For a country like India gold is very much a part of our culture and heritage. It’s not odd that significant occasions during one’s lifetime are often associated with buying or gifting gold. This is especially true in the coastal state of Kerala where I hail from. It is not even an exaggeration if I say there are towns in Kerala with more small jewellers than chemist shops.
Here, gold is not just an investment, it is an emotion. How many times have gold ornaments of the wife saved the husband’s business? Many consider gold as the most liquid form of investment around here. And it is one luxury that most husbands love showering on their wives. It is not surprising that most of India’s leading jewellers and gold loan providers also hail from Kerala. During my stay in Delhi, I came across many Muthoot outlets, not to forget the Kalyan and Malabar Jewellery stores.
It is the same when one visits the Gulf, where millions of Malayalis are working at any given point in time. These workers visit their families back in Kerala very often and it is a sacrilege if they return home from the ‘magical gulf’ without the permissible amount of gold that they can carry with them. So much so that it becomes a news report when some not so smart ones dare to smuggle and get caught smuggling kilos of gold.
Having spent my entire childhood in Kerala and with half my family settled in the Gulf, where many Malayalis have made a second home for themselves, I see my mother and aunts spend a good amount of time marvelling each other’s gold jewellery and purchasing the latest designs that are in vogue. Naturally, we children were also forced to wear ornaments. I loathed it then—I loathe it now.
It felt like my freedom to move was restricted. Not just because I didn't like the sensation of a piece of metal on my body, but also because I was told to be extra careful because gold is precious. I often caught myself wondering, why is there so much fuss around this yellow metal. People I asked gave me a simple answer: gold is rare. But so is common sense and I don't see any hunger among us for that!
Years later, this TED-Ed video gave me an explanation which made this obsession about gold slightly more reasonable to me. Slightly.
Like most people her age, my grandmother devours through the newspaper every day. One day, I distinctly remember, there was an advertisement of some jeweller in the newspaper. In it was a beautiful, ‘fair’ bride in a red sari, covered head to toe in gold ornaments. Seeing this, my grandmother told me, “For your wedding, I want you to be decked like this!” For God’s sake, I was just a 14 year old! Though I personally know that most girls in my generation aren't obsessed like the earlier ones, yet in their own they are covered in kilos of gold.
Let me give you a glimpse into the level of our obsession. Starting with the most obvious fact; India is amongst world’s largest gold importers. Fact: Two-thirds the world’s poor are concentrated in five countries, one of which is India. The irony is, despite our obvious obsession, there are still designated days in our culture which encourage us to buy more gold. Akshaya Tritiya is one such occasion, which provides a surge to the business of gold multiplying their daily sales several folds.
Businesses know how to take advantage of our obsessions. For instance, even Paytm has started selling gold through its platform. For a society that consumes gold with the same vigour as milk, the real question is why we need special days to celebrate our already unhealthy obsession with this metal.
We are people who go out and buy gold just because the gold prices are down. Is it really necessary to fall into the trap of advertising and marketing and buy gold just because we are told to? It is your money after all, you decide. May be you could invest your money in other places coupling them with your financial goals rather than spend a fortune on making charges and taxes. Just saying—just saying. The government has also strategically introduced the sovereign gold bond to mark this occasion, egging people to consider putting their money into the yellow metal.