Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Adventures in Gold Shopping in Hyderabad


One of the things that we always do when we go to Hyderabad is to go gold shopping. This is definitely one of the ways in which my South Indian family has been a bad influence on me! Indians in particular are known for their fine taste in gold, and for South Indians - the bigger the better! In Hyderabad, thick temple-style gold is all the rage right now.

Many Indians are smart at shopping. Although gold is extremely expensive, it is seen as one of the only things (much like real estate in a booming city) that you can get a return on your investment - by it going consistently UP in value. Therefore, it is seen as a smart purchase. In India, you can even get loans off your gold and it is seen as a security for the future. For many women, it is their only security, as many properties are handed down from fathers to sons. Some gold shops have options where you can pay it in installments (much like that flat screen TV that you can't afford!)

Over an Indian woman's lifetime, she may collect gold. It may be given to her at special events like weddings or important holidays. It is always kept safe, but then worn to show off. Kinda like a Lamborghini that is only taken out of the garage for a special night on the town!


 It is an Indian custom that the parents of the daughter will provide the gold for the daughter's dowry and also for her financial protection (because clearly, husbands are unreliable!). Many parents will feel secure knowing that their daughter will at least have her gold if the marriage doesn't work out.

Like many Firangi Bahu's, I had to purchase the majority of my gold myself, which is a bit taboo in itself. Basically, if you've gotten any gold from your Indian family, it is either because they feel sorry for you, or they are being extremely generous to you. Many Firangi's can get offended at how much gold they will give to their daughters but not to them.  

If you're not wearing at least one gold necklace to an important event, many people will harass and comment that you look "so plain" and openly pity you (as if women "need" to be decorated to be deemed "beautiful"). They may even compare you to looking like a widow, which has a lot of superstition attached to it. My MIL tries to attend every important function as the elder sister of the family, so I can only imagine how much she gets commented on, unfortunately.

At my own wedding reception, my MIL gave me her last gold necklace - a beautiful piece that my FIL gave her from Yemen - because she felt bad.  And then I felt bad, because she didn't have any gold for herself, other than her mangalsutram/thaali, which is not to be removed. And to be frank, I wasn't sure I even deserved it. I mean, I knew that I was never the bahu that she envisioned for herself. The sentimentality of the necklace she gave me means so much to me that I am not ever interested in wearing anything else - ever. For me, it is a symbol of my MIL's love for me. Not just acceptance, but love too. It is like a wedding ring to me. Not to mention, the quality and design of the necklace is something that you would not find nowadays.


On our recent trip to Hyderabad, I wanted to go to my favorite gold shop - GRT jewelers - to exchange my wedding bangles and to get my wedding ring fixed. By coincidence, we ended up going on a Friday night which was supposedly an "auspicious" gold-buying day, which was the equivalent of going into a discotheque in Ibiza, minus the alcohol. Seriously guys, if you want a classic Indian experience, visit a popular gold shop on a Friday night during wedding season! Not to mention, landing free drinks like orange soda or chai or the house!

There were huge packs of families, with serious-looking mustache men and giddy looking women, sitting in packs, slowly looking at each necklace with a serious poker face. Going back and forth with the employees on price negotiations, as if they were trying buying a car with the best mileage. The employees weighing the gold, as if they were weighing carefully cut cocaine in Columbia. I'd go to the gold shop just for people watching purposes!


Alas, all eyes were on me unfortunately, and my every move, since having white skin in this country means that you must be pissing hundred dollar bills. I think people were quite disappointed that I was only coming there to exchange some lousy bangles, easily denouncing me that I must be one of the poor hippie ashram Firangi's who tour India like they tour Target on sale by purchasing spirituality. And then when they saw husband-ji they realized that I was just an average, chubby, well-dressed wife of a middle class South Indian boy, just like the next woman.

I wanted to exchange my wedding bangles because they were in a swirl design and it kept snagging the fabric on all of my clothes (god forbid wrecking my fabulous wardrobe!), so I wanted to exchange it for a smoother bangle. Luckily, my bangles had gone way up in value in the past 3 years, so I was happily surprised that I could upgrade them to fancier ones! I also had to get my wedding ring fixed - a venki shape which needed to be reset. For that, we were lead to the basement of the massive 3 floored gold department store shop, to a "ring fixer" man who had an office set up on the floor under the staircase, much like Harry Potter. He looked extremely grumpy, but he fixed the ring for free. I quite liked him, without reason. He looked really eccentric, like the grumpy Indian uncle that I was never blessed with, with a fat potbelly and answering questions with grunts and heaves, and hair pouring out of his ears that you could make a wig out of. I gave him 1000 Rs note, just because it was the end of our stay, as a way of thanking him for his service and for not bothering to ask anything of me - a first.

