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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

All that glitters

Be it Akshaya Trithiyai or a normal day, the common man’s (should it be woman’s?) craze for gold ceases to amaze me. TIME has more:

The shop floor of NAC Jewellers, a store in the South Indian city of Madras, is full of exquisitely wrought necklaces in gold and silver, but the prize possession of the owners is a photograph that hangs upstairs in a small office. It shows a tall crown studded with 4,000 diamonds and made from seven kilograms of gold. Four craftsmen from NAC Jewellers spent six months making the crown, at a cost of about $700,000. It now rests on a statue of the goddess Padmavathi Devi at the Tiruchanur Shrine in South India. Anantha Padmanaban, a partner of NAC Jewellers, proudly shows off a photo album full of snapshots of the work his shop has done for other Hindu shrines: a gold-plated archway for the temple at Guruvayur, a silver crown for the god Kubera at Badrinath, and gold and silver ornamentation for numerous other temples. All through India, Padmanaban says, famous temples are replacing the silver plating on their idols with gold, and smaller shrines are replacing copper deities with silver ones. "People in India have more money now," Padmanaban says, "and the result is that our temples are being covered in gold and silver."

In many ways, gold lust is a relic of the bad old India—an India of weak investor rights and shaky financial systems, where people distrusted banks and the stock market and preferred to store their wealth in tangible assets, chiefly gold and property. The recent economic boom has given Indians a range of sophisticated and relatively secure financial instruments: mutual funds, stocks, bonds, even abstract art. Richer Indians are, indeed, diversifying their investments. "At the top end of society, yes, [gold] consumption is beginning to decrease," says K. Shivram, a vice president of the World Gold Council in Madras. The current surge in demand is being driven by the middle class and even by the poor—evidence of an economic revolution taking place at the lower levels of Indian society.

Although India's current economic boom has been criticized for unevenly benefiting the rich, new wealth is percolating down in many parts of the country to newly empowered members of the working class such as Padma Kondababu, a 40-year-old maid in Madras. The first woman in her family to work outside the home, Kondababu makes $85 a month, a good salary by Indian standards. Whatever she can save, she says, she uses to buy gold, sometimes even in $12 installments—enough for tiny stud earrings. "It's a matter of pride for people like me to buy gold," she says. "Gold used to be a few hundred rupees for a sovereign [a measure of eight grams] in the time of our parents, and yet they couldn't dream of buying it. Now it's six thousand rupees for a sovereign, and still we have the money to buy gold."

1 Comments:

  • Nice post, Kaps. Strongly identify with this gold craze bit..runs in my family...

    By Anonymous Ravi, at 5:56 PM  

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