In India, Shaadi or Wedding is a day of reckoning for the largely middle class and sparsely upper class communities. Indians plan their lives around this very day. Each and every decision they have ever taken in their lives is to make this once in a lifetime event a day to cherish.
In India, a marriage is a communion of two families rather than just the groom and the bride. A solid foundation to an ever lasting & fruitful relationship is laid by the two sides. Even in today's uber modern Indian society, people consider the happy approval of their respective parents, uncles, aunts, grannies, grandpas, nephews, nieces, some newly discovered far off relatives, second and third cousins as sacrosanct before considering the next big step i.e. to get into the marriage itself. This is an unwritten mandate for all marriages, irrespective of the fact that the boy and the girl have held discrete courting sessions either at college or at work or both.
In India, though it is fast changing, the trend is for 'arranged' marriages. It is still very much in vogue. It is a risky proposition for the incumbents as their haplessness knows no bounds. The whole process is quite amusing if you actually sit and ponder on it. You are part, (heck! not a part, you are the product) of a grand marketing strategy at work where experienced and skilled minds are in continuous brain storming sessions to come out with a proposal that is best for either side. Management gurus call it the 'win - win' approach of negotiating a deal!
You are so proud of your achievements at college and at work. Your peers and seniors openly laud your outspoken nature, your bold outlook and fast decision making capabilities. You are busy counting the feathers on your cap and suddenly when you are among marriage proposals, your feathers are all ruffled. All your hard earned skills and expertise are all of a sudden "Not Applicable"
One often ends up puzzled when your hard thought decision about the "right" girl is mercilessly rejected by your elders. Where did I go wrong? Was it not a girl that I okayed? Am I right in the head cause everyone else seems to think in the opposite direction! You just do not say "OK" to the very first girl you come across!
After coldly, rejecting half a dozen proposals (this applies to the boy also when the girl's family applies the same selection prerequisite) you finally zero in on your future wife. You are happy, your parents, uncles, aunts, grannies, grandpas, nephews, nieces, some newly discovered far off relatives, second and third cousins are all happy and lo presto! a decision is made ! The management has made the risk review, conducted the GO - NO GO gate review, discussed on the budget and finally issued the NTP (Notice to Proceed).
Somebody on the girl's side voluntarily discloses to everyone's surprise and bemusement that the incumbent is a trained carnatic singer. Surely, her high notes and deep understanding of the Ragas is bound to impress you.
You keep a straight face feigning an equally deep knowledge of the carnatic ragas and you start nodding your head in appreciation like that funny Raccoon (King Julien) in Madagascar!
After both sides consult their respective "family astrologers" a date is set up for the Engagement ceremony. This is the familiar exchange of ring ceremony and it is that time of your life when you update your relationship status on your Facebook page from 'Single' to 'Engaged'. Usually, the date for the wedding is fixed during the engagement ceremony. This is followed by expeditions to the numerous outlets specialising in traditional Sarees specially designed for nuptial occasions. An entire lifetime's savings are mercilessly splurged on exotic silks embroidered with gold and silver. Then comes the over kill - jewellery for the ladies! There are the quick visits to the caterer who comes highly recommended by some uncle or aunt of yours. The menu for the big day has to be discussed and agreed upon mutually. After all, compromising on one's gastronomical delights is not part of the deal.
Cut to D - day minus 1. Most middle class weddings in India are convened in a custom built marriage halls which sometimes have holding capacities of up to 2000 smiling relatives and friends. Brains are racked to recall names of all long lost and lorn relatives to invite them all to your personal life's biggest extravaganza! The Indian mind is the most enterprising of them all. South Indian parents plan the wedding reception a day before the actual wedding to ensure maximum utilisation of the wedding hall booked (one cannot let the previous night go idle when you are paying such an exorbitant price for it). For the first time in your life, you are the cynosure of all eyes and you bask in this moment of glory. You are dressed to kill and the hot topic of discussion. Where does he work? How much does he earn? Does he own a house? A car perhaps? Does he have an On - site opportunity in his company? so on and so forth. You being the groom 'arrive' fashionably late at the venue dressed in your best double breasted suit or the traditional Sherwani (both of which by the way would have costed you a fortune).
|Me :) :) :)|
Wedding receptions provide the best opportunity to one and all to binge unabashedly on some really good food - all at somebody else's cost! It is also a God given occasion for the PYTs to show off their best costumes. It is an event to let your hair down and enjoy some good live music, to meet up with old friends and distant relatives. It is also the best place for mothers and fathers in the process of looking for a daughter / son in law for themselves. You see horoscopes exchanging wrinkled hands and photographs of the candidates going through an army of eyes.
D - Day: South Indian Weddings are always compulsorily convened in broad day light! It is for everyone to witness and behold without any ambiguity in mind. The day for the bride, groom and their inner circle starts very early. Traditionally dressed pandits chant out vedic hymns to invoke the holy spirits and the Almighty to sanctify the ceremony (Holy Matrimony). Both groom and bride are dressed in traditional wedding gear that includes a princely Mysore Peta, silk cloth over your shoulders and a silk dhoti for the groom and a heavy 9 yard Silk - gold embroidered saree for the bride with half a dozen kilo of jewellery from head to toe thrown in. The decked up bride is literally carried to the stage to join the waiting groom by her maternal uncles. After a series of mantras and some cheeky comments by the Pandit, comes the event which led to the term "Tying the Knot". The "Mangalsutra" which has been blessed by all elders is tied to the bride in 3 knots which symbolises love, trust and marital happiness.
|The Ring Finding ceremony|
|One of the Acclimatisation ceremonies|
|The Dhaare ceremony (Kanya Daan)|
Since arranged marriages of yore did not provide much opportunity to the boy and girl to get familiar with each other, there were a lot of little games that were designed to thaw the freeze and acclimatize them to the institution of marriage. There is the well known exercise of finding the ring in a pot of milk, pouring rice on each other's heads, holding a fun betrothal for your future kids, feeding each other sweets. All this happens amidst constant giggling and gazes of your well wishers. It is a great day indeed and a day to remember your entire life.
Marriages are made in heaven they say. Man - Woman culminate to a uni - soul. No matter what circuitous route your fate makes you take, your destiny has already been established. Marriages in India are the greatest success stories and living evidences of how two strangers when brought together in this holy institution go on to become each other's best companions, confidants, guides and most importantly Soul mates in the spiritual sense. A happy marriage is a key to a healthy life and to an ever lasting peace of mind.
Marriage is a great place to be and I strongly recommend it once to everybody.
“Marriage is the golden ring in a chain whose beginning is a glance and whose ending is Eternity.”