Friday, 22 June 2007

Wedding spendthrifts

We have all probably seen the extravagance and spending-sprees that take place for a wedding, especially if we are South Asian. This has grown to alarming proportions, where even the most cash-strapped families have to book the banquet halls and serve the 4 or 5 dishes (excluding the meetha of course) to hundreds of barely known guests and make sure they give the obligatory 45 suits, 10 dinner sets, 56 pieces of jewellery, 20 more suits and 40 other bits and pieces their daughter (well her in-laws) might need, just so they won't be 'disgraced' in the community. No wedding lasts for less then four days, during which all manner of strange 'customs' have to be performed, and which mostly involve forking out yet more cash for their entertainment and food needs.

Apart from being totally un-Islamic, where simplicity is emphasised in weddings, it is disastrous for the more straitened families - who end up paying for these four days the rest of their life. Maulana Thanvi used be extremely averse to these customs, and worked tirelessly to eradicate them. He says:

At places I've seen people give their daughters so many clothes that even if she wore them her whole life they would not finish. Then what she does is, if she is generous gives them away to others and if she is stingy stores them in a box and most never again see the light of day. One has to ask, what is the point of giving so many clothes? But of course, where would be the admiration if they didn't? How would they show off and get peoples comments of 'look how much so-and-so gave to her daughter - there were this this many' and so on.

Once a very wealthy man married off his daughter, and in the dowry gave a palanquin, a rug, a wash can (lota!) and one Quraan majeed. He gave nothing else - no clothes or shoes or dinner sets - and instead bought her land worth one lakh rupees. He said that initially I had earmarked 1 lakh rupees for my daughter's wedding because I was going to do it with much fanfare and pomp. But then I thought how would all that pomp and show benefit my daughter - the people will just eat, frolic and go off, and my lakh rupees will be spent and my daughter will not get anything out of it. So, I have chosen to invest it in land for my daughter that she and her family will be able to live on for generations, and still nobody can mock me for stinginess or penny-pinching because I didn't keep the money for myself either.

Look, this is what intelligent people do!

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