Kerala – Gold’s Own Country – a short play by Nimmy Kuttappan
Grandmother: Take this my child.
(She hands over a wooden jewellery box to her 20 year old granddaughter. The granddaughter eagerly opens, knowing what it would be, fakes an appalled look with her palms cupping her cheeks)
Grandmother: Yes sweetheart. It is you wedding jewellery that I have been looking after since eons. I want to see you in this before I close my eyes for eternity.
Both ladies hug each other and shed ‘tears of happiness’.
<Scene 1 over>
Sounds a like a fairytale right?? Actually, it isn’t rather this is how the advertisements of gold brands are showcased in Kerala, a Subway-sandwich-shaped state of South India. Amidst the lush greenery, well connected backwaters and the famous banana chips, Kerala houses quite a few hilariously weird customs. One of them is the exchange of gold.
Indian women love bragging about their jewellery and Keralites are way too obsessed with that. In fact 90% of the advertisement space, between Malayalam daily TV soaps in almost every Malayalam channel, is occupied by gold brands besides umbrellas. A-list actors like Bachchans and Kapoors endorse them eventually making gold rule over the roost. Numerous gold jewellers have become conglomerates in their own right by spreading their wings in every nook and corner of the state and places like Middle-east.
An inside joke is that you find it strenuous to spot a McD or a Pizza Hit outlet but not a franchisee of your favourite jeweller in Kerala.
Parents are known to spend their earnings and savings of an entire lifetime in buying gold jewellery for their daughter’s wedding. Gone are the days where brides used to sport a gold necklace and a chain with matching earrings or jhimkis. In this age of cent percent literacy, the amount of gold even an educated Malayalee bride needs to wear has reached ridiculous heights. The bride typically wears necklaces of varying lengths, with the shortest being a chocker necklace around her neck and the longest reaching till her knees. If she is running out of space she even hangs them on her arms. In her ears, she wears a chunky jhumka or an earring with some contemporary design. A lot of bangles adorn her hands till her elbows and few gold waist chains are used to accentuate the waistline. Phew!!
Jewellers take undue advantage of the malleability of gold to flatten it into sheet-like ugly jewellery in order to cover more surface area on the bride thus giving the illusion of having gold plated the ‘poor’ girl. This notion perfectly works for the bride’s family as it pumps their image and proves their mettle in front relatives, guests and society. And who benefits from this obnoxious craze? Well it is not the bride or her family rather it would be the groom’s family.
In a country where people die due to poverty, the affluent and rich are busy pampering themselves with such frenzy. Is it too difficult to start off a journey of marital bliss with a noble cause like donating lifelong savings for the education of poor children? After all what matters is the marriage, not a big fat wedding.