“Dad, my phone is too old and outdated. Please get me a new one.”
“Forget it. It’s good enough. Besides, money doesn’t grow on trees. We have to save for your marriage as well!”
Looks like your story, doesn’t it? This is a typical conversation that occurs every now and then in Indian families. Right from the moment a man and a woman get married, they start planning and saving. They save for a healthy future of their family, education of their kids and what not. But wait, all this consumes only a part of the savings. Where does the remaining, bigger part go? You guessed it! The day their children were born for. Marriage.
India is a land of hugely diverse cultures, traditions and ethnic groups. While their ways distinguish them, the fact that makes these different groups one, is their common ultimate purpose in life. This purpose is none other than to spend all they can on their children’s weddings (pun intended).
I belong to a Punjabi family, and have been a part of many Punjabi weddings. A typical wedding costs somewhere between ten lakhs to one crore rupees. I’m talking of average middle class families. For upper class families, the budget can go as high as fifty crores. Lets take a deeper look into where this giant sum of money goes.
Average count of guests in Indian weddings is about 300 to 350. In a banquet hall located in a metro city, a dinner usually costs at least a thousand bucks per head. Simple maths tells us that dinner (or lunch) alone costs a sum of about 3 to 4 lakhs. Wonderful! It does make sense, doesn’t it? I mean, I know we could feed a country of poor homeless children with that money, but why care? Lets move ahead and talk about the lavish gifts. In a wedding, the girl’s family is expected to bring along a plethora of gifts. We don’t like to call this dowry. We’re a part of modern India, we don’t believe in dowry anymore. These are just gifts! When I was a lot younger, gifts usually meant a pack of chocolates, a nice shirt, or a bouquet of roses. It was stupid of me. I should have known that gifts mean kilos of gold, a modern car and enough dresses to last a decade. I almost forgot about the plush decorations, which, again cost lakhs. Too bad they last only a day. But what the heck, it’s the day we were born for! At least all our relatives and friends are happy and proud, or are they? There’s always this aunt who will still not be happy with the saree she got, or that uncle, who didn’t find the pricey liquor he was hoping for.
Wait a minute, I just realized the most important purpose of spending the life’s savings in a day. It serves as a status symbol! While we may exhaust all our bank balance, we manage to build our status in the society. The wedding becomes the most talked about stuff among our friends and relatives. Some, who are yet to marry their children, take a note of the details, so that their children’s wedding can surpass our standards. Yay! We’ve given something worthwhile to them.
I don’t want to spoil the mood, but really, couldn’t we do a more sensible job here? Couldn’t we save half of what we throw at the weddings, for a more noble cause? How about donating to charities which raise and educate the poor children? If we can’t be that kind to the society, how about saving half of this huge sum for a better education of our children, or on gifting an international vacation to our parents once they retire?
When I look around today, I see a lot of young blood who doesn’t really favor such extravagant weddings. However, they still go for them for the sake of the will of their parents. Our parents wish to wed us in as lavish manner as they can afford. They do it because every one else does. They don’t want to be looked down upon by the society. What they probably fail to realize is the fact that this society is made of nothing but them. Many people who think just like them. If all, or at least most of them change their ways, this fear of being seen as the odd one out would cease to exist. If the youth does believe in the fact that unnecessary expenditure on weddings should be done away with, it has to take the responsibility of convincing the older generation. Some will understated, most won’t. If even a mere one percent of our country’s population succeeds in this, it will certainly make a huge impact.
Wedding is perhaps the most important day of our lives, but we don’t have to throw away our’s or our parent’s whole life’s savings for that. This is the day when we are blessed with a life partner, what else could we wish for?