At the beginning of an episode of ‘Satyamev Jayate’ on Indian Weddings, Aamir Khan quizzed some of the young members of the audience about the kind of wedding they’d like to have.
One young man said, “I’d like to descend at the wedding venue from a helicopter and not the usual ghodi (mare) during my baraat (pre-wedding procession of the bridegroom and his entourage to the marriage venue amidst much dancing, music, pomp and show)”
A young lady said, “I’d like to get married in a palace”
There were quite a few in the audience who smiled indulgently at these youngsters.
Aamir Khan then held a mirror to the Indian obsession for dowry and ostentatious weddings by presenting some victims of dowry harassment and NRI marriage frauds.
He also presented a community elder Mr. Mausim Ummedi of Tanzeem Khuddam E Millat an organization from Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh that has popularized the concept of “No Band, No Baja (Music), No Baraat, No Dahej (Dowry)” to such an extent that community groups from other Indian States have come forward to implement their model. Mr. Ummedi informed the audience that in Burhanpur, one can’t find any distinction between the wedding of a rich family and a poor family as everyone follows the same norms – No Band, No Baja, No Baraat, No Dahej and a simple wedding without feasts. Also, there are no dowry deaths in Burhanpur. Laudable indeed!
Towards the end of the episode when Aamir Khan asked the same question that he’d asked at the beginning of the program, some of the young audience members seemed immediately reformed and said they’d like to have a simple wedding for which they’d like to foot the bills too!
This particular episode on Big Fat Indian Weddings took me down the memory lane - about four decades back - when I was the only lady probationer amongst a group of Probationary Bank Officers at the Bank’s Training College on an Orientation Program. At the dinner table, the young probationers boasted about how their ‘market value’ had gone up meaning that they can now demand and get a large dowry. They could trumpet thus because during those days, a bank officer was considered a great marriage prospect. My worry was about my old parents who would have to shell out a higher dowry to get a suitable groom for me….
Coming back to Aamir Khan’s show, while my heart went out to those who suffered bad, abusive marriages and dowry harassment despite the fact that no expenses were spared for their weddings and that there were laws in place to check the dowry menace (it’s another matter that the dowry harassment victim and her parents become wiser only after the event). Thereafter, my thoughts veered towards the present ‘modern’ generation.
Why blame the “greedy” parents when the young men and women themselves are keen on grand marriages..? If the present day youngsters were to stand up and say firmly, “No pomp and show in my marriage – no dowry, no unnecessary expenses….” can the parents really protest? No amount of legislation and laws against dowry can stop the menace unless the actors themselves viz., the would-be brides and grooms refuse any form of ostentation in their marriage ceremony. The “everybody does it…” syndrome has to be replaced by a steadfast stand that marriage is not about dowry negotiations, “show” and transactions. It’s all about the meeting of two minds and souls, and the union of two families to forge lifelong alliance, friendship and cooperation…
Another important requisite is that every community elder and religious heads should issue fatwa against and boycott of ostentatious weddings and dowry. Most importantly, politicians, film stars and corporate czars have to set an example by opting for low cost, low-profile and simple weddings.
Both the girl and the boy or at least one of them, should be well-equipped to handle the marriage expenses and their married life thereafter. The role of parents, relatives and friends should be restricted to blessing and wishing the couple a great life ahead. A solemn occasion like Marriage should not become a tamasha (show) and unnecessary, competitive ostentation. On the sidelines of many marriages, I have heard guests talking (preening) about how well and better their son’s / daughter’s marriage was performed! Performed indeed!
The present generation exhibits great independence to choose what it wishes to do in terms of education, profession, phones and accessories, hairstyles and sartorial preferences. This generation, therefore, is very well-equipped to demand a simple marriage without dowry - a marriage that has equal investment from the boy and girl financially and ideologically to foster life-long partnership and kinship. If the current generation of net-savvy and modern youngsters bluntly refuses to be a party to the dowry system and grand weddings, the menace can be rooted out permanently. Today’s generation, even in small Indian towns and villages, has the capacity and capability of bringing about a revolution by a simple click of the mouse.
We need more Tanzeem Khuddam E Millats and community elders like Mausim Ummedi to bring about change. Now, who better than the current upwardly mobile, smart and savvy generation of young Indians to become the Change Agents …? C’mon, if Burhanpur can do it, so can the rest of India!
The Idiocy of The Big, Fat Indian Wedding
Never Ending Ever Threatening Dowry Devil