What does marriage mean for me?

I have written a lot about marriage and the certain rituals of a Tamil Hindu Wedding which I have found very interesting.

This piece however was inspired by when I was sat waiting for the lecturer to begin the lecture. A girl in our year walked in; she got engaged over summer and I was extremely happy for her. I have spoken to her a few times, but do not know much about her otherwise. Basically a random girl is getting married soon and I am happy for her. Sounds like the very emotional me indeed!

I was sat in the lecture theatre for the next few minutes thinking hard about marriage and what it means for me. So yes, with minutes to spare for the lecture to begin, I started writing what you are reading right now.

I have seen and taken an active part in several weddings over the past few years; I have been a bridesmaid a few times as well. I have then had the pleasure to see how that marriage has progressed from starting off a grand wedding ceremony, to a real epitome of love. And so I begin…this is what marriage means for me:

1) Marriage should come out of real love and not convenience. What do I mean by this? Well I have come across several ‘marriages’ which have had to happen because of what society is apparently making of two individuals in a relationship. Families of the couple believe that it is ‘safer’ to get their children married off to avoid people talking badly about them.

We are living in the 21st century for heaven’s sake! If one is happily accepting and bragging about 21st century fashion and technology, why then can one not change their basic ideals of relationships and marriage?

2) I believe in myself a lot. I know myself very well as well. I am not going to get married for convenience. I am not going to get married just because I am a girl and apparently girls need to get married sooner. I am not going to get married to prove to anyone anything.

I am going to get married when I am ready – emotionally and financially – I am not saying that that will ever be the case to be honest, but I have vision about where I want to be in life before I even think about marriage and that is what I mean. So for all those aunties and uncles who keep asking me, when am I going to get married, here is your answer: NOT ANYTIME SOON (which means not for the next 3-4 years at least – unless some miracle happens in my life and I have gained all the stability I need), so please do not ask me anymore. Thanks.

3) I believe that marriages involve two families. I do not believe in running away from family to get married. That is absolutely cheap and totally crap! One has to earn to show respect to them first. It may take some time to convince parents but (now the soppy stuff is going to start), if there is real love then I’m sure it will be worth fighting for! (Meh, so emotionally soppy I cannot even deal with how it came out of my mouth but hey-ho it did).

Do not be a coward and hurt those who raised you. Be a fighter and stand up for what you believe in. If it is the right thing for you, it will work out perfectly…eventually.

Ultimately, marriage is a symbol of love, respect, trust and the ambition to work together and establish a life together – job, money, house, stability before marriage (there are so many perks to working your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/spouse to create a life together than to just settle in with someone who has everything that the other has financially dreamt of – I guess it is a matter of opinion and intention so I shall leave it at that). If that means a girl is going to be a few years older than what society deems the acceptable age for a girl to get married – well sorry, I do me! I will wait and no one has any rights to question it, (except my parents – but I know they wouldn’t ask!).

Daily Musings

Social media has helped me a lot with my professional dance career. I do not of course depend on it, but it has for sure given me a portal through which I can interact with fellow lovers of dance which I never had before. 

I use my social media now not just to post about my dance work, but to also to use it as a way to convey my thoughts about general life, in the form of inspirational, motivational, thought-provoking quotes. Everything I post has a reason but I never share it so here goes with some of my favourites. 

‘Are you really happy or just really comfortable?’

This is the deepest question one can ask themselves. Do not settle for a life that looks good on the outside. Do not settle for a life where a roof over your head, financial security and everything materialistic are set out for you. Work for it. When you work for it and can say to yourself, ‘This is something I have built’, that is when you will feel truly happy and accomplished. Until then keep hustling. 

‘Success does not come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.’

Especially in the scene of performance arts I’ve come across many who pursue something for a short while and call that success. For me, success is a journey and there is no end point. You need to practice something consistently to really unleash your potential in it!

‘You can speak spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance…but it is your behaviour that will reveal your true character.’

I call such people hypocrites. I say this very confidently because I used to be one myself. Until 2 years ago I realised I need to own up to what I really feel and act on it. It is no good saying that ‘I am this…I believe in this…’ when your actions say the complete opposite.

There are several people who just act in a way to seek public approval. With social media, the number of likes and followers seems to be used to quantify whether you are being approved by society or not.

