Much has changed since the faceless virus vitiated all civic life. Even the ‘made in heaven’ tag couldn’t save marriages from losing its sheen, with most guests falling under ‘you are cordially not invited’ list. A crash of $50 billion marriage market is the net outcome as marriages become sanitized affair with restrictions on regalia. The sky of uncertainty has fallen upon the age-old institution of marriage which continues to hold the divine tag ‘les mariages se font au cie’ proclaimed in France during early 16th century. Even though the virus continues to pose an existential threat, the divine angle continues to pop up for good reasons. How else can it be explained that two people desperate for each other end up in different nuptial knots, and the other two unknown to each other exchange marriage vows? It is as trivial as it gets, with no easy answers. Ask those who could not tie the desired knot, and they will tell you in chorus that if some day they were to meet the person behind the divine proverb, they would try to get him/her for felony.
Taking a potshot on the divinity angle, Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood had once quipped ‘if marriages are made in heaven, so is thunder and lightning.’ The virus has indeed struck like a lightning thunder. What matters at this stage is the manner in which families have worked past this unexpected thunder to forge safe alliances. Everything becomes negative if one of the couples or the family were to test positive! Trade-off between matrimonial compatibility was never so uncanny.
Marriages have now become more intimate and closed affairs, and for good reasons too. Come to think of it, the so-called social sanction alone had transformed marriages into big fat extravagant and wasteful. The turnaround has been dramatic with this being the best time for marriages though, as these events have less of ‘market’ in them, making them slim and smaller, frugal and sparing. Don’t get me wrong if I say that the virus has inadvertently reinforced the often ignored fact that overt monetization had indeed transformed this pious activity for stitching new relationships into a market place for bargaining alliances.
This had to change, and I am glad it has at least been forced to change. The trend of big-fat weddings set by the upper echelons of the society has been getting to the bottom billions, to emulate at enormous costs. On my visit to the US couple of months before the virus had unleashed its terror, an Indian graduate student had unabashedly told me that investment on his foreign education was sure to earn his parents back home dividends in the matrimonial marketplace. The impact of such trend on this cultural activity has been shocking, and obnoxiously too deep rooted.
Had the dreaded virus arrived a year too early, it could have helped me plan an intimate and frugal wedding for my ward. For all those family members and friends who now sing paeans on the virus-induced lockdown and subsequent restrictions having cleaned the air and cleared the rivers had paid little heed to my humble plea on saving colossal personal and public resources during that wedding, or any other for that matter. Why control over how we spend our monies guarantee us unequivocal rights over common pool of resources? I continue to wonder why wasted food, splurged water and fouled air during weddings didn’t count?
Not sure how long will this newfound compulsion of frugal marriages may last. It will be unfortunate should this compulsive behavior not gain currency for frugality becoming the new normal for all future matrimonial alliances. I would expect prospective candidates to commit it online and offline, over and above their so-called class and status. The fear of virus is unlikely to lose potency in keeping a majority of the guests remain cordially uninvited. For once, be wary if you get invited. Else, celebrate!
(Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer on development issues based in New Delhi, India)
First published as a Times of India blog on Aug 27, 2020.