So my nephew, Srini, is getting married to a lovely Chinese girl called Ming. They live in San Francisco and met, where else, on a dating app. They are planning two weddings: one in Chennai and one in Napa. Now, I can imagine my Kanjivaram-clad aunts and dhoti-wearing uncles on the moon than the middle of a Napa vineyard. For one thing, they don’t drink wine, viewing it as some kind of a diluted poseur between Scotch and the Ayurvedic concoction called Dhraksharishta, made coincidentally from grapes. Secondly, my relatives don’t do quiet. Or orderly, for that matter. Standing in their places in a well-rehearsed Western wedding is anathema to their nature, which veers towards a stereophonic and multi-compounded version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. So the other day, I called Srini to find out what prompted him to go and hold his wedding in Napa of all places.
“Napa weddings are gorgeous,” he replied.
Yes, but who gets to decide that, I thought sourly. And therein lies the rub.
I was like an infant at my wedding. I mewled, cried, complained and demanded but had little say in the actual logistics of the wedding. The venue, return gifts, clothes, invitation and invitees were all decided by my parents and future in-laws. My wedding sari, for instance, had to follow a code: it was nine yards long and of the colour that Tamilians called arakku, or maroon, considered auspicious. The reception sari was gifted by my mother-in-law. It was also maroon, except that it was from Benares. In terms of choices, I had next to none. Which is perhaps why I dashed off this message to my “Cousins” group.
“Dear TSN Clan. This is about current and future weddings. I find that today’s youngsters have far too much freedom in terms of deciding what they will wear or even who they will invite to their own weddings. Unlike us who basically had no say in the matter. We should all come together and convey the following message to all our offspring: my money, my rules. Don’t you agree?”
Cousin Kamakshi immediately replied. “Hear, hear,” he said. “We should make it more explicit. If I pay for your wedding, I get to invite who I want, not who you want. And I don’t want to hear a word about small weddings with vegan menus in venues that conform to climate change protocols and the bride wears ahimsa silk. It will change the fabric of our weddings and indeed, put the whole notion of holy matrimony at risk.”
Cousin Kicha replied with a twist, “Wholeheartedly agree. But the problem is that today’s youngsters have the wherewithal to pay for their weddings. We should enforce the parents rule even if they pay for their own wedding.”
His wife continued, “Don’t understand the vegan bit. Both my daughters want to look like Deepika Padukone at their wedding.”
Aunty Urmila shot back, “That Padukone girl didn’t even look like a South Indian. I mean, which South Indian wears a veil at her wedding? We wear jasmine flowers, not a transparent veil.”
Self righteous, America-returned, UN job holding Jijaji, Ramasubramaniam Pattabhiraman wrote, “I think we are rambling as usual. The point is that we need to reclaim our power. The parents of the bride and groom need to have control of their offspring’s wedding, not the other way around as it is turning out to be.”
Cousin Uma said with a tearful emoji, “In my daughter’s wedding, she insisted on choosing the invitation, supervised the design, decided that we would hold a destination wedding for 200 guests at Goa, and nixed the reception. I had no role to play in my own daughter’s wedding. She even told me which of the relatives I could invite.”
“We know. We weren’t invited,” said a cousin known only by his or her telephone number. With 63 people in the group, nobody had bothered to keep track of who was who.
My daughter, against all my instructions, piped in. “I think it is good if the people who are getting married have a say in the matter, or even take charge of their own wedding. After all, it is their wedding.”
That was it. I was frothing at the lips. Against all my better principles, I was going to have a public spat with my own daughter. But I couldn’t help it. She had touched a raw nerve. To my delight, my brother beat me to it. “These are Western constructs,” he said. “In India, a wedding is a family affair.”
I decided to be more specific. “What are the rewards of parenthood?” I asked rhetorically. “We change their diapers for years on end. We clean their vomit. We wipe their puke off our shoulders and we burp them to sleep. What is the reward we get for the thankless job of raising babies?” I asked.
There was silence for one minute in the group, which by itself was unheard of. I decided to answer my own question.
“The rewards of bringing up a baby is to have a big fat Indian wedding. It is not about the bride or the groom or even happily ever after. It is all about the parents who have brought the bride and groom into the world and raised them to be ready for holy matrimony.”
To my shock, all the youngsters exited the group en masse. The next day, I got a petition from Change.org titled: “End wedding tyranny from elders NOW.”
(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents and other unique facets of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)
This Indian Life appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, May 12, 2019