“You are next now, hun!” was all my aunties could be heard saying. I was at my cousin’s wedding. Irritated by the constant cheek pulling, “itni si dekhi thi” and you-are-next-in-line jokes, I thought of pulling away from the crowd and maintaining my interest in the wedding ceremonies. As I entered the palatial hall, all I could see was a grand, multi cuisine (Indian, Thai, Continental, Arabian, you name any and every continent). The women had crowded around the food spread, glittering in their shimmering gold and bright rubies and men in sherwanis standing around an exclusive bar. Perplexed at all the glitter and lively atmosphere, I turned around to the drum rolls evoking the guests to see the filmy entrance of the bride. Dressed up in an elaborate designer lehenga and decked up with jewellery straight from Jodha-Akbar, the bride walked up a few steps on to a stage set with ornamental seats for the bride and the groom, who joined soon after. Awestruck and mesmerized, this was what the commerce student in me witnessed the rest of the evening- a profligate, Vanity Fair.
A lot of queries were stuck in my mind. Is this what happens at most weddings now? Is this the amount of expenditure and show-off my family will have to go through for me? Most importantly, at what point was the simple and traditional Indian wedding replaced with a pretentious imposter?
Overindulgence in the wedding festivity has reached dizzy heights. Weddings have always been extravagant affairs in India, festivities lasting up to a week or more. Now, with the economy growing at over 9% and the ranks of the middle class swelling to nearly 300 million, weddings are becoming the most conspicuous examples of consumerism.
The main reasons for these extravagances are quite simple- shallow, materialistic aspirations sweeping across the country. TV and newspapers are filled with advertisements subtly thrusting products down one’s throat. An advertisement on TV, where a prospective bride declares to her sister, while shopping jewellery, that a necklace worth Rs. 3 lakh is “really not that expensive” justifies splurging. A TV reality show has gained wide spread popularity where middle class family brides are given a makeover by big time designers. Promising a “fairytale wedding”, it is nothing but a designer ad for beauty products and Sabyasachi clothes. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was recently seen in a commercial, convincing ladies to buy more jewellery as the prices wore “nothing to worry about”.
The tacit approval of these trends that override cultural significance of the wedding rituals set the bell ringing for introspection. In the present times of growing globalization and modernization, it is critical not to forget that today, the most important gifts that parents can give their daughters are a solid education and strong self-belief.
We cannot deny that we do deserve all the joyous festivities and the merry-making. But while doing that, it is important to remember that it is not a platform to flaunt our status. The beauty of the sacred promise should not be diminished.