Los Angeles-based comedian Raajeev Aggerwhil has starred in Nickelodeon’s TV show 100 Things to Do before High School and also acted in the film based on the television series. He is a frequent contributor to the humor column.
Indians are obsessed with the weddings of their children. They start planning for the weddings of their children even before they are born. They even dream of prospective spouses while the kids are in diapers.
People get so competitive about the wedding itself. At a recent family wedding in New Delhi, I was amazed to see the vast array of food options. I had not been to an Indian wedding for a decade and I was blown away. First of all, it was all vegetarian food. Being a Jain wedding, they didn’t have anything cooked in onion or garlic. However, they made up for limitations by overcompensating with the variety. They had eight different potato curries, six different paneer curries, Chinese and Mexican entrees and of course, over a dozen types pasta.
Anything you can imagine, they had it. No they didn’t have burgers but they had fries and pizza. They had chaat. They even had a menu published in a pocket fold out. I counted the number of items. It was over 500 (including desserts and snacks)! It was like flipping through 500 cable channels on TV in your hotel room -– by the time you are done, the night is gone.
I think the whole concept is reinforced by Bollywood movies. The groom’s mother would proudly announce that it will be the wedding of the century –- that people will remember this wedding for seven generations.
This addiction spans across all segments of the society. Even a poor man starts working harder as soon as a daughter is born. He has a mission: I have to accumulate wealth so I can arrange a glamorous wedding and arrange for the dowry. My suggestion to them would be, “Why don’t you arrange for your basic needs first – food, house, liquor? Then you can worry about feast, fireworks and dowry.”
The same tradition continues among the Indian diaspora. The trend in the US is to arrange the wedding at a 5-star hotel. My uncle told me that his daughter’s wedding 10 years ago at the Hilton cost him $120,000. Since the marriage ended up a disaster, it was a colossal waste of money. You would think that after spending that kind of money, the children would honor the six-figure sacrifice at the expense of their own happiness! But hey, crap happens.
I hate spending money on something that is optional, intangible, and depreciating. Like flowers for instance. They are tangibles but depreciating. Flowerpots offer better Return on Investments (ROI). My view of weddings is the same. People remember the feelings. Yes, good food and good location is needed but the law of diminishing returns is applicable here. After five dishes, there is no added value and may even be a torture for people.
You might be wondering, “What about competition? How do I outdo my friends’ daughter’s wedding in decoration, grandeur or number of items on the menu?” Well there is no limit to competition and Indians tend to compete over trivialities.
Here is a simple principle I suggest you live by. If you want to compete, don’t compete on who throws the most lavish weddings! Compete on who gives the most to charities.
I am cheap so I don’t want to be a part of this unnecessary futile exercise. I told my son that I only want one thing from him when it is time for his wedding. He was a bit nervous and asked, “What?” I said, “Beta, Bhag ja! Son, Just run away! Elope! Surprise us! When you come back, we will throw a reception at Soup Plantation!” He didn’t know how to react. “Oh, by the way, we will write you a big check from the savings.” He smiled and said, “That’s smart!”