Even though I was not really doing any shopping, of course I got roped in to looking at the amazing necklaces which hypnotized me and made me a bit woozy. At first, I was just standing and looking at them....and then I sat down....and then they gave me a drink....and then I proceeded to try on all of the necklaces... and take 50 selfies like a total loser. Somewhere in this sober drunkenness, I had a big "Aha" moment....

I wasn't going to get myself a necklace - because I already had the most perfect Yemeni necklace on Earth - but I could surprise my MIL with buying her a gold necklace. I ran the idea by husband-ji, and he said although it was not necessary, it would surely be a nice gesture. "Unnecessary" being the green light, because I knew "unnecessary" meant someone who was unappreciated and did a thankless job. Kinda like being a mother.


That night we went home to MIL's sister's house and I showed her all of my ridiculous selfies as she and her sisters crowded around and agreed on the most beautiful one. It was an amazing 24k Kasulaperu (coin necklace), accented with red rubies. Secretly, I got a lot of satisfaction in tricking her, thinking that she was picking out one for me, instead of unknowingly picking it out for herself. I had hoped that they didn't see the mischievous glimmer in my eye.

The next day, we went back to the gold shop and purchased it. We went back to visit MIL at her sister's house, where she opened the present in front of everyone, shocked as she unwrapped each layer, that I was purchasing a gold necklace for her. Backwards-style like only a Firangi would do, and could get away with. And as a cherry on top, I simply said, "it is to thank you". Everyone's jaw dropped. She was filled with joy, embarrassment, and pride. She claimed that she didn't need it, however we both knew differently since she always used to complain to me that FIL was not buying her any gold. She was embarrassed that she was the one getting gifted gold before her niece's wedding, as the spotlight was off her - until now. She was proud in the sense that it showed off how close we really were, because her sisters never really believed that we had managed to escape the typical saas bahu melodrama that hangs over every Indian family like a thunderous dark cloud. Just like my gold necklace was a symbol of her love to me, her necklace was a symbol of my love to her.

She put it on over her sweat-stained cheap chiffon saree, as she had just spent hours cooking for everyone, even though she was a guest in their house. As her sisters came through the door, she proudly showed it off to each of them and they gleamed with a mixture of awe and jealousy. In that moment, I think a few had regretted doubting me and maybe even felt bad that they spent years not speaking to me for my non-Brahmin-ness. That maybe having a seemingly useless Firangi Bahu was not so bad after all.


I nearly cried myself when I gave it to her, since I have never adequately thanked her for all the things she has done for me. How she dropped everything just to help us, after I came down with meningitis. How she has counselled me on hours-long tearful midnight phone calls after fights with her stubborn son every few months. How she has defended me when people talk badly of me. How many things she has cooked for me while I have fattened myself up deliciously. Sometimes, just saying thanks just seems flippant.

In many ways, I am also married to her too...'til death do us part...!!!


SHARE:

30 comments

  1. Awesome post Alexandra, I nearly cried as well....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my god! I had teary eyes by the time I finished the post.

    I have also been blessed with a wonderful Mom (in Law), and though we do gifting her something as our token of love, now and then, I didn't ever think about this before. I totally understand the level of emotions and pride she must be feeling while showing off the necklace.

    This was a wonderful post, AM. And such a wonderful way to say thank you for all the handwork and love she has been giving us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sameera :) It was a really special moment for us...

      Delete
  3. Alex,

    Such a lovely post! Thank you for sharing with us. I have the same obsession with jewelry myself, some I wear on a daily bases and others I don't wear except on special occasions. Great way you showed pictures of each of the necklaces to your MIL and sisters, and to find out which one she really liked!! Great job! You could not have given her anything else that meant more to her. What a lovely and meaning gift.

    Melissa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Melissa! She loved it and I know she will cherish it forever :)

      Delete
  4. What a wonderfully sweet thing to do! I'll bet your MIL will always treasure that necklace.

