Yesterday I was chatting to one of my neighbors while we were waiting at the bus stop. Our chat meandered among a few topics when we fell into chatting about a recent gold-chain snatching incident just 2 km away from our home.
Ever since gold prices have been going up, Kerala has seen a steep rise in chain-snatching incidents. The snatchers almost always travel by motorbike, snatch the chain and disappear. Not content with just pedestrians, a daring few have knocked women riding on two-wheelers to the side of the road to snatch the chain in peace.
In the land of Unniyarcha, some modern Unniyarchas refused to be cowed by the snatchers and grimly held on to their end of the chain or fought the robbers off. So the current trend is to bash the woman's head in with a stone or bottle from behind before snatching the chain.
As I walked to the bus stop today, I was wondering what would be the best method to deter such robbers. Obviously everyone cannot drive around in cars all the time (even then a gang tricked a newly-wed couple and hijacked their car to rob them!) So I was mentally designing an unbreakable plexi shield sort of thing that will cover a woman's chest and go around her neck with a huge padlock behind that will deter the most determined of robbers and still will allow the precious necklace to be shown off in all its glory. I started chuckling to myself drawing some strange looks from other people before I realized what I was doing!
My dear, enlightened women of Kerala - why, why, WHY do you continue to endanger your lives by insisting on wearing gold chains often weighing 5-8 sovereigns (worth more than 1 lakh) around your necks on a daily basis? Don't you value your lives?
I feel that this "need" to wear gold on a daily basis is a result of cultural indoctrination. Girls are brought up to believe that they need to wear a gold ornaments on a daily basis - I have personally seen elderly women chide the daughters of the house saying "കഴുത്തും കാതും പറിച്ചിട്ട് നടക്കുന്നു , അശ്രീകരം!" (meaning going about with bare neck and ear lobes is inauspicious) - and it was not enough to wear just anything, it had to be gold. Married women are compelled to wear a gold chain with the thali on it - and those who disobey are threatened with dire consequences.
Even today I see among my own relatives, grandmothers who insist on making their baby granddaughters wear gold ornaments even if the mother wishes it otherwise.
Thankfully I have escaped this fate. My Dad and DH both value my life more than showing off their wealth or conforming to society in this issue. I am free to do as I please. I try to wear a small pair of gold studs when I'm at home - because gold studs have larger stems than costume jewelry ones and if I leave out gold studs for long, I can't get them into my ears again without shedding blood, sweat and tears! I have had several neighbors point out my bare neck to me when I go out - just making sure that my gold chain hadn't fallen off without my knowledge. They look at me oddly when I jauntily tell them that I have deliberately left it behind.
Please get this, I am not against wearing gold. Even when it's disgustingly ostentatious or totally in bad taste like in this wedding costume I saw recently...
I am not bothered about this because no lives are endangered in a wedding when the bride is surrounded by people - okay she may be at risk of a broken neck, still!
Even as the chain-snatchings continue, I have hope. Last week when I was riding a crowded bus to the library, I looked around at the accessories of the ladies and girls around me. Whether it's because of the prohibitive price of gold or out of love for their lives and limbs, a notable number of women were wearing costume jewelry. The percentage of such prudent women was substantially more than what was the case a mere 7 years ago when I first started living in our capital city.