How many of them will, including myself, actually practice what they preach?

‘Generally people like to bring up your past, when your present and future appears to be better than theirs.’

I dislike people who bring up another’s past. But now, the more they do it, the more I am like ‘Is that the only thing you have against them?’

Some people are so stuck in their bubble they refuse to accept another’s success in any way, shape or form. Therefore to bring another down they use their past.

Just think. If I did that to you? How would you feel? How ‘clean’ is your past? I can guarantee that those who act in such a way do not have the best of pasts. So if you believe you have changed, then give others the benefit of the doubt that they have changed as well. It’s that simple.

‘A private life is a happy life.’

Over the past few years I have become more and more aware of people who use social media to post about there private drama and unhappiness.

Question 1: Is posting on social media going to resolve that problem? Will it give happiness?

Question 2: Are you the only one in the world who is going through problems?

Question 3: What is the purpose of you posting your personal problems on social media? If you feel like that is giving your control over the situation, look at yourself and your attitude towards life.

Question 4: Do you actually think people care when each and everyone one of us is going through our own problems? I mean some may acknowledge by liking your post, but what does a ‘like’ mean? If a ‘like’ is the validation you need, then go ahead and keep posting. But I am secretly feeling sorry for you for reasons other than for the ones you wanted me to feel sorry for.

‘A lot of people want to make the institution of marriage a substitute for a real relationship.’

Marriage is not something which should not be a result of convenience.

Do not enter marriage because the current situation you are in warrants a marriage, so it is considered socially and culturally acceptable.

A marriage is a process which should occur at the right time, with the blessings of the right people, for the right reason which is nothing but true love!

Final thoughts:

Each of these thoughts are ones which I started to think more about based on the events which were taking place around me. I am not perfect, but I’m working on myself to think bigger and wiser so I can constantly reflect and grow myself. That is what life is about. Have a reason for every action and make sure you do not hurt anyone!

Grindstone and Toe Rings – Tamil Hindu Weddings

The more I read about Tamil Hindu weddings, the more I want to read.

Such a drive is furthered by ardent readers of my blog who open up very interesting discussions after having read my posts.

One which really inspired me to write this piece was based on a discussion I had with one of my readers after they had read my ‘Time to Tie the Knot’ blog post, for which I collaborated with London’s Western Jewellers.

The question which they had posed to me was what my knowledge and understanding was of the Ammi Mithithal tradition in Tamil Hindu Weddings. My mum educated me briefly about this over the past few years but this was a mere starting point. I decided to do more reading around the area. The reason for being so keen is because I want to know the significance of it. This is part of my culture and religion, and so I should be willing to learn about it rather than just follow the instructions the priest gives me on the day of wedding (which still remains a myth in my life right now for those inquisitive ones amongst you all!).

What does Ammi Mithithal mean?

This quite literally means placing one’s foot on a grindstone. In a Tamil Hindu wedding ceremony, this takes place during the Saptapathi ritual, where the bride and groom take seven steps around the Agni (central fire) where each step denotes a promise made by both the bride and groom – Sapthapathi will be explored in further depth in my future blogs!

What does Ammi Mithithal involve?

After taking their steps around Agni, the couple reach the grindstone. The groom holds the bride’s right big toe and helps her tread and place her right foot on the grindstone. As the bride mounts the stone, it symbolises how she and the marriage should be rock firm, and undisturbed by difficulties of life.

Interestingly, this particular ritual symbolises numerous other things including the fact that by touching the bride’s feet, the groom acts with more humility and respect for his bride. This I found particularly interesting because many are always made to believe that Tamil Hindu weddings are centred around and dominated by the groom when it comes to the symbolisms. This ritual connotes the complete opposite. It actually shows how women are just as righteous as men in marriage, as is always depicted in the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.

Straight after the bride mounts the Ammi, a Metti (toe ring), is presented on both her second toes; this is the only visible jewellery worn by the bride after marriage which denotes she is married. (If you followed my previous blog about the Thali, you would remember that the Thali should actually be hidden underneath the woman’s clothing!).

These Mettis are made of silver and not gold, because of the significance gold holds in the Tamil culture and Hindu religion. Therefore there is a common practice that gold should not be worn as a form of accessory for anything below the waist. However, traditions are changing with more gold and diamond based Mettis coming to the fore.

