It’s indestructible. It’s fungible. It’s beautiful. And for Indians, gold – whether it’s 18-, 22- or 24-carat — is semi-sacred.
The late distinguished Indian economist I.G. Patel observed, “In prosperity as in the hour of need, the thoughts of most Indians turn to gold.”
No marriage takes place without gold ornaments presented to the bride. Even the poorest Indian outfits girls in the family with a simple nose ring of gold.
The India of old was known as “sone ki chidiya” or “golden sparrow,” so opulent were the jewels of its rulers from the Moghul dynasty to the princely states.
For Indian women who were not formally educated, gifting them gold was their social security. Today, whether Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim, bedecking the bride in gold invests her with good fortune, according to anthropologist Nilika Mehrotra.
“A married woman is supposed to be an auspicious woman. She represents Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. She produces the progeny for the family, the food. She takes care of the family,” Mehrotra says. “It’s very important. It’s central to the way Indians think.”
Mehrotra notes that in India today land is stolen from women. Women have been disfigured in acid attacks attempting to assert a claim to family property. But gold seems to be the one asset that everyone agrees a woman can rightfully possess.
“For sure,” says 38-year-old Anshu Srivastava. “That is my property. That is considered to be [a] lady’s right.”
The living room of this New Delhi homemaker, like Ali Baba’s cave, leaves no doubt about her obsession. Every inch of décor — from her couches to the pillows on the couches to the drapes on the windows — is the color gold.
Discreetly hidden beneath the Srivastava’s sleeve is an eye-popping array of gold jewelry. A diamond-crusted gold watch peeks out alongside gold bracelets or “bangles” that are studded with rubies and more diamonds.
Asked if she leaves the house with all those treasures on her wrist, Srivastava says, “I always wear this. It’s always with me.”
And if she’s robbed?
“It’s my destiny,” she says with a shrug.
Srivastava has gold stashed in bank vaults for her teenage daughter one day. She has her own personal jeweler.
Srivastava opens up for us her vast collection of jewelry boxes, revealing exquisite gold from her in-laws and her husband. But the most precious are the heirlooms from her mother who began collecting jewelry for her from the time she was 8.
Her stockpile of gold earrings, rings, necklaces, and hairpins is lavish but also reflects the centrality of gold in an Indian woman’s life. It’s given for pregnancies; at births; when a baby first eats solid food. It’s engrained in the cultural lexicon.
‘My Bangles Sing’
The temptress in the star-studded, high-wattage dance number from the 2001 Hindi blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (translated, Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness) croons, “My bangles sing, ‘I’m all yours.’”
The old Bollywood classic Mother India tells the story of how gold redeems the family’s honor. The heroine in this 1957 melodrama is reduced to pawning her gold bangles with the cunning village money lender to save the family farm. Music swelling, she slips off her jewels but never lets go her dignity.
So enthralled is India with gold that Indian households control an estimated $600 to $800 billion worth of it, mostly in women’s jewelry. That’s four times the U.S. reserves in Fort Knox.
A women’s right to use her gold as she sees fit can vary in India. Anthropologist Mehrotra says women, especially some in the conservative north, require family permission to dispose of their gold.
“This kind of limitation, this restriction on her right I think suits the patriarchy, so she is not totally free,” Mehrotra says. “Her choice is limited by the nature of the structure of which she is a part.”
When Delhi resident Pooja Sharma walked away from her marriage, her husband kept the mother lode of her gold. With the little jewelry she had left, she secured a $400 gold loan, her first, to pay her ailing father’s medical bills.
Sharma, a financial adviser accustomed to dealing with banks, laughs recalling how she agonized over pledging her jewels with the lender who exchanged her gold for cash and safekeeping until the loan was paid off.
“Twice I went to them for clarity, one branch, second branch, different branches,” she says, “and then I decided, ‘OK, I’ll invest.’”
Thousands just like Sharma walk each day through the guarded branch doors of Muthoot Finance. With 4,000 branches nationwide, the firm transacts the equivalent of more $50 million in gold loans per day, with interest rates from 12 to 24 percent. At Muthoot, all it takes is 15 minutes for gold to be assessed and cash dispensed — a speed no bank could match.
