A couple of days back, during a random conversation on Kerala and weddings, I was asked, “You must have also been covered in gold for your wedding, no?”Although then, to her, I replied in a one word negative, I thought a lot about it later. I was an unconventional Kerala bride in terms of the accessories that I wore.
I don’t know when or how it was decided that I would be wearing just one necklace for my wedding. It wasn’t even a decision. For a person who had never worn any gaudy gold except for a very thin chain on her neck, two pair of studs on her ears, and a tiny speck of a diamond on the nose, it never made any sense to be overloaded with something I was not comfortable with on my wedding day. My parents too were never obsessed with gold and in fact, it was Achan (my father) who was more particular than me about how less gold I should be wearing for the wedding.
Because of this, the jewellery shopping was a breeze. After we bought my wedding saree, we walked into one of the popular jewellery shops in Madras and there it was, calling to us right from the display shelf. It blended well with my saree – the perfect match I could ever get. I fell in love with the necklace and earring instantly that it was a ‘pack it’ moment. We didn’t search for better options or a few more pieces before we decided on this. It took us a little more time to find the perfect pair of bangles and once we found that, our jewellery shopping for the wedding was over! A few days before the wedding, we had a fight though – my grandmother and my mother on one side and me on the other. My mother and grandmother wanted me to wear a hip chain for the wedding and I out-rightly rejected the idea since it wasn’t something I would ever use in my life again and it seemed like a waste of money. My mother stood by my grandmother when she said it was her wish and finally I gave in to the two most important women in my life. On one condition though – that I would choose it and it has to be plain.
I had quite a lot of friends and family who tried to ‘advice’ me about how I should be overloaded with gold on my wedding day – advices ranging from how this is the day that my parents would be able to see me in my full glory (I still haven’t understood what they meant) to how can Raghu’s daughter undermine his status by wearing just one necklace to what will Balu’s family (husband’s family) think of it, to this is the only way you guys can show how wealthy you are. The only family that wasn’t bothered or didn’t even ask us a single question about what I was wearing or anything remotely related was my in-laws. By the time the wedding was over and we were leaving for home, my hip-belt was in Balu’s aunt’s hand since it was coming out and on our way home – a long 5 hour journey – I handed over my earrings to another aunt since it was hurting me. No one in that family told me to wear it back since I was the bride and since they had to show the public what the bride was bringing home (weird logic, I know.. but I’ve heard it a lot). I love this family more for this, for never dictating anyone in the family with unwanted rules and principles, for giving all the girls who walked into their homes the freedom to make choices and much more – but that’s another story.
As much as I say that it helped me live the moment, kept me sane instead of weighing me down, and gave me one thing less to worry about when it came to wedding preparations, sadly, amongst Keralites, this is a one-off case. As much as our generation has wanted to change the trend of being ‘gold mines’ on our wedding day, it is really difficult considering the expectation of family and even worse, the society. So much so that you loose the energy to fight to have your way. Little do we realise that we are setting a very high standard among the lower income group to match up, and they do indeed – taking loans that they find difficult to repay and selling property, to have a dream wedding. What for? For a few pieces of jewellery that is going to be in the locker and rarely touched! Of course, it’s an asset. But do we really need to showcase all our assets from our parents’ hard-earned money on us on the most important day in our lives?
I had a dowry free wedding. Neither my husband nor my in-laws were interested in what my parents were ‘gifting’ me. We never had a discussion on that. And my parents never bothered to specifically allot a portion of their wealth to me for my wedding. Rather, they chose to stand by us whenever they felt we needed support, big or small, even without we asking them. And so did my in-laws. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that. It meant a lot to me and it still does rather than an obligatory 100 sovereign of gold and a few acres of land.
We need to bring a change to this trend that leaves us displaying our parents wealth on us, a trend that plays spoilsport on the most special day in the lives of two people. It’s high time we bring about a change. Our generation can indeed make a change. Weddings should be about celebrating love, welcoming new relationships and making memories. Let’s not make it a power-play to showcase wealth and making a goldmine of the bride.
The story was first published in Atheetha Raghuchandran’s blog.