The Indian male may not like spending on gold but he definitely loves wearing it…

From May 1, jewellers in Mumbai were preparing themselves for a customer onslaught on May 6 which happened to be Akshaya Trithya, an auspicious day for buying gold. With such demand, gold price was expected to touch a record Rs. 22,700 for a tola or 10 gm. Out of the 15 tons of gold normally sold on the day, two tons were bought in South India. With the wedding season in full swing, customers lined up to pay advances and book their orders. Similar demands were also common during Deepavali and Dussehra. The Indians' greed for gold is insatiable.

Inevitability

The male of the species, which usually pays for the gold, can only shrug and accept the inevitable because refusal to go along could generate ripples and revolts at home. The craze for gold is buried deep in the Indian psyche. The family must own gold which is not only a status symbol but the best method of saving too. While most males regard gold as a necessary drain on their purse, there are exceptions who love the yellow metal. King Midas was so crazy he sought a boon that whatever he touched be turned to gold and we know what happened to him. Ian Fleming's popular villain Auric Goldfinger's hunger for gold was such that he planned to loot Fort Knox where the US stored all its gold but was thwarted by James Bond. (This was before the days of Barack Obama and his now-famous Navy Seals Unit.) In real life, music director Bhappi Lahiiri wandered around like a golden tree and one of the Shiv Sena MLAs in rural Maharashtra appeared in public loaded with gold.

The Indian male abhors spending money on gold but loves exhibiting his passion for the yellow metal. Take the case of Tamil males and their affinity for gold which is reflected even in their names — Thangaswamy, Thangka Balu and Thangamuthu is an incomparable mixture of gold and pearl! If you are a good man, you are referred to as Thangakami. The marriage broker refers to all his prospective bridegrooms as Thangamana Paiyan (golden boy) Mind you, despite higher values , there are no similar references to ‘Platinum or Tungsten or Radium Paiyan' .

In matters of gold, the more serious decisions are taken by women, like the amount of gold to be bought for weddings, the designs for bangles, ear rings, necklaces and Odyanams with the men remaining mute spectators wondering when they should declare bankruptcy. But there are times when the male appreciates and demands gold, like, at the time of his wedding when he insists on gold rings, chain or even ear rings and repeats the demands during the thalai Deepavali. On a personal level, I had no love for gold and gave my wedding ring to my wife. The only golden ornament I was shown wearing was in a photograph taken at the age of six months, wearing a golden aranal kaiyaru (waist chain) and nothing else After growing up, I tried to sock anyone who commented how cute I looked after viewing this photograph

Film fodder

Man's dislike for gold was clear when during the 1950s, the then Congress Finance Minister Morarji Desai introduced the Gold Control Act which led to suicides among goldsmiths. But Morarji Desai did not like most things in life and the Act was repealed soon. The demand and supply situation was so grotesque that gold smuggling became a prosperous industry. In most Hindi films, male villains Raabert, Tiger and Cobra made killings smuggling gold before they were brought to justice by the Angry Young Man hero. I was enamoured of golden biscuits shown in these films and wanted to own a couple. But like so many of my dreams, this could not be realised. But at least, I was able to live in the ‘Golden Age of economic liberalisation' when more people could afford to buy gold.

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