Couple Snigdha Paul and Sanjeev Dey have a new business thanks to their $500 loan, using her and his jewelry as collateral. They are proud owners of a new flower boutique in South Delhi, which Dey calls, “A dream come true.”
Dey stands before his stall adorned with yellow lilies and pink carnations and chuckles at his good fortune. “That gold has helped me,” he says. “I am also part of this economy.” He admits his venture is small but says he is able to hire employees.
“I am eradicating unemployment,” he says proudly.
An Idle Asset?
The couple’s story is repeated throughout India: The assets of a wife put to work to build small businesses, often for the husband. Avinav Chaubey, head of marketing for Muthoot Finance, says an earlier television ad campaign run by the company featured crafty wives urging their husbands to put their gold to good use, maneuvering around the taboo of men asking women for money.
The loans challenge the traditional view of gold as an idle asset.
Yet economist Jayati Ghosh insists that obsessive buying of gold deprives India of genuine investment.
“Gold is a pure leakage out of the system. It basically is the same as putting your money under a mattress. Well, it’s really putting gold bars under the mattress,” Ghosh says, “So it’s a huge waste especially for a poor economy that needs investment.”
The Reserve Bank of India, which is akin to the U.S. Federal Reserve, has been struggling to limit gold imports to stop depleting India’s foreign reserves and to cut the current account deficit. It has had some success.
But with hundreds of millions of Indians without a bank account or access to formal credit, using gold to secure their dreams is not about to stop.
Back at Muthoot Finance, Sanjeev Dey’s wife, Snigdha Paul, says she’d put her gold ring up as security again if the couple decides to expand their flower stall.
“Actually, if I’m getting some benefit in return, then why would I say no,” she asks. Her husband interjects that she is now vested. “That money is earning more money. Money begets money,” he declares.
His petite wife confidently adds, “After all, it’s mine: the business and gold and cash – everything is mine. So in return, I’m getting more benefit.”
Snighda is reminded that the lender has already returned her gold ring and that the couple’s loan is now secured exclusively by her husband’s gold. Snighda smiles. “His jewelry is my jewelry,” she says.
The sentiment is symbolic of a “new India,” where traditional adornments of the old India are producing a new form of wealth — for women.
cipro drug class canadian cialis online cialis 200 cialis coupon cialis medication ciprofloxacin 500 ciprofloxacin 500 mg tabletten utilisation viagra azithromycin 500 erfahrungen cipro dangers tamoxifen side effects lexapro 10 mg viagra bestellen cialis coupon 20 mg levitra 20mg cost per pill ciprofloxacin uses tamoxifen and foods to avoid azithromycin medscape finasteride results viagra tablet thuoc azithromycin canadian viagra generic cialis at walmart acyclovir medication cialis pricing azithromycin 5 day dose pack finasteride medication tamoxifen and weight gain azithromycin how long for azithromycin to take effect zithromax dosage ciprofloxacin drug class viagra pills ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg tab daily cialis viagra coupons lexapro 5mg acyclovir side effects viagra 100mg tablets retail price generic viagra 100mg cialis generic availability wholesale cialis lexapro vs celexa cipro dosage cipro antibiotics tamoxifen side effects in women over 55 best price viagra canada cialis cialis 30 day sample lexapro side effects cialis canada natural viagra lexapro para que sirve finasteride 5 mg azithromycin 500 azithromycin dosage viagra cost lexapro overdose cialis generic cipro and tendonitis side effects of tamoxifen ciprofloxacin drops viagra from canada ciprofloxacin 500 mg azithromycine 250 mg cialis dosage cialis coupons 2017 lexapro manufacturer website tamoxifen bijwerkingen how to take cialis cialis or viagra ciprofloxacin dosierung azithromycin and alcohol lexapro 10mg celexa vs lexapro stopping lexapro lexapro vs zoloft how does acyclovir work what is ciprofloxacin what is acyclovir used for is ciprofloxacin a penicillin cost of cialis acyclovir 800 mg 5 times a day what is tamoxifen side effects of