My mum and I have numerous conversations about wedding rituals and the significance behind each stage of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony. Interestingly she told me that historically men were the ones to wore the Metti post-marriage. This was because in ancient society, people walked bare feet and women were supposed to look down and walk, hence when she saw a man’s feet adorned with a Metti per foot, she would know straightaway that he was married. Do you not think it is interesting how things have changed so much now!?

Traditions are continuously changing and who knows what the Tamil Hindu Wedding rituals will look like 100 years down the line? All I know for now is that understanding what we practice and doing so properly is where the real joy and culture lies.

I started off this blog educating myself and hopefully all of you. I will continue doing so because there is no end point to educating oneself about one’s own culture, religion and traditions…so keep supporting folks!

Life as a Wedding Choreographer

My life as an official Wedding Choreographer started very recently.

I made the announcement on the 14th of June 2017, so today marks my new venture’s 3 month anniversary – what a journey it has been so far.

This blog is about what brought me into the realm of wedding choreography. I have then described my experiences, since June 2017, as an official Wedding Choreographer.

Life before Wedding Choreography

Before I got into Wedding Choreography, I danced for pre-wedding celebrations, weddings and wedding receptions of family and friends. I had several opportunities over the past 3 years to also choreograph for bridal fashion-shows in and outside of university. Both these opportunities made me fall in love with the wedding environment and mood that much more.

Life as a Wedding Choreographer

Since the official announcement, I have been involved with 3 weddings. Three weddings might not seem like a lot, but with the amount of time put into each with pre-planning and rehearsals means that each wedding dance can take weeks to prepare for. For this reason, I am going to discuss my experiences of each from start to finish, and how the final outcome shaped up.

Client 1 – Vanathy and Pratheepan – June 2017

DISCLAIMER – I am calling Vanathy a client for professional reasons, but let me explain that she is one my closest friends. She will literally kill me after reading this so I am attempting to protect myself now. (See below)

Vanathy has been one of my good friends since I was a teenager. She is a dancer herself and I met her through Bharathanatyam lessons. I do not want to start on the number of duos we have performed together on stage. She is definitely one of my most fun dance partners and what is more is that I literally have always seen her as my older sister.

Therefore when she decided that she wanted to dance for both her bridal entrances of her Hindu ceremony I was not surprised. My cousin and I, with Vanathy’s input of course, did the choreography together. It is definitely something very new for me and something which I have not often seen being done.

Vanathy decided on both her bridal entrances songs. The Manavarei saree entrance was to Ore Or Ooril, from Baahubali 2; the koorai saree entrance was to a religious stuthi (chant) about Lord Shiva – Suvarnamaalastuthi.

The fact that all three of us have known each other dance styles for years now meant that the choreography process was actually very straight forward. We sat down a week before the wedding, listened to songs and started the choreography process. It was a team effort for sure and that is what made it that much more fun. We all chipped in ideas and came up with the final product.

The main challenges faced was that Vanathy wanted to dance for her Manavarai Saree entrance. Why this was a challenge was because people should not think it is cheesy/cringey when the Bride dances down the aisle. Therefore, we had to ensure the choreography was simple, cultured and elegant, to reflect the atmosphere of the wedding which was very classy indeed. And of course, her Manavarei saree entrance was to a very royal song, so the choreography had to reflect this royalty.

Vanathy chose the second song, in praise of Lord Shiva. Her mum and Vanathy decided that the Koorai entrance should be to a religious song rather than to a movie-based song. Everyone loved this entrance and enjoyed the mood of the song in line with the entrance.

I loved being one of the choreographers for Vanathy’s bridal entrances. It was unique and my first experience of choreographing for Bridal entrances. I think it is fair to say that overall the bridal entrances were a massive hit and created waves across social media, which we were all very surprised yet grateful about.

Bridal entrances are a very special and exciting moment for the Bride, Groom and the rest of the family and friends attending the wedding. I hope more Brides will be brave enough to experiment with their Bridal entrances, because I believe it is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Client 2 – Annaniya and Sai – August 2017

I was approached by Sai’s sister in June enquiring about wedding choreography. At the time I did know that it was for her brother and sister-in-law that she was enquiring about. Then she told me that she wanted to get first dance lessons from me, as a gift for them, which I found incredibly adorable.

