I went to Vadodara last weekend for a big fat Indian wedding, which turned slimmer. What was to blame (or be credited) for the transformation? Demonetisation.
The stress on my relatives’ face was palpable as they hurried from one place to the other, their coping mechanism forced half smiles. The least we could do was smile back as we were in a similar cashless state. And offering money to the hosts is a big no-no.
Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the not-so-big, slim Gujarati wedding. There was no sangeet ceremony as the stage was not spacious enough to accommodate plump aunties shaking a leg on 'Paisa Paisa'. Those who had prepared their acts plugged their cellphones in the speakers of the banquet hall and danced off the stage surrounded by the guests, earning compliments from them for their 'impromptu performances'.
But we did have the inevitable garba (traditional Gujarati dance) on the wedding day. As we stood in the sharp sun to welcome the baaratis (guests), they danced like there was no tomorrow, and no us standing at the entrance with folded hands and enraged gazes. Their fellow Gujaratis from the bride’s side joined them only to be joined by the bride herself.
The seven-kilo sari and jewellery could not deter the bride from joining her family and prospective family for a good ol’ garba. It was such a refreshing detour from the 'ritualistic custom’ of having the bride keep a low profile before the wedding.
Probably by then, both the families would have risen above the pretense and razzmatazz that Indian weddings are about. They no longer cared about how much of a 'hit’ their wedding was on the attendance meter, style meter or sanskari meter.
Demonestisation proved to be a blessing in disguise then as it relieved both the families of stress and allowed them to celebrate the occasion with simplicity.
A relative told me that they gave up on their desire to host a gala affair once their florist refused to accept cash as the form of payment for decorating the mandap with flowers. A number of such vendors from the unorganised sector are involved in the wedding. They never accept non-cash payments and turn to more resourceful customers when their conditions are not met. They even turn a deaf ear to the emotional drama that the bride’s mother showers on them.
This illustration from an article in The Hindu on 22 November represents the situation aptly.
Also, owing to demonetisation, I noticed the presence of a rather peculiar figure at the entrance of the wedding hall. A lanky accountant adorned the 'cash counter’ where he was always seen either scribbling in his brown diary or licking his index finger before counting the notes.
Unlike restaurants and grocery stores, this was a place where the owners could not afford to put up a disclaimer saying: 'We do not accept old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000’. However, the absence of such a disclaimer was not out of the 'log kya kahenge’ syndrome but because the accountant’s shrugging of shoulders, accompanied by a firm shaking of head, was enough to convey the message.
As soon as I passed on an envelope containing a bundle of crisp Rs 20 notes, he perused the 'gift’ fervently. After leaving his moist imprint on the very last note, he reciprocated with a warm smile and went back to scribbling in the brown diary. Clearly, this was not the pink note he quite expected.
Later in the day, the Reserve Bank of India announced that an amount of Rs 2.5 lakh could be withdrawn in the event of a wedding but after meeting certain conditions. I expected the post-wedding late night conversations to be about how the move was introduced so late and how it could have helped the wedding had it been announced earlier.
But the discussion was dominated neither by what-could-have beens nor malicious gossip. The guests just talked about the good time they had at the wedding. And how they, not even once, observed the beautiful mandap which was not overloaded with flowers that turn dry before the next morning.