The first time I figured out that there was huge monetary value attached to gold is when I was probably 7 years old and I lost a gold bracelet that I was wearing . Every time I went out to visit a relative's place , I was mandatorily made to wear some 'basic' accessories like gold mala , good pair of earrings and a pair of bangles or bracelet.I still can't comprehend why a 7 year old girl would need to go around wearing such expensive accessories but well..that's how it used to be. I had been trained to periodically check if each of the ornament was securely in place and the fear associated with losing any of it was heavy , making any outside visits or playing with cousins/friends rather stressful.
As I grew older, I obviously started detesting these accessories.They got bigger and heavier and more difficult to manage but then if you don't wear it, people felt it was their responsibility to ask-"why wouldn't your mother give you anything to wear" or "why is your neck and hands empty ?" Well..any mallu woman can tell you that these are just trailors before the actual movie, the actual movie is the big fancy dress day-the wedding !- the day all the highly profit-making jewelers in Kerala wait for to squeeze out of you your entire life's earnings . This is the day for which they put up all those ads on all those channels everyday . For eg. Bhima's ad says -"If you are a girl , you need gold..you need to be a pot of gold" (pennayal ponnu vennam).
So why do mallus spend so many lakhs on wedding jewellery alone ? For two reasons - one , its customary, second they are scared; Customary , because all those guests who turn up at the wedding are there to see all that gold and if they don't get to see enough of it , they go around gossiping -"that girl wore hardly any gold". So, to avoid public humiliation, its better to go with the flow even if that means a big hole in your pocket ;Scared, because if the bride goes to her sauraal without covering her chest and hands with gold, there's a possibility that a different sort of treatment would await her and the concerned parents wouldn't want to take that risk.Our family is no different. Even though I very much wanted to have a simple n small wedding process, I , like others ended up wearing gold as expected under a lot of pressure and after a lot of debate. I remember my relatives reminding me on my wedding day about how I should be careful about not letting all the gold hide inside the saree pleats and my mother rather disappointed over how the expensive ruby necklace wasn't conspicuous on top of a same-colored purple saree.
We kind of drained our bank accounts to pay for all that gold which never saw the light of day after that.To me it makes more sense to buy some gold-linked stocks (if at all investment in gold was all that necessary).Few years after my marriage, I stopped wearing the 'minimum' required gold and as soon as I stepped into my sasuraal, my in-laws could run towards me with a long gold mala and few gold bangles in the fear that some other relative would see me gold-less and the entire family would be humiliated. On the first occasion when I completely refused to wear gold , I was safely hidden inside the walls of my sasuraal so that the family did not have to deal with the shame associated !!