Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Midas Touch

”Your kind attention please, We wish Anita and Baiju who will be getting married at St.Mary’s church, Chalakudy, on Dec 30, a happy married life. We dedicate this song for the young couple.” The strains of “Anuraagavilochananayi...”rent the air.

This announcement that caught me by surprise was not at the railway station or on FM radio, but in an overcrowded showroom of the one of the biggest jewelers in the city. Guess that’s what connects a railway station and a jewelry shop. The huge flat screen TVs in the waiting lounge at Chennai Central , keep playing ads where nubile beauties simper, and bat their eyelashes because they were draped in silks from Pothy's or adorned with Kalyan jewelry .Not to forget the Saravana stores ad with a robust splash of colour and a lot of frisky actors. The same monitor also runs an awareness documentary of the Indian Railway on sinister co-passengers who might drug you and rob you off your valuables.

My two trips to T Nagar gave me and insight into the shoppers psyche and that I am not wired to be one. I had been to most of the big shops, bustling with shoppers as though Doomsday was near. Last time I accompanied an obsessive shopper who not only shopped her purse dry but also irritated me with rhetorical questions, while she displayed two equally garish salwaar sets. I stared at her in wide eyed wonder when she described her shopping trips to the big textile marts and jewelers unable to take in the fact that there exist people who live just to shop. Infact she used to say she wants to get married so that she can buy all the saris and ornaments she ever dreamed of!

Come January and it’s time for weddings. I have two on my list already. The big shops bustle with the bridal entourage consisting of a dreamy bride, a bored groom, anxious parents of the bride, cynical parents of the groom and an assortment of excited aunts and girl cousins. A classmate of mine had to miss the golden chance to shop for her sister’s wedding and had to make do with status reports between classes over the cell phone. “They got the engagement sari!!! She announced excitedly and immediately got an audience. “It’s maroon and gold and costs Rs.19000!” A gasp went around the room as the sister of the bride-to-be smiled nervously, at a loss on how to judge the reaction. The already married classmates saved her by launching into their own wedding trousseau stories. The other day I was at the engagement of a good friend of mine. It was, in two words, simple and sweet. She wore the best jewel a bride could wear,(but is mostly paled by the glare of the yellow metal. I have to mention those Vivahitarayi photos that appear in newspapers where the bride and groom sulk as they flank an austere bishop.)-a beautiful smile. The sari, I was told, cost less than Rs.5000 and she wore a single string of pearls. I couldn’t help remembering of my old roomie who went around the jewelry shops, armed with a copy of the Vanitha , asking them where she could get the exact manga mala that Kavya Madhavan wore, for her nischayam!

I came across yet another situation on the day they call Akshaya Triteya. Most of my colleagues hurried away to buy a bit of auspicious gold to keep their lockers blooming through the year. I accompanied a friend of mine to a Tanishq showroom,where the security was in the danger of being crushed by a beehive of shoppers collecting their lucky gold coins in a makeshift counter right at the entrance. My friend placed her request to see the rings section and proceeded to choose from the display. After umpteen looks at two almost similar designs she settled for one to seal her prosperity for the year. There were a couple of other colleagues who settled for a pair of miniscule ear-studs saying it was essential to have the Midas touch that day even in the size of a pin prick. It was quite ironic that one of them lost the ear-studs and other valuables in a burglary a week later.

That same evening another friend of mine was telling me about her innocent fiancĂ© whose job was at stake. Her words of resilience were powerful though drenched in tears.”I believe in a living God. He will make a way”. Yet another hope for prosperity; another belief. I was left wondering which one was right and strong.

And while you are at it, do check out Games People Play by Joe South.Pithy lyrics.