    Raina.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! It was totally unexpected....but well overdue!

      Delete
  5. You are a beautiful person both inside and outside. See people, this is why you should not judge someone based on their race/country. I hope the Indian relatives who did not talk to you for years learned something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you :) I really appreciate that a lot. Xo

      Delete
  6. Such a beautiful gesture A! You are one sweet DIL, a true DIL (heart) of your MIL :). Just make sure your SIL doesn't flick this. My SIL is divorced, has no kids, still, she managed to snag all of my MIL's jewelry and hid all of them 2 days after her death. It was really sad that people can get so materialistic. My MIL wanted to gift a few necklaces to me and my soon to be 11 year old girl, this bitch stole every single piece of it.
    But, when I do think about it, all she has a bunch of pieces of jewelry, whereas, I am blessed with true treasure, my beautiful kids, a loving husband, a great career and a wonderful set of friends and a fab life in USA. Whereas the SIL has nothing hah!

    Deepa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! So many times people can focus so much on material things as a sense of security because they are lacking happiness in other areas of their life. A great meaningful relationship is priceless, as you said :) xo

      Delete
  7. Alexandra, you have such a beautiful soul.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow!. That was such a sweet gesture. A bit overwhelming actually. What I'm surprised about u is that despite ur liking for south Indian jewellery u don't believe in hoarding and owning new pieces and designs. I can't say in words how much I admire you for that. This post was very sweet and also an eye opener for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I do love to look at the designs and they are artistically so beautiful and creative and stunning. But for me, I am more sentimental about things. And I have more than enough gold with just my thaali and my Yemeni necklace...no need for more!

      Delete
  9. Touchwood! You are really awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Alex, what I can't believe is that you never got sucked into buying even another new necklace for yourself. How much u value that necklace given to you speaks volumes. Thank you for posting. I believe us Indians have to learn so much just reading this. All that hoarding is gonna do us no good. Thankfully this generation isn't much into gold like the previous ones but boy, do they have to deal with the pressure from their parents and extended families. From what I see it certainly not an investment. I wish people would only see it as an adornment and on an average no woman should own more than two.pieces max. It would be so much easier for the parents who have daughters and wouldnt leave a hole in our wallets every time we have to attend a wedding or any other function. I know some people can't fork that kind of money for gifts. That too for extended family. It doesn't make sense at all. But they end up doing it because of the pressure from society. You clearly have your priorities right girl! Way to go. If only Indian parents have the same passion for investing in the girl child education, they have for hoarding gold it would make their lives so much easier. You and your mil are so lucky to have each other. It's not about the necklace but the very thought of gifting her something and the purpose behind it truly show cases your character. I have nothing but deep respect for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much :)
      The necklaces are tempting, but I have more than enough for myself and there are others who are more deserving than me, such as my MIL :)
      It is true, it is a lot of hoarding! Every time there is a wedding there is gossip about how much gold the bride has. It's like "who cares?!" LOL!
      It is sad, one of our girl relatives was ordered to get married instead of the parents' investing in her Masters degree. Sad.

      Delete
  11. I loved your description of gold shopping in India. It was quite funny. Getting a gold chain for your MIL and the story was very touching and sweet. She looks so happy and proud in the photos!

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's really sweet and touching Alexandra. You're blessed with a great MIL and she's equally blessed to have you as her DIL!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow..amazing post. I cried..!! Beautiful story.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Haha...only you can make gold shipping sound so hilarious. Very thoughtful of you to get her a necklace to say thanks. Like the previous comments I agree. It isn't about the necklace but the purpose behind it counts so much. Ummm does your sister inlaw read your blog? I appreciate your honesty but I really doubt she'd be happy about you broadcasting to the world of her selfish ways. Just saying. If she does read then I'll say you have a very amazing relationship with her too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you :)
      I don't think she reads my blog, and I don't write to stroke her ego. She's lucky I don't mention her very much LOL.

      Delete
  15. I teared when i read this. Such a sweet gesture. Would love to see you wearing the Yemeni necklace.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Such a beautiful story!

    ReplyDelete

Respectful comments only, please! (That means you, anonymous.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Madh Mama. All rights reserved.
BLOGGER TEMPLATE DESIGNED BY pipdig