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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Small is beautiful

It’s about time we phased out the Big Fat Indian wedding

There were many things that were heart-warming about the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-Sakshi Rawat love story. The fact that India’s cricket captain didn’t succumb to the blowsy charms of some six-feet-tall supermodel but fell for the cute girl next door. That both Mahi and Sakshi chose to conduct their relationship well below the radar, choosing privacy over publicity (so much so that few were even aware of Sakshi’s existence before the engagement announcement). But most heart-warming of all was the way in which they wed.

Not for them, the Big Fat Indian wedding of legend – though God knows Dhoni can afford it. Not for them, a lavish five-star, celebrity-studded affair in one of Bombay or Delhi’s swish hotels. Not for them, a celebration that lasts several weeks and takes in every scenic location in India that you can think of. Not for them, a lavishly-mounted theme wedding in a chateau in France, a villa in Italy, a chalet in Switzerland, or even a beach in the Caribbean.

No, when Dhoni decided to marry his long-term girlfriend, it was in the small town of Dehradun, where her folks stay and the ceremony itself was held in a modest little resort. The large police presence meant that the media was kept at a respectable distance. So, the only people privy to the proceedings were Mahi, Sakshi, their families and close friends who had flown down for the wedding. Which is exactly how it should be.

Of course, there were famous faces around. And how could it be otherwise, given Dhoni’s supersonic fame? But even here, due discretion was exercised on the guest list. R.P. Singh was in attendance; Yuvraj Singh was not (he tweeted rather lamely: “Got to know Mahi is getting married. Congratulations...”). Among the film crowd, only John Abraham – who has been close to Dhoni, advising him on his fitness and his hair-styles – was in attendance. There were none of the usual suspects – Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Preity Zinta, et al – who generally litter such events.

And if you ask me, the wedding was much better for it. There were just 60 people in attendance from both sides of the family. There was no fancy DJ flown in from Morocco to regale the guests with Bhangra Rap. There were no rare vintages of French wines or cases of Dom Perignon waiting to be quaffed or even any Grey Goose or Belvedere. Instead, Dhoni kept his wedding an alcohol-free zone. And there were no camera crews in attendance recording every moment for the prime-time TV audience.

In other words, it was a dream wedding – the kind that revolves around the bride and groom and not around the thousands of celebrity attendees and what they are wearing.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting a bit tired of the overblown extravaganzas of excess that pass off as Indian weddings these days. Everyone is competing with the other to choose the most exotic locale, serve the most esoteric food, put on the most lavish entertainment, invite the maximum number of people. Everything must be on a grand scale: the flowers, the decor, the bride and bridegroom’s outfits. And with each one vying to out-do the other, the bar is raised so high that you can’t help but look ridiculous as you attempt to clear it.

NRI businessmen fly into India to take over entire resort properties to host over-the-top weddings for their sons. Only to be topped by industrialists who can afford to take over historical palaces in France to give their daughters a befitting send-off. Young couples whizz off to Florence and Barcelona – along with several thousand guests – just so they can marry in the city of their dreams. Honestly, it’s gotten so bad that if you host a wedding in near-by Thailand you are seen as letting the side down.

It all makes me long for the weddings of my childhood, which were simple, no-nonsense three-day affairs hosted by families in their homes, be they ever so humble. Everyone pitched in to help out with the organisation – relatives, friends, neighbours. And they all did it for love rather than a large pay cheque. Nobody worried too much about colour co-ordination, so long as the bride wore red. The food was plentiful rather than fancy. And the only exotic locales involved were those the happy couple chose for their honeymoon.

Not only were they cheaper to host but they were also more fun to attend. There was none of the anodyne decor so favoured by wedding planners, no designer outfits on display to put your own trusty Kanjeevaram to shame, and no surfeit of choice with endless buffet tables groaning with every cuisine known to man. You did a bit of lusty Punjabi-style dancing with the band, handed over your envelope to the happy couple, posed for a picture, tucked into your kebab (and sometimes sharab) and then departed before the interminable pheras got underway.

The feel was intimate; the mood was buoyant; the scale was perfect.

Which is why I think it is time we retired the Big Fat Indian Wedding, or better still gave it a decent burial so that it can’t come back and bite us in the bottom. Bring on the Small Thin Indian Wedding instead. Trust me, you will love it.


prashhanthkpp said...

Brilliant observation and a genuine longing indeed for what was once a cozy three day affair. Brought back golden memories of those yester years where uncles, aunts, 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins, friends, neighbours, and a few prominent families from the village, town or city all gather together with affection, love and a genuine desire to see the event conclude successfully with an untold commitment. Everyone owned the bride or bridegroom and their household those three days. It was collective fun and frolic. It was meeting with far away uncles and aunts who are rarely seen. It was meeting up with 2nd or 3rd cousins hitherto heard of only. It was a declared period of "no studies". It was also a time for indulgence in some adolescent mischief as well. Perhaps having a smoke here, a glass of beer there or even stealing a smooch from or at your favorite! It was a occasion to dress up and show off too. Yes indeed, it was glorious and yet a very humble affair. AS for now, it has become burdensome to think of attending even - what a drift. Thanks for a wonderful post!

pooja said...

I enjoy reading your posts...i totally agree with u...marriage is a union of two people and 2 thousand! it shud be celebrated but shud more of an intimate affair...but in the pretence of showing off one's wealth and power the simplicity and intimacy fades out...its time we realise dat let d couple enjoy thier "own" wedding...

Namita Kohli said...

Amazing observation Seema..
Indeed, weddings should be the way they are meant to be, the most intimate and special ceremony for the couple and their immediate family & few close friends. The sanctum sanctorum of companionship is losing its charm and beauty to the undue "shosha baazi".

Anonymous said...

I don't begrudge rich people their fancy weddings (now if only they'd invite me ;-) That does not mean I would do it in that manner if I were rich. Everyone to his own taste. In fact it is a good occasion for the rich to spend, generating jobs and money for the local economy.