Some Life

Rings, weddings, parties,

invites on a vacant desk;

the hills lured her more.

My Big Fat Fake Society

If you look up “caste” in Wikipedia, the first thing you’d see is a detailed explanation of India’s caste system. We pioneered the art of classifying people according to their birth. We mark and judge others by something they have no control over themselves. We are the vile people who shun our fellows because they’re different. Oh, and we’re also the first ones to name America a racist country.

We, Indians, are a fake society. Here’s how our system works: We live inside a cocoon of a society pretending we’re all-inclusive forward-thinkers. However, every day, every meaningless conversation at home or at familial gatherings would revolve around caste.

Shocking? Wait till you hear the rest.

If I announce to my family, at dinner, that a friend is getting married the following month, their first question would be if the couple is from the same caste. The second question, whether they belong to our caste.

And if I even dare to tell my family that I’m considering working abroad, their biggest worry would be to find a groom (in our caste) who wouldn’t be threatened by such a wife. My, it’s an abomination to want to live in a foreign country alone.

Even though plenty of men (in our caste) nowadays live in first-world countries, they’re nevertheless reluctant to marry a girl who’d talk about something more than what’s for dinner. It hurt a lot to hear it from my mother herself because I only see absurdity sprawled all over such a situation.

I had thought no one would be so silly now, but when I look around, all my married cousins went through the same excruciating filter. Pity some of them didn’t even recognize it. Some, of course, just didn’t care because they could immigrate to a country that sees snow. I know a friend whose parents had her blood group matched with her husband’s; she didn’t care a bit. It’s a little unrelated, but you get the idea.

It’s one thing to live amidst a limiting society, but another thing altogether to live in a closed caste system. There are plenty of tribes and societies across the world imposing unthinkable restrictions on women and children. But the difference is that they don’t hide it. They declare it as their tradition and take pride in it. (Whether it’s right or not is a debate for another time.)

The beloved caste system I’m in, however, hides in plain sight. It isn’t uncommon for a bunch of men at a family wedding, to brag about how shaving twice a day, every day would uphold their caste pride — because some castes ban men from growing facial hair. Amidst a larger crowd, though, they’d pretend as if caste is the last thing in their mind. Sad story: Until a few weeks ago, their pretense had me fooled too. It’s little things like these that make the biggest mark and hurt the most. And it’s shenanigans like these that degrade and warp the minds of every youngster in our society.

What’s the Point of a Wedding?

I was at work trying to write a blog convincing business owners to buy our software. And as I sat staring at my blank screen, my mobile screen lit up. It was a message from my classmate. I picked my phone amazed because she hadn’t spoken to me since our reunion at school two years ago. I opened the message and there it was, in shiny font and bold letters, an invitation to her wedding the next day. Come to think of it, almost all of my classmates are either married or engaged to be married. Some have kids, even. It seemed like I am the only one writing about marriage and not, in fact, marrying.

It’s not as if weddings are easy. Apart from having to find the perfect match for your life, weddings are also weird in a way. In the way that they’re the epitome at displaying wealth. And I was lucky (or not) enough to see a few weddings myself.

I’ve sat listening to grooms ramble about the all-important wedding outfit. The bride’s saree had cost him five months’ worth of salary. Plus five additional sarees that the bride should wear on the same day — one for each wedding ritual. I listen because the funniest part comes at the end of that story: the bride wouldn’t wear those sarees ever again — they’re too heavy and uncomfortable for everyday use.

Then come the miscellaneous expenses like makeup and hairstyle, hall and stage decoration, food and lodging for the guests, train or air tickets to and from the wedding location, snacks during the commute, tea, coffee — with Boost or Bournvita for those who drink neither. And the booze. By the end of that list, the couple would have lost two years of their savings preparing for one day of supposed-celebration.

And if that wouldn’t turn them off, the in-laws have their own demands — not actual demands, but more of obvious stuff the couple would need to move into their new home. Some call these “gifts” while some say dowry. “Gifts” include furniture, jewellery and investments, air conditioner and washing machine, and the essentials like carpets, curtains, and pillow cases.

And then comes the big day, the wedding day. The bride and groom wake up from yet another night of beauty sleeplessness to pressure. While the heater gets ready, a final checklist would come to light.

Shopping-done. Extra gold coins, done. A variety of lip-smacking food, done. And after a shower is the “getting dressed for the wedding” part. That’s when they’ll realise: No matter how much they pressed on the buttons on the air conditioner’s remote, they’re still burning up from the heat and beads of condensation sliding from their temples.

A tiny makeup glitch, safety pins that have gone a wandering, borrowed bangles that shrunk overnight, anything could make them cry. And with five pounds of heirloom jewellery, two and a half pounds of designer saree, and the curious case of the missing bobby pins—tensions are high. And when they think it couldn’t get any worse, the bride’s father would walk up to the groom and voice his displeasure about the drunken best man.

If they’d thought weddings are fun and full of life, they’d soon wish to just get it over with.

That’s the problem with a big fat wedding; on the day of it, the bride and groom are no longer love birds. They’re not the passionate pair, but just tired folks who want to sleep.
Weddings are meant to help them start their life anew. It’s a day to celebrate two souls that agree to sacrifice their tastes and the preferences for the greater good. Marriage is a promise they make to themselves to approach one person’s problem as it’s the other’s and drive through it as one.

As for weddings, they’re just a day to deck up in jewellery and spend the day gossiping. There’s no point in them and I’d rather not go to such a wedding, even though I got my invitation on WhatsApp the previous day.

Keep to the Status

Here in India, we love our status. Nothing matters more to a parent than getting their child married into a family that’ll fit their own.

The lower status marries within the lower status. And the higher marries within the higher. And the middle — the backbone of society — marries within the middle. However, as the backbone of our society, the middle class is divided as upper middle and lower middle, again with the same rules. However, on a few rare cases, the middle lands with a high-class family that would take them.

It’s an abomination to even suggest a union between families of major status differences.

It’s the norm. We revere our ‘class’ififcation so much that the happiness between a couple is more a matter of money than a matter of the heart.

Plus, marrying out of status is a moral sin. You wouldn’t be able to show your face at a family gathering without your relatives whispering behind your back. Oh, the embarrassment!

And it’s not just a one-time insult, either. These reunions happen at least once every year. People would cast a mixed couple out of the “community,” and no matter how much they insist they’re happy, no one would trust them.

Tsk tsk. How could they be happy with someonKeep to the Statuse other than their own?

Our narrow elders wouldn’t hear of such nonsense. Plus, they’d have plenty of rational reasons too.

For example, at a mixed-status wedding, the bride/groom from the higher status should bear all expenses, including, food, decorations, makeup, cameramen, DJs, and the cleanup crew. Because, well, their spouse is less wealthy. And then the post-wedding rituals like holy (read pricey) contributions to the relatives and the spouse’s family.

And if the higher status fails their duties, it would disrupt the couple’s happiness. Yes, in India, we measure the success of a marriage based on the money given away.

And that’s why you should marry only within your status level. That way, both parties would share the expenses, like the wedding invitation, the house for the couple, the washing machine, the blender, and even the vessels. The bride’s father would pay for the groom’s car (because he has a long commute to work), and the groom’s mother would help the bride peel onions in the kitchen. Give and take and win for all.

That’s all there is to marriage. It’s a union of two families from the same status so that they can give and take as equals, and profit from it, too.

And all that talk about two hearts binding? That’s just a myth.

A Wrong Move

Chain store queues,

mid-afternoon blues

“Regular or Diet?”

Make a wrong order

and the wife panics.