The Big Fat Indian Wedding

India as a country is known for its vibrant colors, festivities and feasts  and most importantly the people from diverse cultural backgrounds holding onto their family customs and values from generations. Being from a Punjabi family and being born and brought up in Chandigarh, I have been able to know and learn a lot about the Punjabi culture, the family ties, the traditions, the people and their lifestyle.

For Indians belonging to prominent states like Tamil Nadu , Jammu and Kashmir , Gujarat , Bihar , Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh big fat weddings is an indicator of family’s social status, standing and power.

People from well to do families have always spent a considerable amount of their income on their children’s wedding but over the years with the advancement in technology, better living standards and access to better opportunities and overall exposure have led to a rise in the proportion of income of people and hence the tradition of spending lavishly on weddings has become even more prominent. In the close knit structure of Indian families  where there is a high level of class and caste  consciousness, marriages act as an event when all the family members, close relatives and friends get together and becomes an occasion to show-off event to each other their quality to spend heavily. On this day they don’t want to leave any stone unturned, they want to bless their child with monetary blessings on their special day. In-fact, many Indians spend half their lifetime savings in order to make sure that sufficient amount of funds are kept aside in order to secure the finest spouse for their children. Even the poor take laborious loans to host a wedding beyond their means.

But for the affluent this becomes an opportunity to show case all their riches, project themselves in a light different from the rest. But this perspective of aloofness, a craving to belong to an affluent class, creating a social image might lead to dire consequences like sometimes spending more than what one cannot afford and ultimately ending up in a vicious cycle of debt and bearing the agony all throughout life just for a day gala affair.

Besides this, the practice of fat weddings have led to a desire for a male child and neglect of female child leading to mal(e)- societal practices like female foeticide, girl child abuse , charging heavy dowry and so on.

This practice is very much evident in Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan where sex ratio is dishearteningly low. Parents consider it better to forgo the girl child rather than to bear the heavy costs of her upbringing and marriage for life. Whereas the birth of a boy child is considered auspicious since it bestows upon the family a future of greater financial prosperity. In some parts of India and that too in this 21st century dowry is a practice , a compulsion and more of a demand which if not fulfilled might lead to dire consequences. And the sad part is this practice is being followed by the so-called highly educated, sophisticated and elite class of the society.

In Jammu & Kashmir, marriages have become alarmingly expensive that many women are forced to remain single if their parents are not well-to-do.

Dowry was earlier started as a gift giving ceremony by girl’s parents to her for her future but now the exchange of gifts between the bride’s and the groom’s family is more of a competition. Now each side wants to oust the other in the amount and value of gifts they offer. The absurdity has risen to a level of spending like around $5,000 on a wedding dress, hiring chefs from all over the world, holding massive cocktail parties, calling top class celebrities to dance to these parties.

What else could be a better example of such an unnecessary irritating show off, than that of a recent lavish wedding of a Chicago based Indian millionaire a Vikram Aditya Kumar which reportedly  disrupted the entire traffic on a road in Auckland. What in better sense should have been a low key private family affair is now an obnoxious public display of wealth.

If this sheer extravaganza is cut down to an amount of a simple austere wedding of exchanging family vows, love and showering of blessings on the newlywed rather than showering wealth; the society would be better both in terms of both value and money. That money which is spent in holding such mega affairs can in turn be utilized in safeguarding the couple’s future prospects.

Hope that people get to understand the real meaning of occasions like marriage!

Padmavathy Dhillon