If you watch any popular Malayalam TV channel the top two contenders for advertising space are umbrellas and gold with gold ruling the roost. What initially started as a means of investment has taken some serious escalation in terms of how much gold a bride wears on her special day. With constant egging by the gold jewelers who have become conglomerates in their own right, the amount of gold one expects a Malayalee bride to wear has reached ridiculous heights. As a result gold smuggling into Kerala is at an all time high.
What used to a gold necklace and a chain with matching jimki’s that the bride wore for her wedding day in my grandmothers time has mushroomed into gold chains up to the brides knees and bangles up till her elbows. Jewelers take undue advantage of the malleability of gold to flatten it into sheet like ugly jewelry in order to cover more surface area on the bride thus giving the illusion of having gold plated the ‘poor’ girl.
Who benefits from the gold craze which leads to shops overflowing even on days when gold prices hit an all time high? Is it the bride who gets to keep all this jewelery and can use it for buying a house in her name or for the education of her future kids? Or does it go as unadulterated dowry to the proud man who is tugging along the sudden windfall of money he got i.e the bride? Does it pump up the image of the brides family who can show their mettle in front of relatives and such? Or is it solely for the benefit of the invitees who can ooh and aah at the amount or lack of gold that the bride wore? Whoever benefits from the obnoxious craze its definitely not the brides family who more often than not end up with bankruptcy in their bid to gold plate their daughter.
One shining example of a girl who went against the norm is Elizabeth Chandy. She refused to wear and showcase the money her family or she has at her wedding. The focal point of a wedding shouldn’t be the gold the groom managed to extract from the bride anyway. Getting inspired by coconut shell jewelery she saw in Andamans she decided that coconut shell is the way to go. She found a jeweler in Thrissur, Kerala who made beautiful pieces out of coconut shell. She got further convinced after meeting the jeweler when he spoke of how jewelery made out of coconuts pose no health hazards to the workman unlike the harms gold does. He also spoke of how people in Kerala should look at alternate material for jewelry and how coconut shell was a very versatile material that needed no polish for it to shine.
Elizabeth is not against gold jewelry but against the principle of plying the bride with gold to a point that it becomes obnoxious. Jewelery is meant to add beauty to the person wearing it and not engulf the person whole. The bridal jewelery is not a means to show off ones wealth and she refused to be party to the trend. With the support of her now husband Antony Chandy and family she was a proud and regal bride who is a trend setter in her own right. Her wedding dress was the traditional mundu which she wore in a contemporary style with simple coconut shell jewelry. The girl born on world coconut day transformed into a beautiful bride.
I admire her courage and style since being from Kerala I know the ire she must have encountered from a society that shames itself for not being able to provide copious amounts of gold to the bride and in some cases to the mother in law. If investment is the idea behind giving gold, then gold isn’t the only profitable means of investment. Silver appreciates much more than gold and is considered good investment. There are fixed deposits, life insurance schemes, mutual funds, land among others. Brides to be, please take note! Jewelry in the right amount and befitting your dress looks good. Anything that is over done just looks plain ugly, even gold.