Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ThE GrAnDe, UnBuDgEtEd, InDiAn WeDdiNg! Part - 1

This post is written by two authors, me[coffeeismypoison] and my friend Abinitio. Weddings are in the air all over the place, and so we though we’d describe how we felt about the regular weddings and what we would want for outselves. Hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed writing it.

Indian weddings are a Big Deal. They are what Indian parent's start saving for from the moment their kids are born. And one of the major reasons "sons" are so desired and "daughters" so dreaded.

The kind of money that is pumped in to make it a memorable day for the bride/groom .. is it really worth it...??

The Bride/groom are barely conscious about what is going on in the main wedding, so basically, the show is for the rest of the world, to save face...and even the poorest of the poor do whatever they can to ensure no one on their guest has an opportunity to criticize them or their "status" in society.

This young woman is my maid, Pinky. Her sister got married 15years ago. Her mother is also a maid and her father a vegetable seller.

"We paid almost 5 Lakhs, apart from the jewellery...the food, for the boy's family, dowry for my sister...the tent...theres so much to do, and we can't NOT do it matter how little we can afford it...My parents earn 5000 rupees a month, and it took us 10years to pay the loans off...and now its time for my wedding. The same thing will repeat itself. But what to do, even though its not right, this is what society wants...although society didn't come to help my parents pay loans. Still, we can't lose face...although people are never satisfied, they always find something or the other to criticize."

You don't get much poorer than Pinky and her family. But that doesn't stop them from putting up a big show.

Indian weddings usually last around a week, the main celebrations, that is. Leaving aside the engagement which is another excuse to throw a party, waste more money. The point of an engagement was to give the bride and groom a chance [ in an arranged marriage] to get to know each other, and to adjust to each other...and in a way to declare it to the world and seal the "deal". But now the B & G usually know each other pretty well before they decide to commit, even in an arranged marriage. Also an engagement is no guarantee whatsoever that the marriage is "fixed", as they break up even after that.

Abinitio's friend got married, and the budget was double the average middle class family's budget for marriage [ 15 lakhs no less].At both the events he was present just for the week long extravaganza...

Both started the same way .. relatives start pouring in... goin to the airport, railway station, bus stand etc. etc. to recieve them.. make arrangements for their stay at the guest house where we try to make them as comfortable as possible... but no matter what you do there will always be complaints... some of them behave as if they are staying at a five star hotel...they need tea/coffee in bed, breakfast till noon, lunch till evening and dinner till midnight and sometimes past that...and it's not like they help around the house, very few conscientous and close relatives bother helping with the arrangements...the rest of them just lounge around the whole house, chit chatting, eating and eating and drinking tea and gossiping.

As soon as the functions such as bhat, tikka, baan (these are events prior to the wedding in a typical marwari wedding) etc. start another round of bickering from the relatives start..

In a Rajput wedding, coffeeismypoison's caste, theres the roka, the tilak [dowry giving to the guy.] and the customary giving of gifts to the relatives. These people just, pop up, in time, for the wedding and gift giving rituals.

"This shud've been done this way by this person and not that person.. what right does that person have to perform these rites"... and what not... another MAJOR part of the wedding is the " len den" ( hindi ) part.. or the "give and take" part amongst family... this is not even the dowry part.. we're talking abt the intra family giving and taking wherein another round of complaints start .. "We didn't get this or that person got more than he/she deserved... we weren't treated with adequate respect." ,measured in terms of money and gifts and not honor.. Marriages have broken up over this issue...many, many fact.

Seriously, these relatives haven't done anything to deserve presents. Its just greed. And it doesn't matter even if you do gift them something, they're not going to appreciate it. The color/material/size/cost will be wrong. If the B/G has a "large/old fashioned" family [wherein family planning was never used], can you imagine the expenses? Each uncle, aunt, child, cousin has to be gifted. And one has to make sure that the gifts are as equal in cost/quality etc as each other...even after all this care, complaints and disatisfaction rear their ugly heads.

