The bell rang. Neeraj ran towards the door as his mother went to open the door. It was his father. He looked expectantly as his dad opened his briefcase. His face fell as the tiffin box came out. Nothing for him! His face lit up again as his father thrust his hands into his suitcase. A tiny box covered in blue colored velvet came out. Neeraj could not imagine anything of interest to him in such a tiny box. Still he looked on curiously. His mother was also standing by and watching. Shankar rose dramatically, dropped to his knees and handed over the box to his mother and said, “Happy Platinum Day of Love, Rama.”
“Seriously, you are a sucker for these marketing gimmicks. Every year, they keep inventing some new day to make people squander money. It is time you learn to be more sensible,” she chided him. But Neeraj could see his mom’s face blush with pleasure as she opened the small box to discover a pair of platinum Celtic knot earrings.
“What is this platinum day thing, Pa? I don’t remember anything like that celebrated in the previous years.”
Rama replied from the kitchen, “It is as I was telling, Neeraj. These people who want to make us buy their stuff invent a new day every year to make us buy things we wouldn’t normally buy. Hope at least you don’t grow up to be gullible like your father and fall for these things.”
A small smile lit up on Shankar’s face as he drew Neeraj closer to him. “Your mom is right in some ways. But then these days do have their benefits you know. I do not buy presents for your mom every other day. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, one can easily start taking one’s loved ones for granted and get lost in the mechanical humdrum of life. Occasions like these days present an opportunity to express one’s feelings openly through some gestures.”
Neeraj nodded. But a barb landed from the kitchen. “Not mere gestures. Expensive gestures! I am sure these rings must have cost you an entire month’s salary. In the increased cost of living and monthly EMIs to pay how can you be so extravagant!”
“Come on, Rama. Don’t be so cynical. Aren’t you happy or not? Would you have been happy if I had got you some cheap imitation earrings from the roadside?”
“Ok. Ok. Now don’t get all sentimental. Dinner is served. Come over both of you.”
As they ate, Neeraj noticed his mom was already wearing the earrings gifted by her dad and was smiling more than usual. As he sat shoveling his food around, taking in one morsel at a time, a new thought entered his head. “Pa, do we have a day of love for every metal? Like copper day of love, aluminum day of love etc.?”
Both Rama and Shankar burst out laughing. Shankar ruffled Neeraj’s hair. “Different metals have different symbolisms. Typically precious metals that are used for jewelry only have symbolisms associated with love.“
“But Pa, what do precious metals and jewels have to do with love?”
“Well, jewels are a universal gift for any woman. So gifting a piece of jewel is a widely followed way for a man to express his affection for a woman. And as far as precious goes, it is a bit more complicated.”
“Men find everything with respects to relationships is complicated. They are more comfortable with things that can be reduced to simple formulas,” quipped Rama.
Shankar ignored the jibe and continued, “See the essence of love is putting another person’s interest above your own. So sacrificing my new I-Pad to get something for your mom is my way of expressing I care for her more than myself. If it was not a precious metal, I could have easily got it without any effort on my part.”
Neeraj continued to be persistent. “But Pa, I have not heard of a gold day or a silver day either. Are there any?”
Neeraj looked thoughtful. “That is an interesting question, my son! I can only guess at the answer. Let me take a shot at it.”
He paused for a while and continued, “That has to do with marketing. There are two types of products – things that have direct utility and those that have symbolic significance. Jewelry and clothing are typically items that sell more on symbolic associations than practical utility. “
Neeraj was looking blank. Rama raised her head. “He is still a kid. Don’t bore him with management theories.”
But when Shankar was in full flow, there was no stopping him. “See, Neeraj – consider those Spiderman tattoos you like so much. Do they have any utility value?”
“But I like them. All my friends have those tattoos and they make me feel good.”
“Precisely! That is what is called symbolic value. Things that make you feel good.”
“So why does one have to create these days to make people feel good about platinum but not gold or silver?”
“Well, gold and silver have been in use for jewelry since ages. There is already so much history and myths associated with them that one does not need any new symbolism. However platinum is a relatively new metal. Have you ever heard of platinum in the stories narrated by your grandfather?”
Neeraj was looking deeply thoughtful. “So what is this symbolism about platinum?”
“If you have finished, get up and wash your plates and hands. Don’t sit there in front of an empty plate and let the remains of the food dry up.” It was Rama again.
They were all cozily tucked into bed, Neeraj between Rama and Shankar by the time Shankar got to talk again. “See platinum is a white metal that does not fade or tarnish with time. So the symbolism would be to associate this property with the quality of human love that remains white and pure and does not fade or tarnish with time.“
“But, Pa the tattoos you get me often fade away in weeks. So does that mean your love for me is not pure and eternal?”
Shankar had no answer. Rama pulled Neeraj towards her and snuggled him close to her bosom. Soon they were all fast asleep.