27/09/2016 2:01 PM IST | Updated 28/09/2016 8:37 AM IST

The South Indian Mother's Obsession With Gold

Krishnendu Halder / Reuters

Have you ever had a conversation with your mom that turned into a full-fledged Q&A about gold jewellery?

Have you ever marvelled at their astounding memory of how much gold changed hands between relatives over the years?

I have heard my Mom say things like:

"Remember your third cousin from your Dad's side? We went for her wedding before India got its Independence, and we had given them 'moonu pavan' of gold as a gift."

To be honest, I still do not know how much a "pavan" is. This belongs in the Cardinal Book of Sins for South Indians. I could very well be ostracized from society for admitting to this.

(Update: I have Googled this, and 1 'pavan' equals to 8 gms of gold, so there! Impress your mother with this info ASAP!)

In 1983, the "moonu pavan" was gifted for my baptism by the afore-mentioned third cousin. And the Balance in the Precious Metal Universe has been restored.

Ever had a random aunt walk up to you at a wedding to check out your gold chain or pendant and then guess accurately how much it weighs?

"That must be 3.78 pavan, right?"

What! How! What black sorcery is this? So you pick up a thin strand of metal, look at it and then guess a weight which is negligible. How? How do you do it?

Another thing I dread are the famous "locker visits". My mom brings the loot home from the locker and sets it on the bed, her lips pursed with utter concentration as she sifts through the gold kick-knacks. If even a little orphaned S-hook (we all know that pesky annoying hook) is missing, we can be assured we'll be at end of my mother's wrath.

Sometimes I am having a normal conversation with my mom. About the weather, the kids, a nice wedding she went to and suddenly the conversation steers eerily to gold.

Followed by a rapid fire round.

Mummy: "Do you still have that gold bracelet with the green stones on it?"

Me: "Ummm....the weather has been nice here too."

Mummy: "What about the random gold earring that looks like every other gold earring you own?"

Me: ... (Silent, breaking into a cold sweat.)

Mummy: "The bangle that I gave you. It's pathu pavan! It is same as your older sister's bangle. That's narrower though, etu pavan."

Me: "Let me go. Sob. Please. Let me be."