Then comes the official wedding part... getting on the horse being the knight in shining armor and going to wed your damsel in distress.. but it ain't as pretty as it seems in fairy tales... it starts with another round of give and take and bickering.. by now i'm as tired of writing the same stuff as you are of reading it but trust us this is how it goes and we've left out theuglier, finer print... finally when the groom reaches the bride's doorstep or the farmhouse/banquet hall/ five-star hotel/tent where the wedding is held these days...[another few lakhs of rupees.]

another absurd tradition begins ... a ribbon is tied on the entrance to the altar and the groom as to pay his way through it... a round of negotiations starts b/w groom/groom's friends and bride's sisters/friends, a settlement is reached and finally the groom gets to enter after the cutting the red ribbon just as celebs do at grand openings except that they get paid to do so and not vice versa.

What would happen if the groom simply refused to pay up...would the marriage break?

To be continued...probably tomorrow.

by coffeeismypoison and abinitio

8 lost souls found themselves in my mirror....:

ruSh.Me said...

That's why I would like a simple court marriage followed by a reception...

Relatives can attend if they wish so......


coffeeismypoison said...

For me...not a court marriage, but maybe in a temple followeed by a party. But no reception, bcos, we'll both be in delhi anyway.
Besides I don't see the point of a party at the time of the wedding AND a reception. When I was told the concept of receptions I was flabbergasted!
Apparently, its meant for people who aren't able to attend the wedding, because its out of town or something.or for those people who arent invited to the main wedding but still can't be left out for...well, reasons of civility.
If it is going to be out of town and transport is provided, and people still don't make time out for you and come on ur most important day, then you aren't that important for them as you'd like to think...and why would you throw a reception for such people?
Now, if someone doesn't invite me to their main wedding, and just invites me to their receptions, its like say "Here you go, theres a consolations prize for you, don't feel too bad you werent important enough to be in the main wedding."
How does one attend receptions???
maybe I'm presenting an illogical and thwarted concept, but this is how i see it. Clarifications are welcome!

Chronicwriter said...

dunno whatll happen... me will ties the knot pretty soon.. pukka arranged marriage types.. will soon give some views on it too..

coffeeismypoison said...

Just make sure u get to know ur future wife well :) she should be ur best pal...and u hers!

Anorak said...

A nice vivid description about the big fat Indian wedding....come to think about it and Moonsoon wedding comes to my mind...well, i am completely against this ostentious display of wealth to be honest...anyways good post...keep walking!!!

coffeeismypoison said...

Thank u Anorak :) keep reading! Will visit ur blog asap!

Indian Homemaker said...

I totally agree with you here. I am all for simple weddings with just some close friends and family present, or people who we really value, being present.

Court marriages are not a bad option either, because for those who like traditional weddings, it is not going to be easy to control the len-den. Aspersions will be caste on their lack of wealth and status, that is why it will be simpler to have a court marriage. That kind of shuts up all gossiping mouths...or distracts them :) We Indians will rather be nontraditional than status-less :)

I also feel many of the traditions and rituals have now become meaningless, like I am against Kanyadaan and we aught to either change them or give them up.

Most rituals and even our blessings (Doodho nahao, pooto phalo) are about providing male heir to the family, and about the girl being a paraya dhan - all this is the root cause of nobody wanting daughters, it's time we either changed the patriarchal system or moved to gender neutral court marriages.

The money spent comes almost entirely from the girl's side, so it is a lose-lose situation for them. They spend all the money and they still get nothing - no status, no support in old age, no financial benefits, no heir.

Don't you think, cofeeismypoison all this is interlinked??

coffeeismypoison said...

@ IHM: You are right. Its all interrelated. but luckily my Bf, my sis and my Bf's sis...they're all of similar mindset...sort of. they want nice weddings but without one sided spending. And i wouldn't have it either. My bf's dad is my dad's best pal from college. the 2 couples are v.close and each person is always trying to save the other's money.
My bf and his sis, being older than me, Never let me pay when im with them. be it for coffee or a pair of pyjamas i like.
my parents always tell me not to go over too often cos uncle n aunty spend a lot on showing me a good time.
We all look out for each other like family. Regardless of my relationship with nikhil. So when it will come down to sure we will continue to look out for each other.
But both our moms have the whole "must invite other relative thing". else theyl b outcast or whatever.
No discussion abt len den...not with us.. none of us want that.
but no court marriage...cos both our folks want a decent marriage :) i want the rituals...but some of the "phere" shlokas are questionable in their practicality. me and my bf have discussed them...they don't apply any more...
"Kanyadaan" mein kya hota hai? im not sure exactly...
but i do know this
My sister and I will help our dad retire.
we'l make our parents proud of us.
We'll take care of them...old or not.
:) that is in our hands.