Many a times when I face a situation that I am uncomfortable with, an image pops up in my mind and I am reminded of the time when I accompanied my niece to a gold shop in Abbottabad, Pakistan. She went to pick up her 22-karat gold necklace. To her disappointment the salesman told us to wait a little because the necklace was being completed.
This practice of not getting the jewelry on time is Pakistani women’s pet peeve. Buying jewelry can take hours. Women spend quite a bit of time before placing their order because a piece of jewelry could cost thousands of dollars. They look at various designs, consult their female relatives or friends accompanying them, negotiate the price and finally give their order to the salesman. Then they deposit money as the down payment. After getting the order a pick-up date is given. During the process the salesmen offer tea or cold beverages to their customers.
Purity of gold is measured in karat, though sometimes the word carat, which is a measure of weight for precious stone, is also used. 24-karats is pure gold. It’s extremely pliable and doesn’t break easily compared to other karat gold. Because of its softness 24-karat gold cannot be used to make intricate designs so silver or copper is mixed to create 22-karats which is considered ideal because not only it can be molded into intricate designs but it also has resale value compared to 20 or lower karat gold. The higher the amount of alloy the lower the karat and the value of gold, but stronger the resulting material. Jewelry made with 22-karat is most commonly used in Pakistan because of its resale value.
Gold jewelry is given to a bride by the groom’s family at the time of wedding. After several years, of keeping jewelry, Pakistani women usually sell it either to change the design or to get money. In the subcontinent India gold is also used as insurance against bad days. Stories of women selling their jewelry to support their husbands, a family member, or pay for children’s education abound in Pakistan.
That day when the necklace didn’t come even after waiting for half an hour my niece got frustrated. She asked the goldsmith to return her down payment because this was her third trip. The goldsmith asked the salesman to take us to the workshop. Customers are never taken to the workshop. I thought we were taken to the workshop because the goldsmith was our family jeweler and he even made my niece’s mother’s wedding jewelry.
We followed the salesman through a dark, narrow and winding alley with tall tiny houses on both sides. He stopped in front of a house and knocked at the dark brown narrow door. A teenage boy opened the door and motioned us to follow him. We climbed the unlit dark brown stone stairs and came into a room where a furnace in one corner had spread the light in the dark room. The boy motioned us to wait in that room and disappeared behind a door.
After my eyes got accustomed to the light in the room I saw a man pouring golden liquid into a narrow gully running from one narrow end of a dark red brick to the other ends. The brick was one and a half times bigger than a normal one used for construction. It was made of thick dense material, different from the regular porous bricks.
I asked the man where did he get the molten gold and he said that he had melted the old jewelry pieces. Flux or chemical cleaning agent is used, during the heating process, in order to remove impurities. Gold melts in temperature reaching up to two thousand Fahrenheit.
The liquid gold that the man was pouring while we entered the room was caught in the tiny silver colored cup placed on the other end of the brick. After a while the man picked up a smooth golden ball – a pure bliss.
Just then the boy reemerged from the door with the necklace and we left the workshop but the image stuck in my mind for over a decade.
From time to time the image pops up when I find myself in situations that I don’t like. I think we are also like gold. We are born pure and innocent but over time we pick impurities in our character and attitude in order to, what we think, show our strengths. To purge ourselves of those impurities we have to go through a furnace of letting go of old habits that don’t serve us any more. Letting go is not easy because we are creatures of habits and find solace in anything that comforts us. Old habits comfort us.
Through passage of time we collect anger, lust, waste thoughts, greed and many other habits that instead of serving us and making us better dull us, numb us. As a result we loose our external and internal shine. Something inside gnaws at us. It could be guilt, shame, remorse and many more things. To get over them we polish ourselves by going to gym, gossiping, putting other people down, fighting and screaming at event and worldly experiences that come our way.
I think of two things when I think of our worldly experiences.
- I truly believe that life sends us experiences so that we learn a lesson from them. They will keep coming up if we ignore them. I learned it the hard way. So whenever a situation comes in my life, now instead of feeling trapped in that situation and wishing it to go away, I ask what’s the purpose of this situation and keenly look for lessons. I quickly scan similar situations in the past and ask myself what did I learn from them or rather didn’t learn from them. I know that my answers lie within me. Even if they are slow to come. Running away from a situation has never helps overcome the situation.
- Another lesson I am still learning to my dismay is that I have to be grateful to people who create unpleasant experiences for me. This is the toughest part of life furnace.
When human beings like gold become pure and ready to be molded into an instrument and serve others, they shine. An excellent example is Nelson Mandela who, after being imprisoned for 27 years, forgave his oppressors and created a country with love. It was because of Mandela South Africa didn’t become like its neighbor Zimbabwe where white apartheid was replaced with black apartheid resulting in futile bloodbath.
New or uncomfortable life experiences are like a furnace. They take away our impurities and bring out our real self that is ready to be molded again so we can shine and spread our light.
How do you view life experience?