Earlier this week I received a phone call from my mom asking me if I had heard of the egregious criminal activity that has caused many South Asian Americans in the DC area (specifically Northern Virginia’s Fairfax and Loudoun counties) to become worried and to take steps to protect their family jewels. My mom, probably typical of most desi moms, is overly sensitive to ANY criminal activity or health hazard (seemingly anywhere in the world) that has ANY chance to impact me…by whatever stretch of imagination. If Ebola breaks out in the Congo then I receive a call from my mom that evening. She just wants to make sure I am not hanging out with friends that have recently returned from the Congo…just to be safe. She is, of course, worried about her jewelry. It has all been safely relocated to a safety deposit box at an undisclosed bank.
When Raman Kumar’s Centreville home was burglarized in late February, he became an early victim in a crime spree that has continued across the county and into Loudoun, spiking last month.
“This is no ordinary burglary,” Kumar told the hundreds of residents, as well as numerous police officers and detectives, gathered at Colin Powell Elementary School in Centreville last Thursday, Oct. 29. He said the burglars who have been targeting the homes of South Asian residents for their gold jewelry were obviously well organized and well equipped with sophisticated equipment and information.
Three similar burglaries had been carried out that day, one in Oak Hill, one in Chantilly and another in South Riding, bringing the total to around 30. Two days earlier, two homes in Lorton had been burglarized, as well as one in Centreville and another in Fair Oaks. As in previous cases, the perpetrators broke in through back doors and windows in the late morning or afternoon and ransacked the master bedrooms, making off with gold jewelry, electronics and other valuables. In cases where homes were armed with security systems, those systems have been defeated. Any fake gold has been left behind…
Police believe South Asians are being targeted because they traditionally pass high-karat gold jewelry heirlooms from one generation to the next, and the price of gold now is especially high. Some victims have reported tens of thousands of dollars in losses. [link]
Since desi gold is on our minds, I would like to take the opportunity to address some fundamental “best practices” advice regarding gold within our community. Gold holds a special significance in desi culture and thus, demands a special discussion. I believe the following discussion will be even more useful if it can generate a conversation with our parents, many who are getting up there in age (hint: forward this post to them and see what they think):
1) Take a digital picture inventory of every valuable piece of gold (or otherwise) jewelry in your possession
You have collected a lot over your lifetime, loaned a lot out, and maybe even lost a lot. Take the time to document everything so you know what you have and can communicate to others what you may have had stolen. Plus, I know some of you will like flipping through an album of all your jewelry just because you can. Don’t be ashamed.
2) Estimate and document the rough cost of each piece.
The value is the first thing the police are going to ask about if something gets stolen. Also, if I am your kid and you hope to pass it on to me some day then please know that I don’t know jack about jewelry. $5 or $5000? I won’t have a clue and neither will many others I know. We grew up watching movies like Blood Diamond and Titanic and think all jewelry is either evil or should be thrown into the waters of the north Atlantic as a romantic gesture. Assume I will be fleeced by some charlatan, the kind you are always warning me about, or that I will gift that precious family heirloom to someone at the office White Elephant Christmas party. Or use it as part of a Halloween costume.
3) Write down for me what each piece means to you. Tell me its story.
Did you hide that ring deep in the folds of your sari as you crossed the The Rann of Kutch avoiding dangerous bandits? Was that necklace a gift your father gave you on your 16th birthday because you finished first in your convent school class? Have those earrings been in the family since the time of Sepoy Rebellion of 1857? I want to know that stuff! That’s where the real worth of your gold lies. How else am I going to understand or appreciate the significance when it is time for me to gift that to your great grandchildren? I care about the story a lot more than the monetary value or “bling” factor.
4) “Divide it up” in the manner of your choosing…before you pass on.
p style=”margin: 0in 0in 10pt” class=MsoNormal>I know this is a tough one because neither of us wants to think about life after you’ve passed on. But we should. Money and greed is the root of much evil. Don’t leave that door open as part of your legacy because it might infect your children. Divide your precious jewelry in any manner you wish but try and make your wishes clear. The last thing your kids need in their lives is a petty squabble over jewelry and family heirlooms, especially if they don’t know the cost or the sentimental significance. They will be happy with whatever you leave them, or even if you ask that it all be donated to charity, but don’t shirk your duty to purposefully and responsibly pass on some of your most cherished possessions.
Any other helpful advice that I am forgetting SM readers?