Band, Baaja, Bank Balance!

(Published in The Huffington Post India : )

There’s something about an Indian Wedding.

Something that possesses you to stay happy and jubilant consistently in every moment of those three to four days. From the Genda Phool that gladdens the heart and makes me want to wrap it around my neck like a scarf, the pretty pastel colored Shamianas adorning the periphery of the house that makes it stand out amidst the huddle of mundane-looking houses in the neighborhood in all its colorful glory, to all the exquisite and eye-popping-ly lavish lehengas, suits, saris and jewellery that is brought out of their hiding places for the annual airing and parading during the wedding season.

And then there is the wedding in your own family that makes it that much more special and joyous. My brother’s wedding just concluded a few days ago after a week of very late nights that witnessed a lot of inebriated singing, dancing, laughing, overdue family reunions, friends that came by so often, they may as well have moved in to the house for that one week, the highlight of every evening – the choreographed dance practices bringing the youngest to the eldest members of the large family to their feet and of course, the inevitable gorging on copious amounts of Indian food and sweets!

It isn’t called ‘The Big Fat Indian Wedding’ (or Punjabi Wedding) for no reason. In fact, truer words have never been said. The amount of time, money, energy and organization that goes into the planning and successful execution of an Indian wedding is unparalleled and is becoming increasingly mind-boggling. We had two South Africans, a Spaniard and an American attend the wedding too who, not surprisingly,  were blown away by the magnitude and grandeur of each day’s functions that sour their unarguably lustre-less, day long western wedding celebrations.

Needless to say, if you are planning an Indian wedding, your pockets better be deep, heavy and always reachable. With annually inflating prices from gold to even the flower arrangements, the bank balance will always have to endure a sound beating. But, what is a constant source of amazement for me is the kind of frivolous and wasteful things that sometimes people decide to spend the largest amounts of money one – for reasons unfathomable. Such as the wedding invitation cards.

We are constantly both amused and baffled at the luggage-sized boxes disguised as wedding invitations that appear at our door and after minutes of wondering whether it may be an errant delivery, we unravel the mystery of the giant box – someone is inviting us to their wedding. Gone are the days when a simple, clear two-page-inserts wedding card sufficed. Today, if it isn’t the size of a mini-suitcase containing embellished and overly ‘creative’ invitation cards, it just isn’t ‘inviting’ enough. And of course the good old mithai ka dabbas have been replaced by fashionably petite boxes of exotic and sometimes ‘phoren’ mithai.

My point is that sadly all this effort is ultimately of no use as these boxes that are a result of months of planning and hard work will eventually end up in the trash. Or on someone’s dressing table to house some of that costume jewelry lying around, at best. So, why not just stick to some prettily designed, simple, elegant and happy looking cards? Why strain your bank balance on something that will end up in the bin in two days? Not to mention the wastage of all that paper, wood and space! Instead channel those finances towards other, more important aspects like the catering for example. A great idea that people are now moving towards are e-invites!

From kids birthday parties to weddings, the ‘sho-sha’ culture has gripped us severely. Rather than focusing on the quality of a product we are busy making sure that no holds are barred in beautifying the packaging – and in doing so often times the result is garish, over the top and unappealing. And the competition to outdo one another is not helping either.

I can not forget the wedding I attended that had two real life elephants stationed on either side of the entrance – flitting their tails and just standing there. Obviously someone’s idea of a grand welcome for their guests!

I love Indian weddings. I love everything about them. All the fuss over dressing up, the Mehendi, the food, Bollywood music, dancing and the week long shenanigans that our neighbors are never happy about. But I also feel that some of us need to step back and acknowledge that we may sometimes get carried away and that just because we have the resources, we don’t have to indulge in wasteful use of them.

I just read about a couple that decided to spend all the money they had saved up for their wedding on feeding the poor and homeless and have a simple, small wedding instead. Not that I am suggesting we all do the same. By all means everyone has the right to the kind of wedding they want. I am just saying maybe we can become mindful of how blessed we are to have these resources and perhaps an introspective thought on how we should correctly utilize them during the wedding season is in order.

Let’s not forget that the best things that give us the most joy often come in smaller packages.


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