After the booking was confirmed with the sister, Annaniya got in touch with me. When I asked her about what their vision was for their first dance, they knew that they wanted a traditional slow first dance to begin with and then a transition into a more funky segment with elements of Tamil music.

My initial role was to create a playlist of possible songs. The list was not set in stone. It was more a starting point for them. They could obviously have chosen from those songs, but my idea was that it would give them some inspiration as to what songs to choose, so below are the songs they finalised:

Perfect by Ed Sheeran
Drake – Controlla (90’s Tamil Medley) – Mashup cover by Inno Genga

They had chosen two very different styles of songs which obviously made it that much more of a unique experience for me as a choreographer. They were extremely focused and really wanted to make this first dance a special one. I gave them a lot of leeway to make the dance their own. They wanted lifts, spins and slow dance elements which were all incorporated, but ultimately I told them, what I teach them is a guidance and if they want to add or take anything away, that is entirely their choice and I will help them master the changes. They enjoyed the original choreography I taught them and stuck by and their dedication shone through: within 2 hours of rehearsals, they had mastered the routine.

Client 2 – Deanusa’s Brother’s reception family dance – September 2017

Deanusa is actually my first official client because she contacted me about choreographing a family dance for her and her friends, for her brother’s wedding reception, even before I made my official announcement as a Wedding Choreographer. However, I ranked my clients in order of the event dates hence she is ranked as my most recent one.

I found working with Deanusa and her friends a very interesting and fun experience. They knew exactly what they wanted and gave me a list of songs with the timings and the order in which they wanted it to feature in the final mix.

My initial responsibility was actually to listen to all the songs and gage an understanding of the whole mood of what they wanted for their performance. I then made a few suggestions about other songs they could consider as well which they gladly took into consideration.

When the final set of songs were confirmed, I started working on the mix – yes I can make basic mixes on my own, and am gradually improving my ability to do so. After the mix was confirmed, we commenced on rehearsals. Below are the songs they danced to:

Desingu Raja from Thavasi
Jallakku Jallakku from Endrendrum Kadhal
Chottu Chottu from Taj Mahal
Rasika from Star
Pinga from Bajirao Mastani
Radhai Manathil from Snehithiye
Chinna Nam Veetukku from Poovellam Un Vaasam

I had to spend the first rehearsal teaching them a simple choreography from their routine. I used this time to gage their dancing skill level. Based on this I then shaped the rest of the choreography. I ultimately wanted the girls to feel comfortable and enjoy the dance piece they were going to perform, which they did feel very much.

Even though I did all the choreography, the girls had their own input. If they wanted certain things in the choreography for example using props, they let me know and I would change it up to suit their needs accordingly. Ultimately, client satisfaction is key. It is their event, it is their dance, so the choreography needs to reflect them.

As a business venture so far…

Unlike many other wedding businesses, I am the product of my business. I do not have materials to sell; I am selling my services as a dancer and choreographer to couples who will require it for their big day. My business model is me. I do not have products to put faith into. I have to put faith into myself and my skills as a dancer and choreographer.

Yes this can put pressure on me to utilise my skill set maximally yet efficiently. However, it gives me that much more control of the whole situation and stretches me to an extent that I can learn that much more.

The past three weddings I have worked on have been very different learning experiences which I have enjoyed so much for various reasons. I love what I do and I realised how much I actually love connecting with people through dance. Working with individuals who have little to no prior dance experience is where the challenge yet fun lies for me, because it pushes me to go beyond just teaching dance. It is predominantly about building a rapport which will make my clients feel comfortable to dance. The choreography does not have to be complex at all; the real success lies in giving individuals, who have never danced before, the courage to do it confidently in front of an audience which comprises of their family and friends, which I find to be the hardest audience to perform for.

What I have found most rewarding is that as a Wedding Choreographer you get to know the clients on a more personal level than just seeing them on the day. When I work with individuals who have never danced, I am bringing out something which they may not be too comfortable with – their ability to dance. It is through this process that you get to connect to a client on a personal level and build a rapport which I do not think can be brought out with several of the other wedding businesses.

