Saturday, May 8, 2010

The business of marriage in India

2PM in the afternoon on a Saturday, my wife tells me that we need to go to an exhibition cum sale of wedding articles that is going on in the Bombay Exhibition Centre. For a person who has been married for the last six years and is quite content with the present married life the request was no less than a ‘déjà-vu’ and return to the old times. However this had to be done because it was for the sake of my younger brother who is to get married pretty soon. In India, Marriage is a collection of various rituals in order to re-enforce the fact that two souls will be living together henceforth. In the west the event of marriage is solely concentrated on the bride and the groom but in India the story is a bit different. Every member of the family has a role to play in the marriage, and this result in a plethora of rituals that takes place in a wedding event. Needless to say that all these events need special commodities which don’t fall from the air, so they have to be bought.

The Wedding Industry:
The last sentence gives rise to a big industry in India, The Wedding Industry. Today in this busy life everything cannot and should not be planned single handedly so in come the torch bearers of this Wedding Industry to sell you each and every thing that is required for the sake of a successful marriage event to take place. There is least you can do because you are also loaded with words like culture, tradition etc which are enough to lure you to be a milky consumer of this industry. I went to the exhibition and saw various things that you could actually imagine to buy in a wedding, jewelry, clothes, kitchen appliances, photography options etc. From the pre-nuptial period to the first anniversary there is everything for sale. Ironically, in this exhibition I really saw more people like me (whose marriage are actually in the archives) than prospective grooms or brides taking the call. Of course in a country where nearly 75% of the marriages are arranged-marriages the rituals are also planned and programmed and most of the responsibility lies of the elder of the family (the archived groom/bride).
Among these rush and hush, I was feeling like the odd one out, because honestly speaking my flare for shopping is not a quality that I could really record for myself or boast of. I would really have liked to go stall hopping if they were gadgets, electronics or even food items, but apparels and jewelry nah!!! So what to do? I took the responsibility of looking after my little kid while my wife went stall hopping from one to another stall, looking for newer and newer articles. I was really stunned by the sheer volume of items that were available for this event called marriage, however the groom and the bride have really no clue about what is going on for the event that is only going to ascertain the fact that they both can now live together socially.

Chinese Dominance:
In recent times, like many other parts of the world, it has been noticed that the Chinese articles have gained supremacy in the market than local articles. These articles are cheap, efficiently made and if you excuse my audacity, also innovative in some sense. It is a fact that most of the traditional looking Indian clothes are also China Made. In fact one of my friends, Mitul, also says that if God made everything, He/She might me Chinese. So I also felt this so called divine intervention in this trade gathering and could sense a great deal of Chinese dominance especially in the kitchenware section. For the people who are not from India, it may give rise to an element of curiosity that what is the necessity of having a kitchenware stall in a marriage-shopping list. Well, the workplace of the Indian bride is supposed to be the kitchen, and by buying the kitchenware for your daughter, who is the prospective bride, you are actually getting her ready to face the big bad professional world of house-wives, now also called home-makers. The kitchenware purchase of a high quality ensures that her tenure in her “Oval-Office” is secured for much long time than even the tenure of the president of the United States.

The best place in the exhibition:
For me, the exhibition was a tortuous three hour ordeal. No place to sit, no place to stand, everywhere people just busy buying things for an event in which they are not the centerpieces. I wondered what this exhibition could have had for a total non interested person like me. After all I am not the only weird species in the whole world; I expected that there may be some like me, even though the odds were not much in my favor. Just as I was thinking this and my daughter was getting cranky, I saw a very good place.
Well this was the food-stall. Somebody really thought about me. Actually no, food is the most essential part of a marriage event. The reputation of the family depends on the fact that how the food had been organized in the marriage. These food-stalls were kept for two reasons. To give a sumptuous relief to the tired wedding shoppers and to make a potential deal with a wedding shopper for catering in the wedding event, this, believe it or not fetches him 45% of the wedding budget and in some cases even 70%.
I was actually more interested in the first reason, although I didn’t entirely qualify for this but anyways, I was not being monitored. After having paid Rs 30 for the entry-fee I deserved this thing at least. So I sat down and had some Kachoris. My daughter also enjoyed it to the core.

What is the need?
The most important question over here is that why should we spend so much in an event that is supposed to be a natural process of life. Marriage is actually a communion of two souls, and this should be more left to the persons who have actually decided to get into this social agreement. The society can be a witness but not a participant of this social event. I am not pointing my finger on the way Indian marriages are conducted, I am merely bringing out this issue that when there is so much to do in the country with so limited resources, why at all spend so much on an event that is actually a normal process of life. Marriage is a state, it is not an event, and it is an agreement of happiness and not a display of financial status.
Sometimes it so happens that these petty and trivial reasons of status quo take mammoth proportions and lead to problems like dowry deaths and even female infanticide in this country. In this country the father of the bride is often so pressurized by these rituals that he wished he had never given birth to a daughter. This anxiety and social oppression (sublime though) leads to evils like female infanticide and female foeticide. These inadvertent displays of financial status under the blanket of holy rituals are actually the reason for these evils. These, so called rituals only oil the industry, the industry of wedding, the industry of religion ( read dakshinas to priests and others), the industry of myth but do not in any way uplift the married life of the two souls who are being bounded in marital bliss.
I would consider myself successful, if after reading this article at least one person stops spending on his/her marriage indiscriminately.

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