Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Contractors in TamBrahm Weddings

Having been a regular "attender" of TamBrahm weddings in Chennai for the past 2 years and having been an integral part of at least 3, there are a lot of interesting things I have got to observe. Chief among the observations, especially those that I badly want to express is the concept of "Contractors".

Marriage Contractors Sham
One of the most farcical-like real-life businesses/occupations I have felt strongly about till now was the Soft Skills coaching industry. Now, there's an addition to this list - and that's the whole business of marriage "contracts". What started off as an innocuous enough marriage catering has now blown into a full-blown mini-industry thanks chiefly to NRI-fed overflowing TamBrahm purses. Typically, the "contractors" take care of the following aspects of a wedding -
  1. Food (obviously)
  2. Flowers -
  3. Welcoming/reception committee for invitees
  4. Welcoming you to the mandapam and sending you (i.e. the bride/groom families) off
  5. Kattu-saadha koodai
  6. Decorations (sometimes)

It is obvious that apart from 1, none of the others are indispensable. Now we will analyze the major irritants one-by-one -
3. Welcoming/reception committee for invitees
    IMHO the top most-irritating-thing-about marriage "contracts". Bunches of totally random strangers (mostly non-Brahmin at that) welcoming your family, friends and other invitees with plastic smiles on their faces and boredom on their minds. Dont get me wrong about the non-Brahmin part, but in a function that is supposed to be Brahmin, having strangers moving around being part of the set-up is very out-of-place. This obviously isn't applicable to non-Brahmin friends/family members - I've been part of TamBrahm weddings where non-Brahmin friends played an integral part, but it's just that their relationship with the family adds a touch of familiarity to the set-up (which IMO is one of the essences of weddings - congregation of friends and relatives). I would be equally irritated with Brahmin strangers, but for the minor consolation that they might "appear" Brahmin, which, anyway is another farce, but that's for another day.
4. Welcoming you to the mandapam and sending you (i.e. the bride/groom families) off -
    Typical welcome involves crackers and stuff - adding grandeur to the whole event. And while sending you off, nothing major again - food items all packed, some extra-fittings here and there. Then when the groom's family arrives, making random folks from the "penn" aathu side garland random folks from the payyan aathu side, give coconuts, etc. Ewwww.
5. Kattu-saadha koodai - This should normally be included as part of "Food" itself, somehow these guys have packaged the contract in such a way that this comes extra - add to it all the packing, gift-based ideas these days where families give something as a gift. Another needless addition to the "contract".
Illave Illaadha Saastram-Sampradhaayam - To me, the other major irritant with "contracts" is the addition of needless saastram-sampradaayam. In an era when the Saastrams specified by Vaadhyaars itself are doubtable, what these guys add is even more gas.
6. Extra fittings - One classic example of this is the velvet Maharaja-type invitation scroll that is read out during the Engagement.
1. Food - Yabba, mudiyala. These "contract" guys will threaten, beg, plead, force you to eat. Their logic is that because this is a "contract", forcing you to eat is part of the contractual obligations. This problem amplifies if they somehow figure out that you are close to the bride/groom. So much so that at least 2 people will station themselves next to you and ask you every 45 seconds if you need something (I'm serious - this happened in my cousin's marriage just yesterday). Even if you are not a close relative, they will anyway force you to eat stuff. That's their idea of hospitality.

I'll end my rant there though I can go on. Effectively, to me - the value addition brought in by marriage "contractors" is minimal at best. It's more like - they just add some glitz to the festivities - a lot of which can be added by ourselves, just because it is a contract. "Kudutha kaasukku koovanum" appears to be the standard refrain here. Simply because the money that you give for the "contract" part of it (that is, total money minus money for the food) is just wasteful expenditure and these guys TRY to do stuff to justify the cost.

I'm not saying all marriages should be simple, modest no means. However, a lot of this can be separately arranged for better value and quality. But then again, all our NRI peepuls have money to splurge and why blame them - the parents hardly need worry about the minor necessary extra-fittings needed (basically stuff like flowers and ... umm...whatever...) so they just entrust this to the contractors.

Prediction - Marriage "contracts" will expand to a major industry in the next few years with a typical contract involving one or more of the following -
1. Marriage registration.
2. First-night tie-up with a posh hotel in the city.
3. Honeymoon packages.
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