Being a Wedding Choreographer is not just about choreographing and teaching. It is about guiding, motivating and of course doing a lot of pre-preparation so the couple are given a wide range of options to choose from with regards to songs, final mixes and of course choreography. Well this is how I have structured my business model because I work to give all the freedom to my clients. It is their wedding at the end of the day. I am merely there for professional guidance and support.

Three months into the business, I am proud of the opportunities which have come my way. I am happy about my clients and the responses I have got from them, and of course I am grateful about the support I have got from my friends and family.

Let’s continue this journey onwards and upwards from here.

Time To Tie The Knot

Please do not get shocked. I am not getting married and will not be getting married anytime soon! However I am a Tamil girl, which means that in the future I am bound to get married.

Over the past three to four years I have been involved in the wedding industry. Initially I started off helping out with wedding exhibitions and fashion shows but now, as most of you know, I have started my own venture into establishing Wedding Choreography as an entity of its own, combining my passion for dance with that of my love for weddings!

As I have been working with couples and families with regards to their weddings’ or their relatives’ weddings, I have become deeply involved and more interested in the traditions which lie embedded in these weddings. One which is key for all Tamil weddings is the tying of the sacred Thali (described below).

I wanted to find out more about the Thali and its importance. I think knowledge is vital; it may not be useful for the here and now, but one day it will prove to be our biggest weapon and for that reason I let my inquisitive mind wonder. This led to me contacting one of the most popular and one of my favourite Tamil jewellers in London, Western Jewellers – I say favourite because ever since I became aware of the world, they have been the go-to place for my family. Additionally, what inspired me to write this and contact Western Jewellers in particular was the fact that I saw their work online and was stunned by the creative and stunning work in the realm of Thalis. With over 20 years of experience in the field of gold jewellery and Thalis, who else could I have asked to educate me about it. What I revered greatly was how cultural and traditional ideals were always core to their unique pieces.

Therefore, I decided to pose a series of questions to Western Jewellers about the Thali and their experiences of making them. I have learnt so much and I hope you will find this just as educational as I have done.

(For your information, I was not paid by anyone to write this piece. I have done it of my own accord because I love my Tamil culture and tradition; I wanted to know more about it and wanted to be involved in writing something which would educate and inform others as well).

What is a Thali and what is its significance?

“A Thali is a spiritual ornament for marriage that marks love, respect and dignity. It is a bridal pendent presented to the wife by her husband during an auspicious time on their wedding day. Every Thali needs a Kodi, which is woven gold thread that holds the Thali. Together, the ‘Thali Kodi’ makes an auspicious gold thread which holds religious symbolism in Hindu and Christian culture.”

What are the different types of Thali? What do each of these types represent?

“There are numerous types of Thalis available for various communities however the most common Thalis we make are the Kombu, Amman and Christian Thalis.

“The Kombu Thali is made when the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts match. If you notice carefully the Kombu Thali is in the shape of the groom himself. For this reason, during the Ponurukkal (an occasion when the gold used to make the Thali is melted), the groom will be present to sign to the gods that he will love, look after and cherish his bride till the end. Then during the Wedding ceremony, the Bride and Groom unite when the Thali is tied across her neck by the Groom showcasing that he will guard her for the rest of her life.

“The Amman Thali is used by Tamil Hindus in the instance that the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts do not match or have not been looked into. This is particularly seen in, what Tamils call, ‘love marriages. Amman is the symbol which is seen on the Thali.

“The Christian Thali has the same quality as the Kombu and Amman Thali, but differentiate its shape and symbols. Most of the Christian Thalis will have the three precious symbols which are: The Bible, the Holy Dove, the Holy Cross.”

Can you tell me a bit about the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony?

“An auspicious day and time is selected by a family astrologer or priest for a gold melting ceremony otherwise known as the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony or ‘Ponnurukku’. This takes place before the main wedding day. The ‘Ponnurukku’ is conducted by the groom’s family and is witnessed by family and friends at home. The bride-to-be is not present. According to Tamil traditions, the Thali is handcrafted by a gold smith that is happily married with a united family.

“The ‘Ponnurukku’ begins with the breaking of a coconut, followed by a embedding a gold coin in milk. The symbolic moment is when the gold coin is melted. It is thought that the rounder the coin is shaped, the better it is for the couple. The guests are then asked to bless the melted gold. A tree is then planted in the garden of the groom’s home to symbolise the couple’s life together. Vegetarian food is then served to the guests to mark the start of wedding celebrations. From this day, the couple are traditionally not meant to see each other until their wedding day.”

