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In the Indian wedding scenario, one cannot escape possible rejections, the hypocrisy of elders with their double standards, the over indulgence of the boys in the house.
During the long covid break, there were many emergency weddings (I call them emergency weddings as they had to be conducted with so many rules that were not prevalent even during India’s emergency period!) that happened in the last two years.
These weddings were held with a limited crowd. Personally, I wish and pray that all weddings in India happen this way though I am fully aware that this is an impossible wish! I am a mother of two and will soon be heading to many of these what I call, ‘hypocritical’ weddings.
Now, the season for full-fledged weddings with grand celebrations has begun. Incidentally, there are several eligible boys and girls in my family that have reached marriageable age as well. I am not hesitant to admit that this is a great reason of worry for me. Looking for an alliance for our children has become a big challenge in this era. As we started to look for a suitable girl for our boys, we mainly came across many highly demanding girls.
Girls voicing their opinions is a most welcome change, provided they know what they want. If they have a list of dos and don’ts it’s welcome, but if they do not know what they need and question everything that is put before them, then it becomes a problem.
Funnily we went through dozens of rejections ourselves for many found our boys to be too sober, not outspoken or flamboyant enough.
The boys of this generation raised in middle class families are caught in a fix. Girls today want to marry a boy who expresses his love openly and is not too shy. He must be a cultured “good Indian boy” as well as be flamboyant and expressive with his love and affection. Now how do our boys learn to balance the two?
If boys today are too expressive, they are labeled as flirtatious and if they are quiet and gentle, they are marked as tasteless, too sober and dull. There is also an additional challenge that boys face; they must be capable of earning double the salary of the girl while just being one year or so older to her, and preferably have no additional responsibilities towards sisters or dependent parents.
Then comes the turn of our girls. Our girls too face rejections based on unrealistic expectations of them. In today’s day and age we raise our girls to be qualified, educated, cultured, independent and out-spoken and leave no coin unturned to make girls self reliant. Yet, even after 75 years of Indian independence, our girls are not accepted as independent individuals by society when it comes to marriage.
An eligible girl is supposed to be highly qualified, well earning and well-versed in cultural rituals. She must possess excellent homemaking skills and last but not the least, be a great cook.
No matter how modern, educated, well earning she may be, she must be “cultured” which means she must not have any close male friends, be it childhood buddies or cousins. All the progressive thinking of boys goes out the window and hides behind dark walls of narrow mindedness in these matters. We call all this our culture and tradition, I really wonder if this is the true meaning of tradition!
In our famous epics like Mahabharata, Draupadi questions her husbands as to what gives them the right to bet her away. She is supposed to be a role model representing progressive thinking of her era. She spoke her mind!
But even after centuries, hypocrisy still plays a major when it comes to marriages. Girls even today are taught and expected to not to speak to anyone except their closest relatives especially after marriage.
It surprises me that girls are still expected to not have any close relationship prior to their weddings. And that they must not aspire to have any post marriage either. Be it her childhood friends or acquaintances, they must be shut out. Her entire life should be focused only around her husband and in-laws and a bit of the maternal side after marriage.
For decades I have witnessed that girls often break communication with their close friends and acquaintances after marriage. They are expected to focus on their new families, primarily their husbands and in-laws. They are are expected to make these new relationships a priority. It is as if she did not have an identity before marriage whatsoever.
A newly married girl is expected to leave behind all that was hers including her close friendships. Girls who don’t follow these unwritten rules are labelled as arrogant and too outgoing and unsuitable. They fall under the risk of losing the title of becoming an ‘achi bahu’ or the good Indian daughter-in-law.
Now, the season for full-fledged weddings with grand celebrations will soon be here.
Incidentally, there are several eligible boys and girls in my family that have reached marriageable age as well. I am not hesitant to admit that this is a great reason of worry for me. Looking for an alliance for our children has become a big challenge in this era. As we started to look for a suitable girl for our boys, we mainly came across many highly demanding girls.
I witnessed two weddings in consecutive years in my own family. There was a stark difference between how the girl’s wedding was treated compared to the boy’s. The girl was my elder cousin sister, and the boy my cousin brother. Let’s talk about the sister’s wedding first.
Fortunately, the to be in-laws of my sister were very understanding, well mannered and progressive thinking people. They never placed any demands and warmly agreed to all that was promised by my uncle (girl’s father). They comforted him saying that they only wanted his daughter’s hand and were extremely happy that she would be an integral part of their family. Their genuineness was consistent and during the later days it became visibly evident that my sister was more happy in their home than ours.
The very next year came my brother’s wedding. We had a long list of prospective girls to choose from for him.
The day finally came when a decision had to be made for my brother’s marriage and there was a meeting with the girl’s family. I was astounded to see my uncle’s high handedness in the matter. He opened the conversation with a statement that dowry had been the norm and our culture all these years and we need not write it off.
He further asked for an amount quotation from the girl’s family! Then the bargaining continued for some two hours. My aunt too did not hesitate to ask for gifts to be given to them during the various rituals. This appeared to be so petty to me for she conveniently forgot her own daughter’s wedding where none of these so called ritualistic gifts had exchanged hands.
She went on to warn my dad, (who tried to accommodate the request of the girl’s side who were totally silenced with the high-handedness of this couple) to stay out of the matter. She forgot that only with his involvement and over indulgence (big fat loan), could they perform their own daughter’s wedding gracefully. But my dad had no option than to remain silent.
Now time has come when the new generation will tie the knot in our families. And I can foresee many bumps in the road, and possible threats to a peaceful journey to matrimony.
In the Indian wedding scenario, one cannot escape possible rejections, the hypocrisy of elders with their double standards, the over indulgence of the boys in the house. There is also the social pressure of meeting impossible standards and having over the top weddings with 40-60 food items on the menu, lakhs spent on silks and jewellery. There is also the cost of unrealistic photography and last but not the least, hair and makeup drama turning our beautiful girls into a mannequin item.
Inspite of being aware of the ridiculousness of over the top weddings and having clarity of mind that weddings are not a two day drama, I find myself resigned to the fact that I too will be trapped in the hypocritical world of Indian weddings. For this is our system that is in place.
A wedding is the first step that takes two individuals forward, tying them together forever for a life-time. Resources must be channelled towards building a solid marriage and not the wedding day! But sadly all resources, money and energies are wasted on those two days.
I keep my fingers crossed when our elders negotiate weddings. Because sadly to say, many elders are hypocrites and we lack the boldness to voice our opinions to them. We listen to them meekly without putting our point forward. Our children too, who have been raised in the same middle class cultured environment, are not bold like the Pragathis of the world.
But it is high time we all spoke up and unshackle ourselves from the hypocrisy of Indian weddings!
Image source: a still from the web series Made in Heaven
Am an enthusiastic writer, keen in writing a column on taboo subjects. Recipient of few prizes in article writing story writing competitions in english, telugu and hindi. Had published couple of articles in Womens Web read more...
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