ciprofloxacin finasteride and enlarged prostate over the counter viagra acyclovir cream buy viagra nolvadex withdrawal from lexapro ciprofloxacin 250mg side effects of lexapro in women cialis cheap propecia side effects what is lexapro finasteride 1mg free cialis acyclovir for cold sores viagra for sale equipe argentine viagra acyclovir for shingles ciprofloxacin nebenwirkungen tamoxifen lawsuits azithromycin 250 mg treatment escitalopram 20 mg escitalopram 10 mg generic for lexapro azithromycin pediatric dosing viagra vs cialis vs levitra viagra substitute side effects of lexapro cialis patent expiration date extended side effects of cialis what is cialis levitra generic viagra ohne rezept auf rechnung escitalopram nebenwirkungen what bacteria does ciprofloxacin kill cialis website cialis pharmacy prices azithromycin 250 viagra pill is lexapro a controlled substance what is azithromycin used for cialas azithromycin 500mg levitra prezzo in farmacia what is viagra zithromax antibiotic azithromycin for uti lexapro generic viagra soft what is finasteride used for lexapro for anxiety cialis canadian pharmacy cialis reviews lexapro benefits for women acyclovir ointment viagra kaufen vardenafil 20mg levitra bayer 20mg meilleur prix azithromycin eye drops levitra dosage levitra 20 mg precio farmacia azithromycin pregnancy category cialis trial viagra viagra cialis cialis coupon print canada viagra cipro uses generic lexapro azithromycin class levitra 10 mg prezzo azithromycin side effects finasteride reviews viagra 100 mg levitra rezeptfrei deutschland lexapro generic name buy generic levitra generic levitra vardenafil 20mg women viagra lexapro side effects men cyalis cialis patent expiration 2017 viagra samples what is lexapro used for lexapro weight gain viagra en ligne livraison 24h side effects of ciprofloxacin 500 mg levitra vs viagra for hardness what works better than viagra levitra viagra on line no prec acyclovir dose pfizer viagra coupons from pfizer ciprofloxacin ophthalmic solution azithromycin pregnancy escitalopram oxalate lexapro coupons azithromycin for strep throat how much does cialis cost cialis vs viagra what is ciprofloxacin used for viagra vs cialis viamedic cialis cipro how long for lexapro to work finasteride hair loss cialis effects cialis otc azithromycin cost is azithromycin tamoxifen interaction levitra 20 mg viagra for women cost of viagra how does cialis work what does viagra do viagra alternative viagra dosage azithromycin 500 mg azithromycine eg 500 mg bijsluiter ciprofloxacin bnf zovirax for cold sores finasteride 5 mg tab lexapro withdrawal symptoms finasteride permanent side effects ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets ciprofloxacin side effects cialis alternative cialis samples overnight cialis savings card what is ciprofloxacin prescribed for ciprofloxacin hydrochloride azithromycin 250mg tablets 6 pack finasteride 5mg azithromycin 250 mg lexapro withdrawal levitra vs viagra lexapro and weight loss lexapro side effects in men effects of stopping finasteride free viagra viagra uk ciprofloxacin hcl cialis dosage recommendations levitra coupons lexapro dosage cheap viagra viagra 50mg effects of stopping lexapro suddenly female viagra cipro antibiotic cheap levitra acyclovir 400 mg order viagra what does ciprofloxacin 500mg treat zovirax ointment ciprofloxacin spc cialis 20 mg buy cialis ciprofloxacin class azithromycin tablets viagra canada zithromax what is escitalopram levitra 20 mg cost walmart cilias ciprofloxacin viagra generico lexapro and weight gain discount cialis discount viagra lexapro 20mg what infections does ciprofloxacin treat tamoxifen langzeitfolgen revatio vs viagra how to wean off lexapro cialis for sale viagra without a doctor prescription viagra activate acyclovir 800 mg for shingles acyclovir 400mg cialis free trial tamoxifen cost ciprofloxacin side effects after age 60 ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg side effects lexapro bula cialis for bph lexapro reviews what is tamoxifen used for viagra 100 what is finasteride escitalopram side effects side effects of azithromycin where to buy viagra side effects of azithromycin 250 mg viagra effects cialis testimonials acyclovir dosage for cold sores generic cialis tadalafil ciprofloxacin hydrochloride ophthalmic viagra for