Just the other day I was talking to my brother about a cousin’s marriage that I had attended last winter. He was unable to show up for the wedding due to some prior engagements. As our talks progressed, we started discussing how everything in an Indian marriage comes to be associated with transactions, be it in cash or in kind. It is not that emotional bond is absent, but that which can be maintained without exchange of notes here and there, is engulfed by the idea of materialism.
A big fat Indian Wedding is a dream for many grooms and brides. And though money can be put to better use, I don’t think I have any right here to speak against it when somewhere down the line I won’t shy away from spending whatever it to takes to have my dream wedding. But the customs and rituals that are a part of the Indian wedding needs rethinking, or least a change in the way it has developed to be performed.
One such function, which to me is an extended version of dowry is MAYRA (also known as BHAAT) – a ritual wherein the bride/groom’s maternal family is welcomed by her sister’s family with much fanfare. The maternal uncle, along with his family, then gifts clothes, jewellery and sweets to the entire family of her sister signifying his pledge to share the financial burden of the wedding expenditure. The concept cannot be deemed unfit and ill. A brother-sister relation is that of protection, support and mutual dependency. And hence it is the duty of the brother to stand by her sister in all major and minor events of her life. But the social pressure that has increasingly been attached with this function is disgraceful. Moreover all the gifts are put on display for relatives and guests to see how ‘openheartedly’ they have been gifted. At this juncture, I have some questions. Why is there a need to plan a wedding that cannot be financed by one’s own means? And even if the brother is willing to help, why is there the need for such public display? Will not this ritual have more meaning to it, if this help is encouraged by the emotional leverage of the brother and not motivated by the societal necessity to go out of the way to finance something that not only digs a hole in your pocket but at the end turn out to be a complete show-off event where the presence of any emotion is weighted in terms of the amount of money you have spent on your sister and her family?
When I brought this issue in front of my elders, there were strange answers and explanations. People say that if it is in your capacity then why one should not help. But what is the proof of this willingness? What reason shall be put in place for me to refute the belief that it is the ‘what will society say’ attitude that is actually into functioning? And if it is actually something so associated with the support and love theory of the relationship, then would not just standing beside your sister on the wedding day, assuring her that irrespective of whatever turn the future takes, you will not leave her matter more? Would not these words of assurance mean more than the number of zeroes penned down on the cheque book?
I am not advocating for a complete abolishment of this custom. But if the whole concept is based on money, then there is nothing that can be done to prove your love beyond it. But if emotions are what that actually govern the function, then there are no boundaries to what shall and what shall not be done. It is upon us to realize what we really want to do. Choking the meaning of such a warm relation by the hands of material exchange and show off, or to nurture it with mutual respect and trust? Remember, that the best help is one that is done without any aspiration for acclaim.