I stood at the centre of an opulent hall. To my left, a troupe of flashily attired dancers was gyrating synchronously to loud Bollywood tunes. Men in suits and sherwanis crowded boisterously around a huge bar towards my right. Adjacent to the crowd was a sumptuous, multicuisine spread where the womenfolk had congregated, glittering in their bejewelled best. The rest of the evening was a concoction of extravagance, gluttony and vanity.
There must be something radically wrong with the Indian elite if even weddings have to be competitively benchmarked. It’s almost as if elegance and smallness is dead. The virtues of privacy have been discarded and replaced by a phalanx of services that are not just crude but defy all logic. A wedding is no longer about the blokes getting married. In fact, they are incidental to the whole shebang.
So, let’s examine the big fat obscene Indian wedding. First, there has to be a destination and the destination can be exotic or just simply boring. I mean, what on earth will you do in Phuket or, for that matter, in Udaipur? Or, even take some illiterate people to Venice who might think it’s a city perennially flooded? But, that is exactly the norm nowadays. For, it is only a spectacle and not something that must be warm, affectionate and private. In fact, the world must gawk at who all you can get: which, again, is a function of astute event planning or, for that matter, just money. I mean, Paoli Dham won’t dance at some ugly wedding just because she likes the faces of the bride and the groom. Now, this is important: the family believes if Paoli Dham is there, then people will stick around which is actually true. Why else would they come? By the way, who is Paoli ?
Then, there is the issue of the event per se. For that the best bet is to get an assortment of international worthies. Having a chef who has no idea about Indian food at an Indian wedding is a tremendous virtue. When ignoramuses of the world unite, there is a heady feeling in accepting universal mediocrity, which is what most Indian weddings are. In the good old days, some family members would be tasked with the entertainment and some others with the food. Gifts were those you bought, and not delegated to some event planner. But, then, times have changed. In the big fat obscene Indian wedding everything is a chore except attending the damn wedding. So, other than ensuring that the bride and groom are present, there is very little you have to do. Other than, of course, ensuring some friendly press so that you can be written about and deftly replace the old-world family album. So, from tentwallahs, the Indian wedding planners have morphed into marquee creators: yes those people who will hang fabric in the air, robbing you of a starlit sky; then there are the food arrangers who will tell you how to style food ; as also the musicwallahs: see how easily we have replaced the good old bands of India with DJs and their ugly consoles. But, as I mentioned the obscene wedding is no longer a wedding. It is a destination event. And to alleviate the guilt, you must mention, no gifts on every card or put down the name of some charity when all your life you have given nothing back.
I know of many people who attend these weddings by rote because they are in a universal wedding attendee yellow pages. They flit from one destination to another. In all their splendour and tacky designer clothes. You only have to ask them one question. What are the names of the bride and groom?
As I drove back home that night, I couldn’t help but wonder — when was the graceful and poignant Indian wedding replaced with a pretentious imposter?
While we, as Indians, have always been susceptible to extravagance at weddings, this overindulgence has now reached dizzy heights. I have attended more weddings where competitive splurges and ostentatious displays of jewellery and gifts appear to have been the primary objectives of the week-long gatherings and the sacred union of two human beings is but a detail.
This disturbing trend is really the symptom of a larger problem — unbridled consumerism and shallow, materialistic aspirations sweeping across the country. Switch on your TV or cellphone or open the newspaper, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the barrage of advertisements pushing products at you.