What is the most creative/interesting Thali you have made and why?

“The most creative Thali made at Western Jewellers was a white gold Thali. We were the first to design a white gold Thali in the world. It goes without say that it was challenging to make but was definitely worth it. We had to train Italian gold smiths – the masters of white gold – to make the Thali Kodi to perfection.

“This year at Western Jewellers, we decided to bring ancient traditions of the gold melting ceremony and Thali making from start to finish in the comfort of your own home. This took approximately 6-7 hours of hand craftsmanship but also allowed family and friends to witness the making from start to finish.”

I just wanted to add here that if you have been up-to-date with their recent work, they have created the world’s first rose gold thali a few weeks ago!

How much do the younger generation know about Thalis, if anything? Why is this the case?

“Here at Western Jewellers, we have been handcrafting Thali Kodis for over 20 years therefore have seen the Sri Lankan Tamil community still observing many ancient traditions during their matrimonial ceremonies which are to be followed by the Bride and Groom. The younger generations continually show an active interest to understand the symbolism behind the Thali. We have also found mixed religion marriages are more open to keeping the sacred Thali as a symbolic bridal Gold thread.

“As we live in a westernised society, we have seen many customers modifying their Thali Kodis with diamonds or gems to keep up with current trends. We thoroughly enjoy welcoming the younger generation to explain the ancient traditions followed thousands of years ago by their ancestors but also are intrigued to making more creative Thalis in the years to come.”

What are your thoughts about the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ (a yellow thread) instead of the Thali Kodi (gold chain)?

“The ‘Manjal kayiru’ is more for the south India Community. At Western Jewellers, we have created a similar Thali chain called the South Style.

“The ‘Manjal Kayiru’ was mainly used in the olden days to tie the three knots, whereas in the past 100 years there has been a rise in the screw-based Kodis. The South Indian Community uses the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ for the first year of their marriage after which they will change it into a gold chain.”

So…how interesting was that?! I have learnt so much and I hope you all feel that much more thrilled and informed after having read this.

I personally did some reading before and after reading these responses from Western Jewellers, and also had a chat with mum about what she knew about the Thali. In addition to everything mentioned above, one point which she told me about was how the Thali, when worn, should be tucked inside and should not meet another Thali. There are two reasons for this. The first is the belief that when the gold from the Thali touches the woman’s skin, it is meant to be very beneficial for her health. Secondly, there is a common belief that when one Thali meets another, apparently one has the possibility to cast an evil eye on the other; at the end of the day we are talking about religious jewellery and religious beliefs. To what extent this is correct, I do not know, and I will take more time to find out. For the time being, however, the main learning point for me is that the Thali has to be taken care of all year round and thought has to be put into why and how it is worn.

I believe in making the Thali significant to oneself, but one should never lose sight of the traditions and values which are behind it. It is not a fashion statement; it is a symbol of religion, culture, tradition and love.

Of course, if you want more information about Thalis and are looking for people to make your Thalis, do not hesitate to contact Western Jewellers. I would like obviously like to thank the team for agreeing to be a part of my infinite journey blog and for working with me to get this write up done.

The Gold Complex

I decided to write the piece after being inspired by a conversation I had with my friends when I met up with them yesterday about the role of gold in our Tamil community. I am not sure whether this is applicable to any of the other cultural groups, but as a Tamil girl, I thought to address some issues which are very evident in my community.

Before I move on to my main arguments, let me take a moment to address some apparent benefits of gold – and by this I am talking about the benefits of wearing gold jewellery.

1) Wearing gold is thought to improve overall well-being because of its healing and relaxing properties.

2) Gold can apparently improve blood circulation and regulate one’s body temperature.

3) Gold also is thought to help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

4) It is also a fashion statement to wear gold jewellery, and this dates back decades to centuries.

Okay, so I know what you will be thinking now – Gold is great! Yes, apparently it is. However, I am here to talk about issues which extend beyond health and fashion. I want to use this space to talk about an issue which highlights flaws in our society’s thinking.

