A few weeks ago, a headline caught my eye. It was about a crane mishap that happened at a wedding in Gujarat. The bride and her sister, were suspended off a 40 foot crane, in a crystal platform. This was being lowered to the ground, with accompanying music, and pyrotechnics, when suddenly something went very very wrong. The crane toppled over, with the platform crashing to the ground, killing one man and injuring a few others, including the occupants.
What a way to begin what should have been the happiest day of their lives!
Which begs the question, why was the bride arriving via crane? Surely, the normal modes of transportation would have been safer, even cheaper? But of course, it’s got nothing to do with safety, common sense or even the couple themselves. It has everything to do with keeping up with the Joneses, showing how wealthy they are, and the absurd lengths the families are willing to go to, to top the competition.
Weddings in India have become ostentatious affairs. There had always been various little ceremonies leading up to the main event. However, the scale has suddenly expanded exponentially. Where a decade or two ago, a sangeet function would have been a small gathering of relatives and friends, singing and dancing together; these days, it is a choreographed exercise in complexity. There are rehearsals prior to the day in order that not a foot is put wrong. The bride and groom themselves become performing monkeys for the entertainment of the guests. Bollywood numbers are executed with more precision and gusto than the originals. Even the old and decrepit are obliged to shake a leg.
Each function- and trust me, there are numerous ones- require various changes of attire. Nothing less than designer will do of course, if Daddy is loaded, and Mummy a society bird. The fashionista bride will settle for no less than a Sabyasachi or a Manish Malhotra. Whereas Mummy and other assorted females might have to have a mature Ritu Kumar. The bridegroom will be buffed and polished (and buttoned into his bundh-gala) to within an inch of perfection, lest he fall short of the spectacular narrative that this wedding must be.
And the food! Don’t get me started on the food.
How many types of cuisine are there in the world? Well, give or take a few, they will all be laid out for the guests’ consumption. Never mind the fact, that most of these guests will either be too drunk to bother, or on a perennial diet that precludes sniffing at, let alone the actual eating of food. Conspicuous consumption be damned. Here the mantra is more likely to be wasteful extravagance!
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that arriving at a wedding in a crane or a helicopter (or on the back of a flipping unicorn, if it could be stage managed!), is far more common place than it first appears. Well, at any rate, if you have money to burn. Which, in India, at the moment, there seems to be plenty of!
Now this may seem like a rant that stems from sour grapes. Seeing as I never had a wedding of such epic proportions. Mine was a simple ceremony at the Gurdwara, followed by a lunch. At a stretch, we would have had, maybe 35 guests. Circumstances led to the simplicity of my wedding. Admittedly, I was disappointed, as was my husband. We were gregarious by nature, and wanted a large wedding with the usual hoo haa of the time. That did not come to pass. For several years after, I nursed it like a sore that I didn’t want scabbing over. Till one day, a dear friend, who had had the big wedding, and whose marriage was now on the rocks, pointed out the obvious to me. It wasn’t the quantity (to use that much abused cliché), but the quality that mattered.
For all the money in the world, the biggest, the most lavish celebrations cannot guarantee one thing. A happy married life.
I hope that at some stage this message starts to filter through to the generations ahead that plan to tie the knot. No amount of Bollywood kitsch can ensure the longevity of a union. That amazing society wedding is yesterdays news already. The audience has moved on. They are looking for a bigger circus, and while there are fools out there, willing to bankrupt themselves to provide the entertainment, more cranes will crash to the ground and more casualties will suffer the excesses of a generation gone mad.