The 'precious rock' paradox

I 'oohed' and 'aahed' as I was treated to the story behind the diamond necklace.

Everyone crowded around her, admiring the diamonds encased in gold and adorning her pretty neck. Envy, admiration and a sense of having lost on something was writ on each face. “I should have bought one too; after all, the sale was on for a very long time!”; “My husband said I could buy anything, but I bought that outdated silk saree, it is thick and gaudy and makes me look fat!”; “I should have traded all that antique heavy gold jewellery and bought these beauties instead!” Thoughts flew back and forth in all the ladies’ minds.

I, being the last entrant to the party was treated to a full exhibition and the story behind the purchase (each and every thing a lady buys, especially clothes, jewellery and accessories has a tale behind it!). I ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and rolled my eyes in the most affected manner and exclaimed suitably. I happily rolled off a few adjectives about the precious rock and its owner, all the time wondering why my family didn’t allow me to purchase diamonds.

As I made my way to the most interesting place in the hall, namely the buffet table, someone poked me sharp in the ribs. “Did you see the adulation and wonder? You can afford to buy one, can’t you? You earn a handsome salary. I will host a party for you so that these people realise that we are no less than them,” my sister gestured at the extended family who were the reason for the diamond and the party.

“But you too can afford them, my dear,” I pointed out, “After all, your husband owns quite a bit of property in prime locations and you have a few high-end cars! I am, after all, a salaried employee and my husband, an upright government servant.”

“What!” she shrieked as softly as possible, “No amount of cajoling will make my hubby part with even a centimetre of land. But you are your own master  and can afford to buy diamonds, without waiting for your husband to gift it. I don’t get a pay cheque like you do”.

I refrained from answering that what she got each month from her hubby dearest was probably much more than what I earned. The spread on the table was more inviting than countering her statement. As I piled my plate high and well, I observed a few shocked expressions on the faces of those around me. Guiltily, I made my way through and sat in a corner, savouring chips, samosas, nankhatais et all.

I noticed, however, that most women were making a show of eating and were not really doing so. They had pathetically low portions on their plate and that too, mainly of salads which were spread out on a centre table. As I rose for a refill, I could almost feel a collective shudder going around the room.

Fully laden with rich food and thoroughly satiated, I went to bid a polite goodbye to my hostess. She was still showing off her necklace and I observed in the bright light that her neck wasn’t as pretty as it had appeared in the pale light earlier. Her skin was pale too, as if she was partially malnourished.

Come to think of it, that was how most women looked, thin and emaciated. I seemed to be the only rotund person with a well-fed look. As I made my way out, patting myself on the back that I eat well and look good and I’m happy in my own way, I heard a loud whisper “Look at these employed ladies, they don’t get to enjoy what they earn, always slogging and suffering due to lack of time!”.

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