Would his ghost have stood waiting near the coffee maker among neon lights for his post-dinner beverage?
The news that Mirza Ghalib's haveli (mansion), which was restored only 10 years ago, was used for a wedding reception is rather appalling. Imagine people in their finery jostling among the poet’s personal belongings. A report says the floor was “littered with food crumbs, crushed plastic glasses and disposable plates”. We are talking about by far the most important poet in the Indian subcontinent and Persia.
Why would anyone choose such a place for their celebrations? Do they feel culturally enlightened and wish to convey that to their guests? Is it a sort of antique value they seek? This isn’t something new. It happens all the time – old paintings, old mansions used by the nouveau riche to convey some connection with a background they often lack. Everybody has a right to strive to make money and awareness is not the jaagir of those born into wealth. But the term nouveau is used disparagingly and not without reason. There is a category of people who will flash whatever they have.
The bride and groom may not necessarily have an acquaintance with the 19th century poet’s work. What about the parents? Assuming they are fans of Ghalib, could they not respect the space? These days every little religious icon gets sanctified even if it is put up by some goon. Why don’t we learn to value those who truly contributed to our lives and their works have lived down hundreds of years?
There are many farm houses in Delhi. They could have been given that old world look and trussed one up to appear like a crumbling haveli.
Marriages are now all about event management, so this seems par for the course.
On the other hand, there is news that Indians are giving up traditional functions (that coffee maker is an indication!). I read this wonderful article about fusions weddings:
- One affluent and typical Gujarati family had hosted an English dinner after the dandiya function. The desi best man and maid of honour, dressed in coordinated traditional Indian wear, made speeches and raised a toast to the couple as aunties and uncles grinned behind clusters of flowers on assigned tables. The last few phera mantras (the religious verses round the sacred fire) were translated into English on the microphone by the pandit and the couple even exchanged I dos, says the wedding planner.
I am concerned about the English dinner. I have seen food stalls with Burmese bhel, paneer dim-sums, but since we are talking about vegetarians would they stuff the jacket potatoes with typical local poha or dal dhokli? People do drink, but I wonder about the toast. Something like, “May Jitesbhai and Falguniben leeve hep-peeli after”.
When one passes the Marine Drive there are several garishly-decorated wedding venues. Some have thermocole elephants flanking the gate; others have a Venus ice sculpture. I have not yet seen David in the buff.
For a relative’s marriage in Toronto that I was present at they had traditional ceremonies before marriage, then a nikaah with an English translation (I got there late, so missed it), and the reception was a compete volte face. The bride wore a gown. There was a Best Man who emcee-ed the show and took off his shirt. There were speeches; the tables had bows and gifts for everyone. And the couple took to the floor with a waltz…dancing to the Bollywood number "Kuchch na kaho”!
The boy migrated when he was in his late teens; the girl went there after marriage. So, all of this must have taken some practice.
Anyhow, after the initial gliding softly, everyone came to their senses and started doing the bhangra and the dandiya, the first a robust form and the other one moving around with sticks to the rhythmic beats.
Eats the time to dhisco*.
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*Anothet popular Bollywqood song, "It's the time to disco". The spellign conveys the way the words are often pronounced, adding a delectable charm to the whole thing, not to speak of confusion.