men how long does viagra last common side effects of ciprofloxacin 500 mg cipro side effects cialis price zovirax levitra coupon ciprofloxacin eye drops viagra 100mg finasteride vs dutasteride cialis vs viagra finasteride 5mg tab cialis for men cialis 5mg daily escitalopram 10 mg para que sirve first few days on lexapro ciprofloxacin dose cialis side effects tamoxifen and bone pain cialis online cialis sample cialis from canada acyclovir ciprofloxacin coverage what is azithromycin for cialis professional levitra online acyclovir 800 mg levitra vs viagra levitra 20mg viagra natural azithromycin tablet ciprofloxacin 500 mg for urinary tract infection cheap cialis viagra nebenwirkungen herbal viagra viagra sans ordonnance how to get off lexapro finasteride effets secondaires viagra side effects price cialis cialis 5mg buying viagra lexapro side effects in women viagra ohne rezept aus deutschland what is acyclovir cialis azithromycine viagra single packs viagra generic acyclovir ointment 5 tamoxifen therapy cialis prices buy levitra generic cialis acyclovir vs valacyclovir azithromycin vs erythromycin ciprofloxacin side effects in women cialis without a doctor’s prescription acyclovir dosing what does azithromycin treat finasteride side effects viagra vs cialis does lexapro cause weight gain viagra wikipedia cialis on line azithromycin uses azithromycin drug class ciprofloxacin for dogs cialis generic tadalafil cialis for women viagra coupon is tamoxifen chemotherapy zovirax pills cialis pills for sale antibiotic ciprofloxacin lowest cialis prices cealis azithromycin coverage cialis 30 day trial coupon viagra on line side effects lexapro zithromax 500 mg wellbutrin and lexapro ciprofloxacin 500mg antibiotics side effects lexapro and weight gain in women cialis coupons tamoxifen side effects in women how does lexapro work buy levitra online azithromycin z pak ciprofloxacin used for cialis 20mg viagra costs viagra tesco post finasteride syndrome azithromycin liquid cialis daily cipro 500 weaning off lexapro cialis pills buy cialis online escitalopram 10mg viagra alternatives what is cipro how to wean off lexapro without withdrawals viagra receptfritt cialis samples viagra without a doctor prescription usa acyclovir 200mg escitalopram viagra price sex viagra for women generic viagra lexapro vs wellbutrin finasteride 5mg side effects mayo clinic online viagra ciprofloxacin 500mg 9 levitra at walmart azithromycin without a doctor’s prescription azithromycin 250mg azithromycin three times a week viagra for sale uk lexapro dosages cialis patent expiration side effects of lexapro 10 mg lexapro is azithromycin penicillin side effects of finasteride 5mg cialis 5 mg finasteride dosage viagra vs cialis vs levitra tamoxifen nebenwirkungen buy viagra online azithromycin for pneumonia side effects of viagra viagra tablets levitra 20 mg von bayer finasteride side effects in men erectile dysfunction cialis pfizer viagra propecia what does finasteride do finasteride long term effects viagra pillen kruidvat what does ciprofloxacin treat zithromax z-pak when will cialis go generic levitra erfahrungen finasteride for women what is cipro usually prescribed for levitra without a doctor prescription zovirax dosage cipro side effects in elderly generic for cialis liquid cialis cipro for uti cialis coupon viagra prices what is lexapro for cialis coupons from manufacturer generic levitra lexapro medication tamoxifen lexapro dosing side effects of finasteride viagra medicine levitra prices cialis copay card finasteride for hair loss what is azithromycin what is cipro used for buy generic viagra finasteride tablets acyclovir dosage cialis dosage strengths cialis discount side effects of acyclovir sophia viagra lexapro and wellbutrin combination therapy ciprofloxacin dosage viagra online ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg escitalopram effets secondaires cialis tadalafil finasteride ciprofloxacin 250 mg ciprofloxacin 500mg antibiotics viagra sex cialis 20mg directions zovirax cream cialis 10 mg what is acyclovir for zoloft vs lexapro cialis coupons printable viagra wiki acyclovir 800mg cialis for daily use tamoxifen citrate cialis voucher vardenafil vs viagra how to use viagra finasteride efectos secundarios cialis cost how does viagra work finasteride 5mg side effects