RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Always never very stable, my blood pressure has been shooting up alarmingly over the last few months, and—surprise, surprise— poor Arnab Goswami is not even the cause of it.
Each morning when I skim the newspapers; each evening when I switch on TV; and all day as I go around town gawking at the hoardings or listening to FM radio, the sight and sound of gold has begun to have a disastrous effect on my BP—and all this before NewsHour starts at 9 pm.
Just what it is, I wonder, that has resulted in this sudden societal craze for the yellow metal that goes beyond Akshaya Trithiya.
Have we, as a society, become the wisest investors on the planet, or have we lost all sense of balance? Are we collectively saving for a rainy day, or have we suddenly become materialistic beyond belief? Are we showing our spending power without compunctions, or are we going down the sad road of Kerala?
(When I can’t quite decide, I also ask myself another question privately: have I, as a woman, become a bit of a freak to so loathe what most other women crave?)
Look around you to see what I mean: there you have Kannada filmdom’s ace brothers Shiva Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar falling prey to the lure of cheap lucre and endorsing this obnoxious phenomenon in a manner their father would never ever have.
The elder brother asking you on radio to get the gold you have at home tested at the Kerala jewellery store (Kalyan) that has paid him to say so; the younger one exhorting you on television to pledge the gold you have and take a loan from the Kerala gold finance firm (Manappuram) that has paid him to say so.
Look at the newspapers: most of the the large, lavish advertisements in our dailies are those of the Kerala jewellery stores that are all over town or are planning to open shop soon (Malabar and Muthoot, Joyalukkas or Jos Alukkas), rival firms from across the border (revealingly) separated by a mere letter or two.
Look at the Kannada television channels: smaller local firms like Shree Sai Gold Palace use smalltime actresses to tout their wares and announce their schemes and discounts. Some like RR Gold Palace narcissisitically flaunt their owners as models, like a latter-day Lee Iacoca.
Why, one of the gold dons even (K.P. Nanjundi of Lakshmi gold palace) even produces and stars in a Kannada TV serial, and am told hosted a conference of a conferences of the jewel-making community of Vishwakarmas recently with the who’s who of Karnataka politics in attendance.
I know the theory well enough to understand what’s happening: That India always has been a massive gold consumer if not the biggest; that gold has always been a great form of investment, far safer than real estate or stocks or bank deposits; that even at this value, it is a safe investment, and so on.
I am aware that this is not a phenomenon unique to Karnataka and is probably happening in most of the southern States, if not in the rest of the country. And I am aware that even in the days of yore, homegrown stores like C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons and Jewels de Paragon were the big advertisers.
And, anyway, if people are buying gold with their own money or pledging their own gold, who am I to complain?
Still, looking at the gold rush, looking at the manner in which film stars are being used to woo gullible masses, looking at the number of shops opening their doors, looking at the unrealistic levels gold prices are shooting up to, etc, I get the sneaking feeling that we have well and truly entered a giant bubble which might burst any day.
I won’t use the word “scam” yet—and the newspapers and TV channels and FM stations won’t for obvious reasons too—but my guess is we may not have to wait too long before do so.
Photograph: Actress and dancer Lakshmi Gopalaswamy at a press conference on the eve of the 13th Jewels of India show in Bangalore on Wednesday (Karnataka Photo News)
Also read: Surely, all that glitters is indeed gold?