All That Glitters
Buying gold was always a big thing in my family. The yellow metal was always bestowed a sort of godly reverence. I could never fathom why. Maybe because of its scarcity in the family. So buying gold was a near-religious affair. These occasions are deeply etched in my memory only because they were few and far apart.
The event always had a prelude – almost ten days of discussion depending on how big the purchase was to be – over breakfast, over lunch, over tiffin and dinner, and all times in between. Hushed tones were exchanged as were meaningful glances. We, the kids, were allowed to partake in the conversation through our ears only.
Then the day would arrive. It was not just any day. A special day that Mother would have culled out of the almanac after much deliberation. Even before the cocks announced the break of dawn in their shrill and oh-so-un-mellifluous cries, mother would be at the altar chanting tuneless prayers. The lamp would be lit and the bell that she shook frantically in her hand would wake up the Gods and the household.
Father was very important on that day. Gold was never bought without him around. He was the clever guy with an eye for any misgivings. It always amazed me how a person who never wore any jewellery could be relied upon to pass a judgement on it. Mother relied on him totally, on that day.
We would all shuffle stealthily and noiselessly out of our own house. I always tip-toed, to be safer. Fewer people see you the better, according to mother. The onward journey was by foot, while the return was in a taxi with the prized possession. I loved the taxi ride.
At the shop, my siblings and I would struggle to obey orders and remain seated in a corner. My parents would move solemnly from glass top to glass top of glittering display. Our necks craned, we shoved each other for the best view. A chain would come out, and mother would hold it against her neck and turn towards father for approval. The man behind the counter would calculate something on his calculator and turn it around for my father to see. My father in turn would punch some numbers himself and do his calculations. Father was always one for calculations. Then, he would bend his head and whisper something into mother’s ears. The man behind the counter would try to look away uninterested.
Several such iterations later, mother would turn to look at us. Her smile marked the successful fruition of a long-term project. Her smile told stories of longing, of waiting, of saving, of disappointment, of anguish, and finally of contentment.
Back home, the stringed jewellery pouch would find its place of pride first at the feet of the Gods in the altar. A humble offering of gratitude, as mother put it. Promptly it would be stacked away in the built-in safe of the loyal Godrej almirah.
The event always ended with a celebratory payasam at lunch.
Today, I woke up as I would on any other morning. The papers screamed Akshaya Tritiya. Decided to buy jewellery. Went over to the jewellers. Bought a sleek white gold chain. Came home. Showed it off to the family. Decent levels of euphoria. Suddenly had a change of heart. Went back and exchanged the chain for a bracelet.
And went off to office.
I have this funny feeling of being awkwardly suspended in the space between happiness and indifference. Something amiss?