The Thaali (The Sacred Thread)

The Thaali is the sacred thread which is tied by the Groom on the Bride’s neck, to mark the ultimate union of the two souls. It is the main aspect of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony and is honestly my favourite and most awaited moment because of how many emotions are felt by the Bride, the Groom and all their family and friends.

How many of you, however, know that there may be a huge social drama associated with the making of the ‘Thaali Kodi’ (the actual thread/chain on which the thaali sits) in particular?

Let me explain. The ‘Thaali Kodi’ is something which the groom’s side provide. Therefore to prove their financial worth, they will always strive to get as thick of a ‘kodi’ and as expensive of a ‘kodi’ as possible. I understand that families want to stick to cultural norms, but we are living in a society where girls, and even women married for decades, hardly wear their ‘thaali’ around. So all I want to ask is, is it worth investing so much into something which is not even worn so much, or is it better to invest that in something which will be more useful for the couple – like a house maybe?

Now, I might have a whole heap of individuals who disagree with me, and of course they are entitled to because I am now questioning a belief which this culture has held for centuries. Now however, practical living has become more important than a ‘show-off’ one. Therefore, I am putting out there right now in front of everyone – if and when I get married, I would like a yellow thread to be tied (none of this chain screwing business). Then, if and when I do decide to change the yellow thread to a chain, I will make sure the chain is the thinnest it can be.

Ultimately, I do not want to be suffering from a chronic neck pain which doctors find difficult to identify the cause of! (This is real talk).

The Bride’s worth

Asking for dowry is not allowed anymore, yet I know the bride’s family feel obliged to give whatever they can to their daughter once she is married. Obviously the reason for this is because they want to do whatever they can for their daughter and this comes from pure love. On the hand other, there is an element of pressure they may feel from relatives’ who may talk about how much the bride’s parents did for her daughter.

In many cases, this comes in the form of gold jewellery.

So here is my biggest worry, which is something further addressed below. Why is a bride’s worth dependent so much on how much gold she wears and other materialistic matters? Why do we live in a society where the bride’s family feel obliged to ‘send’ their daughter off with some gold?

Again, this dates back to centuries ago. Nonetheless, in the same way that each and every one of us appreciates fashion and car trends, we should be respecting the more open-minded society in which we live in.

One day I may be a bride. That day, I want my worth to be defined by my personality, my education, my talent outside of just studies, my hobbies, to name a few – all of which my parents worked day and night for to ensure I excelled in.

When you are not the bride nor the groom

Just when I was thinking such a gold-obsessed culture only exists in the wedding scene, I started noticing it more often in day-to-day life.

I went through a whole phase as a teenager when I went to weddings and I had aunties ask me ‘Why aren’t you wearing any gold?’. They would then take this further by questioning my mum and making statements along the lines of, ‘You should be wearing gold, only then does it look nice.’

Firstly, I am worth a lot more than gold. Therefore, I do not need to wear gold to prove my worth. If anyone is of the opinion that the amount of gold they wear is what proves their worth, then this is a sign that they need a MAJOR life check!!!

I guess the only reason this has all toned down and women have cut down wearing gold jewellery as much is because of the horrific stories we hear of very scary thefts which happen on the streets. Sad but true.

To conclude

I am glad we see these issues crop up less so nowadays, but it still exists; even if not so much in this country, it may be more common in other countries. I am not saying ‘Do not wear gold’. I am saying that no one should be judging anyone’s worth based on how much gold they wear or own. It is a matter of getting to grips with the idea that some like gold and some do not. That does not mean one person is more superior than the other.

I can tell you all straight up that I am not a massive fan of wearing and having gold. I would prefer to invest that money into buying books! Yes, many of you at this point may find me bizarre, but I am very happy about my preferences. For me, books are a more worthwhile investment than gold jewellery for example, only because I hardly wear any accessories as it is, let alone more pricey things.

It is interesting to note that this blog started off being about the value of gold in my community. Through this small discussion, I have managed to identify deeper issues which need to be addressed – understanding ours and our family’s worth and protecting it.

If there is anything I have learnt from writing this piece, it is that I will try not to ever fall victim to other people defining my worth based on material matters – whether that be through money, gold, houses, cars or gifts. I know my worth, and I believe that my worth is something which cannot be defined by a price-tag.