Bride and, well, prejudice

16 Nov,2011

Every week, my least favourite life-form in the media changes. It’s confusing, with so many creeps and monsters to choose from. Not anacondas and sting rays and the rest of those. I mean humans.

This week I watched with pissed-off fascination as those bridezillas, western and Indian, obsessed on their wedding. While they fume, fret and squeeze their parents dry so that they and everything around them looks fairytale etc on their wedding day, the merchandizers sponsoring the shows and the channels showcasing their anxieties and fears laugh all the way to the bank.

When the western bride shows first appeared, it would have been funny, were it not so grotesque, to watch a grown woman steam rollering even the groom, let alone her parents, in her consuming need to live up to the fantasy in her head. Now it’s the Indians who are out-Shining everyone in the bid to be the reigning Bridezillas of the world. Helped along, of course, ably by anyone who has a stake in their delusions of grandeur – skin, eyes, nails, hair people, body sculptors, designers and tailors, jewelers, caterers, decorators, wedding card printers, photogenic priests, hired white guests, photographers, honeymoon packagers, planners, et al.

Casting is simply not a problem, for these bride TV shows. All you need is a dullish looking girl, with even duller wits, and there’s your heroine! Of course it’s big business. The industry, estimated at $11 billion a year, is growing at 25 percent annually. And this does not count jewellery sales, which are growing at 7 percent annually, and are projected to reach $280 billion by 2015, is what we are told.

At the risk of carbon-dating myself as a relic of the ’80s, I ask: Does anyone remember a time when such weddings were only something that the rich and famous indulged in? And the time when the average Indian simply got married; they didn’t have an ‘event’ which needed to be ‘managed’? The wedding was not at a ‘venue’. A local ‘badminton hall’, or a modest and pleasant wedding hall was booked for the day. The girl changed her sari once or possibly twice. Guests dressed well, but did not spend a month’s salary and man hours on what they would wear.

Not any more, though. Like Woody Allen says, life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.

The invitation card, as one of the shows on TV lovingly showed us, is the first indication of the shape of things to come. It is often bulkier than your local restaurant menu. These cards definitely have more zari work, silk, tassels and sequins on them than any piece of clothing that many of us possess. In fact, you could wear one of them around your neck, and carry it off as a piece of jewellery. Some people even produce little booklets – complete with Indian miniature paintings, shlokas, minor treatises on vedic rites and other fundas about the auspicious and holy act of matrimony… all in a more-Indian-than-thou kind of font, that was at one time used by royal calligraphers when kings bestowed citations on people they wanted to honour. Sometimes, the invitation card is not a card at all – but a CD, complete with clips of the bride and groom and their families inviting you; there could also be a little audio-visual bio-pic of the bride and groom, running you through their first baby steps, taking you on a tour of all their achievements in school, college, work – a mini-movie of sorts!

In these bride-busting-papa’s-bank shows, when I watch grown people talking seriously into the camera for 10 minutes running about the relative merits of wearing Ostentatious Orange over Fussy Fuchsia, etc, I have this one thought: if we put even one-hundredth of the energy that goes into the making of a wedding, into what goes into the making of a marriage, there would have been much less aggro in our families.

However, there are early signs that, in some circles at least, this psychedelic dream may not be for everyone. Already, in some families, it is becoming retro-fashionable to have a traditional but quieter wedding.  The kind in which the bride’s and groom’s parents didn’t have to quietly sell off their retirement home, and can feel proud that the education that they gave their girl child has trickled down into her psyche, so she doesn’t think that marriages are made in Bollywood.

Perhaps someone will then do a retro-show on TV – and call it the Small Slim Indian Wedding.

Post a Comment 

4 responses to “Bride and, well, prejudice”

  1. Jeet says:

    I’ve seen western tourists for whom an Indian wedding is woven into their travel itinerary. A bit icky, but what the hell… the family hosting the wedding makes a few bucks that help to cover costs. The tourists get a glimpse of Indian culture that they otherwise never would. In any event, Indian weddings are fairly public tamashas, so what’s a few more guests? And money changes hands at these things in any case, so why not in this manner? But ‘hired white guests’? Really?

  2. Sanely Ordinary says:

    So true, Gouri! Wish the conspicuous consumption wedding went back to being the province of the really rich and decadent — so us ordinary folk could compare and revel in our normalcy. Hope the reverse trend you’ve observed takes root.
    Keep writing the good stuff!

  3. Haridini says:

    Love it, thanks for keeping us entertained with your amazing ability to ‘see the funnies’ in what many think is very serious business (of the “ODD” king). Looking forward to next week.

  4. Haridini says:

    Love it, thanks for keeping us entertained with your amazing ability to ‘see the funnies’ in what many think is very serious business (of the “ODD” king). Looking forward to next week.

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