What's love got to do with it?
Big weddings that involve huge amounts of money say a lot about what our priorities are, and what they should b
I like Beyoncé as much as the next person, probably because it's hard to find fault with someone as hard-working and as obviously gifted. I do have mixed feelings about her turning up to a wedding reception though, not because guests at weddings shouldn't have the opportunity of gyrating to 'Crazy In Love' but because I wonder about the kind of message being sent by such blatant displays of ostentatiousness.
A significant number of people spent a lot of time discussing Beyoncé's appearance at a private wedding reception in India this month. They also spent a lot of time tracking the presence of other celebrities at the same function. There were Bollywood stars who danced, sang, entertained the guests and posed for selfies that promptly flooded Instagram along with hashtags congratulating the couple. There were reports about the food, lists about designers who dressed the guests, and rumours about the price of each invitation card. What I didn't see were questions about the point of the entire exercise or why it didn't matter to anyone outside the family.
There have always been big weddings, of course, because what's the point of having a lot of money if you can't tell the world about it? I sometimes wonder when it stops being about celebrating love, though, and starts becoming a naked display that serves no real purpose. After all, how different is a wedding costing a crore from one that costs 10 crore? Every decade brings with it a massive wedding for lifestyle magazines to swoon over. There was that steel tycoon, for example, who spent a reported $60 million to fly in 1,000 guests from around the world by private jet for a six-day reception in France.
Maybe there's nothing wrong with these insane amounts of money thrown at what is, after all, supposed to be a celebration of love. Maybe we would all do it if we could, because showing off is such an intrinsic aspect of human nature. Maybe it's sour grapes that compel some of us to moan about how the money could have been better spent by feeding the poor instead of pandering to the rich. And yet, there still seems something fundamentally wrong about a society that encourages these private celebrations and ignores what they signify. It still seems wrong to allocate more space to celebrity-spotting than to issues that are routinely brushed under carpets at the behest of the same people who throw lavish receptions.
I remember a massive wedding held at the Hotel President, when I was little. I don't remember who the people throwing the party were, but assume they were relatives of mine which may explain why my family was invited. I liked it, of course, because what child wouldn't be impressed by a dessert counter that went on forever? The fact that the people behind the reception no longer register in my consciousness says a lot about the impact these events have on attendees. Will the couple serenaded by Beyoncé have a better married life than the rest of us? Will the singer's presence insure them against rough weather?
One of the nicest things that some schools in Bombay now do is set up rules on what children can bring to class on their birthdays. When I was in school, I remember classmates sometimes arriving with truckloads of gifts, liberally distributed among their own classrooms as well as the entire institution, because that's how some parents wanted their children's birthdays to be celebrated. I remember the feelings of inadequacy those gifts left the rest of us with, because we had to make do with chocolate eclairs distributed among classmates on our own birthdays.
Austerity isn't a bad thing to inculcate in children, especially in a county as poor as ours, where the gap between the rich, the middle class and the shockingly poor only widens each year. If we raise children who learn to recognise the importance of life events, rather than the fireworks that celebrate it, maybe we will someday have a generation of Indians who learn to ask more questions about inequality than are being asked today.
So, invite Beyoncé, by all means. Bring in Presidents and Hollywood stars. Throw in a few free meals for the poor to balance it out and get some good press in the bargain. Try and look at the larger picture though, so we never forget that small gestures are often more meaningful than big celebrations that end up feeling mysteriously empty.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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