Wednesday was a big day in Chiplun, the town on the banks of River Vashishti, on the Mumbai-Goa road, some 350 km from Mumbai. Minister of State for Urban Development, Bhaskar Jadhav’s son, Samir, and also his daughter, Kanchan, were married off.
What made the event noteworthy to grab a headline in Maharashtra Times?
Naturally, the place was abuzz like never before. Almost everyone important in the Maharashtra cabinet attended the event. Helicopters swirled in the air, landing and taking off from as many as 22 helipads, convoys of cars raced to the wedding venue.
The grand stage, said to have been built by a Mumbai-based set designer, faced 15,000 chairs. The event was said to be attended by 50,000 people. Caterers from Aurangabad served 60 items; their team comprising 400 persons.
See this at ABP Mhaja news channel, to get the feel of it. The news channel said five lakh sq ft was the size of the venue. It was a VIP wedding and VVIP were bound to attend. Except that it was amid a season of drought and officially, ministers have been speaking of the distress. That irony was pointed out by all media which reported it.
So what? It is par for course.
When Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil was married decades ago in post-Independent India, his father, already a cooperative sector bigshot, had managed to have the road to Akluj in Solapur district resurfaced and to ensure chilled water for guests, arranged for tonnes of ice to be thrown into the village wells. Those were not the days of bottled water. His wedding has the reputation of the first ever lakhshbhojan – a banquet for one lakh guests.
I have attended one such wedding, as big if not bigger than this.
When Gopinath Munde’s daughter was married off, it was his hometown, Parli in Marathawada, which hosted it. Those who had no helicopters to ride, being lesser mortals, were flown by a chartered aircraft, either a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320, can’t recall which. From Aurangabad we were ferried by a fleet of air-conditioned buses and sent back to Mumbai the same night.
It was a huge event, almost like a political rally which even Mrs Sonia Gandhi would love to address. We were told that for days prior to the wedding, people were continuously fed, that being something like a gaon jevan—meal for the entire village—except that they came from all over the place.
Here is something about another wedding which I did not attend but heard about. It was Sharad Pawar celebrating daughter Supriya's - she is now Surpiya Sule, MP. I did not hear of the gaon jevan but that everyone who attended the wedding was given two pedhas to sweeten the moment.
However, acres of land of agriculturists were taken over to provide parking space. Helicopters were not so common those days, probably.
It was said to be large but not a big, fat wedding.
But that, in those days, became a benchmark. Apparently, apart from the lavishness, the guest-list’s content and size matters.
In Satara, Kalpanaraje Bhosale, a 12th or 13th descendent of the line counting from Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Maratha King and icon of Maharashtra, was to celebrate her son, Udayanraje Bhosale’s wedding. He later became an MLA and MP, even a minister. We chanced to meet in the chambers of Vilasrao Deshmukh, a minister. We had met only once during an election campaign a few years earlier. When she recalled it, she pulled out an invitation card for me and said something surprising.
"I was at the wedding which would be bigger than that of the Pawars in Baramati."
What, a scion of the Shivaji clan comparing, even competing, with a non-royal family, that of a politician, however big?
Yes, she said. These days, the politicians are the new royals; we hang on to the past. What else have we to show?
I couldn't attend the event.
That put the finger on the nub. These weddings, essentially a private event for the couple and cause for celebration by the kith and kin, suddenly get transformed into major political event. The Dardas who are into media as well as politics, had used stadiums in Nagpur and Aurangabad for weddings. So did Nitin Gadkari for a family wedding. Chhagan Bhujbal needed the Mumbai’s Race Course - banquet halls are apparently just not enough.
Bigger the man, fatter the wedding – it is axiomatic. The big man has to put up a show befitting his status, and also, impress the voters, unmindful of the fact that it just could trigger revulsion among the ordinary people who struggle to get their one daughter married off.
These events also have an appeal of a sort. It is like the big guys seeking their own TRPs. To show they have grown and how!
These, however, are indicative of the culture of the powerful, not an exhaustive list. It happens everywhere. They have become the norm except that only the carping middle class journalist quibbles about it.
Now, till the next big one...