years, took a personal loan of Rs 10 lakh just to doll up his daughter in 60 tolas of gold. He said the groom had not insisted on the gold, but he did it just to ensure the boy’s side did not have any complaints later on.
Another well-educated friend had no qualms admitting that it was her parents’ responsibility to give her at least 50 tolas of gold and a few lakhs as a gift for the wedding.
As if gifting gold wasn’t enough, some Hindu traditions demand that the bride’s family gift the groom everything necessary to set up a house – from bed, fridge, television, bike to utensils and grains.
When our ancestors implemented these traditions, they had a reason to do so. But over the years, the tradition has been gravely misunderstood and misrepresented to fulfil personal greed and interests.
Besides, gold is no guarantee that things will go smoothly. Even if you bathe your daughter in one kilo of gold, someone may walk out of the wedding complaining that the food had more oil and less salt and that your father is a miser.
At a friend’s wedding, an elderly lady whispered to her friend that she didn’t think the girl’s family could afford so much gold, and it must be imitation jewellery!
Dear friends, as I write this, I really feel bad for some of my educated friends and families who are blinded by the belief that it’s all part of the tradition and it’s the responsibility of our parents to arrange for funds to meet these demands.
When I told my parents that I’m in love with a Mangalorean and a Shetty at that, they were worried that I would have to pay a hefty sum as dowry because a lot of people had warned us about elaborate Mangalorean weddings.
Much to the surprise of my parents and to my good fortune, my in-laws have not demanded gold or dowry. My respect for my partner and his family has definitely risen a notch.
It has also brought great relief to my parents and to me. We can now shift our concerns to other preparations for the wedding that are more important.
In case you are reading this piece and are considering marriage, can I make a humble request?
Take a moment and think of what you can do to help reduce the burden of your prospective bride and her parents.
Perhaps, you can take a stand and say no to dowry? Or maybe say no to exchange of extravagant gifts in the name of tradition?
If you were to do that, I can promise you that the next time you walk into your future wife’s home, you will be treated more like a son than a son-in-law.
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/ Rediff.com