Please Note: This is Ep.20
Please click here for Ep.19
(As everything I write is true, names have been changed to protect identities.)
“Diamonds! The Ultimate Symbol of Love”
The next ten days flew by with daily trips to Ealing Road, Wembley (also known as ‘Little Gujarat’) in London. Ealing Road serves both the high end shopper and the penny pinchers, and everyone in between. It’s full of Indian snack shops, restaurants, designer fashion houses, budget clothing shops, fabric shops, goldsmiths, jewellery stores, and shops selling all manner of wares from India; everything from religious items to spice tins and steel plates, to furniture, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, and it’s dotted with temples dedicated to every Hindu deity possible, all the way down to Alperton Station.
The road was pungent with burning, musky incense mingled with heavily spiced frying batter in oil. The latest 90’s Bollywood music of the moment blared from boomboxes on roadside stalls with bright scarves swaying in the wind, and tables piled high with music CDs, and bangles and bindis of every colour imaginable.
The pregnant me with my morning, noon and night sickness still raging in the midst of the odours in the air, the blaring music, and the din and hullabaloo of the cars and people filling the street, was very overwhelmed, I felt ready to throw up and pass out at any moment.
With anti-seasickness bands strapped to pressure points on my wrists and a bottle of fresh ginger water in hand, we traipsed up and down the road almost every single day getting everything we needed for the wedding.
In one of the shops my vision went blurry and I starting seeing stars almost like in the cartoons when a character bumps their head and a halo of stars appears, I almost fainted. Everyone with me started freaking out and I had to sit down and wait it out. We were all worried for the baby, but we dared not say anything about it in front of the shop owners, it would be scandalous. Here, everyone knew everyone in the Gujarati community and we were here to shop for my wedding after all. I had no choice but to plough through, we had to get things done.
On the first day that we went to the goldsmiths to buy the wedding jewellery, my mother opened a bag and emptied it onto the counter. It was every piece of gold she owned bar a single chain that her mother had given her. It wasn’t very much as she’d eloped to get married so she hadn’t built up any sort of extensive collection, but it was all sentimental to her: some chains, a couple of rings and a few pairs of earrings that she’d received as gifts over the years. It was everything she had, and she handed it all over so that she could exchange it for a set for me to wear on my wedding day.
Maanav’s mother came along on some of the days and together we chose the items that would be presented to me from their side of the family. She said I was to choose different items as per their tradition, something with pearls, something with different gems, something with diamonds etc.
There were numerous jewellers side by side on Ealing Road, and in each one, it felt as if the entire shop was brought out before us. I chose a couple of simple, gold sets that I could wear regularly with sarees at future functions and I tried to avoid getting anything in diamond, but Maanav’s mother insisted I had to have at least one piece. Eventually, to please her sentiments, I settled on the most minimal piece.
I think back on this now and I realise that I could have had anything I’d wanted in any of the stores, I was never even given a budget. But the thought of getting as much as I could never crossed my mind. I’m not sure if other lovestruck seventeen-year-olds in my position would have done the same, but I’m grateful that I didn’t see things that way.
And diamonds, above all, were, and still are, baffling to me. I couldn’t ever justify anyone spending ridiculous amounts of money on a piece of compressed carbon for me, no matter how pretty and sparkly it might be.
Maanav had asked about getting me a proper engagement ring and I’d refused. I didn’t think it was necessary. I never understood the hype, so I never got one. Instead, I got a gold band in a traditional, Indian design.
I feel that just like our thoughts have no intrinsic value, any physical item too is only worth the value we put on it. For me, that means a diamond is worth… well, zero. I personally don’t understand why people put so much value on them.
A couple of times people gave me diamond earrings as gifts I ended up either never wearing them or losing them completely. I liked my £2.99 Claire’s Accessories’ zirconia ones better. The value I put on those was greater than the value I put on the expensive diamonds. Eventually people realised there was no point in buying me any jewellery.
I also wonder, if diamonds are so ‘rare’ then why does almost every engaged/married woman in the world (especially in the West) have at least one? (Why do people spend months and months of their hard earned wages to buy a rock that symbolizes ownership. And incidentally, why don’t men wear a big flashing light on their hand that says ‘UNAVAILABLE’ What a great idea! 😄… anyway, I digress.)
The movie Blood Diamond hadn’t been released back when I got engaged in 1998 and I didn’t know anything then about the dark reality of diamond mining. If you haven’t seen this film already, I highly recommend it.
When I watched it after its release in 2006, it brought me to tears of anger, sadness and shame at our ignorance. It made me even more grateful that I had never rocked a rock on my ring finger.
(In fact, by that time, I’d already given away almost all of my jewellery, and just before coming to the ashram, I gave away the rest, but that’s another story.)
To me it is horrifying the number of people who have been taken advantage of, abused, tortured and have lost their lives simply because somewhere someone wants to wear something sparkly on their ears or fingers and because corporate entities want to fill pockets: yours with some little rocks, theirs with lots of cash.
The marketing machine of this world makes you believe:
“Diamonds are rare!”
“Diamonds are special!”
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”
“Diamonds are forever!”
“Diamonds, the ultimate symbol of love!”
But if you really think about it, if you didn’t place any value on them, then what are they really worth at all?
Of course there are those of you who can easily afford diamonds and genuinely derive joy from gifting them to others and wearing them. I see nothing wrong in that if it makes you happy.
But it saddens my heart to know young couples are struggling to afford just one little diamond in order to get engaged just because society and clever marketing say they should.
I feel that the gold, wedding day set was a waste of my mother’s sacrifice too. I wore it all only once. I could have easily done with a pretty costume set at the time at a fraction of the cost. I don’t know why it was assumed that I had to wear a gold set, I now feel I should have questioned it just like I did the need for a diamond engagement ring.
I feel that the time, money and effort people put in to chasing after gold, jewels and diamonds that they really can’t afford could well be spent in helping their marriage along, investing in their future, or if they can afford to, doing something kind for others, helping others in some way, making a difference in the world.
For, every single gesture of kindness, no matter how big or small counts. We never know how far the ripples of one kind act can radiate, and that feeling of satisfaction and happiness is true and lasting: a memory of kindness is forever.
In my eyes, it’s kindness that’s the ultimate symbol of love, not a rock.
Please click here to continue to Ep.21