A-Z: This series of light hearted explorations on familiar objects from everyday life dear to the urban Indian middle class looks at how they shape our wants & desires and ultimately make us who we are as a people.
Shubh Deepawali — I know I am your golden boy today. Like the Gods who love me, I have many forms — mostly in jewellery. It was I who led Ram to find his way to Sita in Lanka — if it weren’t for my glitter in Sita’s jewellery, Ram would have found it difficult to trace her. This is just one of the reasons why Indians are in awe of me.
When Sita was leaving for Vanvaas (exile), everyone said that she should not take off her gold jewellery — it is considered amangal, inauspicious, they said. Good luck, fortune, and social standing — I can summon everything for you. I am Goddess Lakshmi’s pet. She is the Goddess of fortune, and she keeps me close to her.
Yesterday, I was invited by Lakshmi Ji to heaven on account of our annual blessing stock taking. Lakshmi ji wants the best for her devotees, and I am usually her star employee, unlike platinum, diamond, and silver.
This is how it went:
Lakshmi ji: Sona ji…(At this point, a blush crept up because a Goddess addressing you as ji is an honour) Undoubtedly, you are very popular among Indians. But there is a change that I am seeing in young people’s preferences. They want to wear lighter and less ornate jewellery. They find the traditional heavier pieces a little difficult to handle.
Sona Ji: Of course, yes, just yesterday I witnessed an argument between a young bride and her mother. Her mother wanted her to wear their family heirloom necklace, and she wanted a custom-made polki jewellery set.
Lakshmi ji: I suppose as young people’s choices around jewellery are changing, I should also vary my blessings slightly.
Sona ji: Of course, but please don’t listen to everything they say.
Lakshmi ji: Why?
Sona Ji: Well, I say this with great difficulty, Goddess. I overheard a young woman talking about how she wished her parents gifted her mutual fund SIPs and stocks instead of gold jewellery. I have never felt more hurt in my entire life.
Lakshmi Ji: Sona ji, I will always grant wishes for fortune and prosperity, no matter what form they are in. However, you don’t need to worry. Your importance was reiterated during the pandemic — so many appreciated your liquidity. People needed you during emergencies. And think about how businesses have been started because of you! People see you as an essential investment.
Sona Ji: You are right; this makes me feel better. The older generation, especially, gave their daughters gold jewellery as “stree-dhan”. In times of emergency, it was seen as the entire family’s safety fund.
Lakshmi ji: This reminds me, wedding season is around the corner. I’ve been thinking about how primarily women wear gold jewellery because they are seen as their “ghar ki lakshmi.” As a married woman, it is probably unimaginable to step out without any gold ornaments.
Sona ji: Yes, gold bangles are the bare minimum accessory for them.
Lakshmi ji: True, true. These days, young working women wear everyday light jewellery, and many of them buy it on their own as a gift of self-love.
Sona ji: Agreed, Goddess; I wish the men, too, were like them. They hardly wear jewellery. I miss Bappi Da; he valued me. To make matters worse, that Heera fellow is proving to be a big competition in the western wear department for me.
Lakshmi ji: Oh hush, prosperity is prosperity, Sona ji, whether it is you or Heera ji.
Sona ji: I suppose I should be happy that I have days dedicated to me, like Dhanteras and Akshaya Tritiya.
Lakshmi ji: You’re an inextricable part of their lives, Sona ji.
Sona ji: You’re right, Goddess. I am not just a piece of jewellery, I am much more than that. I am an emotion for crores of Indians. Whether it is through their great-grandmother’s ancient gold bangle, or a working woman’s pendant from her first salary — I am always a part of their lives.
Lakshmi ji: Ah, that’s the Sona ji I know. No wonder you’re my best employee.
(Hamsini Shivakumar is a Semiotician and founder of Leapfrog Strategy. Khushi Rolania is a senior research analyst at Leapfrog Strategy.)