Food for thought – Shedding at the Wedding

Senior members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) which advises Madam are mulling over restrictions on weddings. This could be right from the menu. The inspiration comes from Pakistan where there are restrictions on serving more dishes at marriages and social gatherings.

April 26, 2011 6:48 IST | India Infoline News Service
While the headlines that rocked the nation recently were those of 2G scams and Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption, I couldn’t help but be drawn to an article on ‘Weddings to turn into frugal affairs?’ Senior members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) which advises Madam are mulling over restrictions on weddings. This could be right from the menu. The inspiration comes from Pakistan where there are restrictions on serving more dishes at marriages and social gatherings. So the proposals here I read include restriction not just on the number of dishes served but also in mehndis, sangeet, cocktail parties and receptions, which they feel should be clubbed into one event. This may just be another avenue for corruption and harassment.

The last time there existed such laws were during the famine in the 60s & 70s where there was a quota for the number of guests you could invite for food at your home. I could never figure out how government ever managed to keep an eye on it. Is this one way to generate employment as millions of people may be needed to be hired to keep a look at who gets invited where?  There are other such laws in India but that is a separate topic for a separate debate (and a separate blog).

Pakistan is a failed state and cannot be a role model for us. What surprises me is that the NAC took inspiration from Pakistan. Instead of trying to find storage solutions to our overflowing granaries, we are trying to restrict consumption. I would call it simply wrong diagnosis and wrong prescription.

An American proverb says
The most dangerous food is wedding cake.  In India, the weddings are often categorized by the food on the plate more than the grandeur around. My mother says when I was a kid and we had gone for a wedding, I refused to hand over the gift to the couple as I had not got food at that wedding. She adds that I even wanted to walk off from that reception in protest; somehow I genuinely don’t remember this incident though my mother never fails to remind this every time we go together for a wedding.

In my growing up years in Ranchi, food was the only agenda when we went for a wedding. There used to be almost a stampede for food and what a rush there would be even at the place where used plates were being washed and readied. This affected my inclination to attend weddings and I used to avoid them like plague. Till I attended a Marwari wedding in Kolkata. My senior from IIT, and more importantly a dear friend of mine hosted an ideal wedding reception. Without getting into any molecular gastronomy, the quality of food was excellent. With no queues to stand, plenty of food – buffet in every sense of the word – and a wide tasty variety of vegetarian spread, we ate to our heart’s content. All this at a time when food was quite scarce and India was more of rationed country where for everything you have to stand in queues. The practice of standing in queues continues today but the lines are thankfully much shorter unless you are at the wrong time at the airport.

For a long time, our wing mates used to discuss the food that was served at the  Kolkata wedding and gloat over the uninformed few who missed it. Hot jalebis, unlimited supply of hot purees, absolutely wonderful sweets. The contentment on all our faces lingered for a long while even after the food was digested.

Weddings in India have their own style and character. If you go to a Tamil wedding,  people come before time, religiously sit in the queue and they shake hands with the bride and the groom, take a customary photograph while classical music is played in the background and promptly eat by 8.30 pm. Wedding cards specifically mention that at 9.30 the hall will close and so like a school there would be a bell that rings at 9.15 to indicate that it’s time to fill your plates before the counter shuts.

This is in complete contradiction to many Punjabi weddings. No I will not discuss about helicopters gifted to the groom and chartered planes flown into the country. But here everything is delayed. I had gone to attend the wedding of our office colleague and when I reached the reception an hour after the mentioned time, I found myself alone at the venue with only the caterers and decorators staring as if I had gate-crashed. Everybody laughed at me asking how I could go to a wedding in Mumbai and expect people to reach there at 8 pm.

Weddings have now become a big subject for movies
Band Baja Baraat to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and now a TV show where a Punjabi wedding is shown in great detail. Things are changing even in South. Last year my cousin in Madras had a DJ night before his wedding. The old members looked amusingly slowly tapping their foot in the sidelines perhaps wondering how modern we have become. Media hype right now is of the marriage of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton which will take place at Westminster Abbey on Friday 29th April 2011. The Royal Family, with a private contribution from the Middleton Family, will pay for all those aspects of the day that constitute the wedding  and the British Government and other bodies will pay for costs that are consequential to the wedding.  We don’t need to learn from  the British, we don’t need to learn from Pakistan. We need to just follow the Indian culture where guests are treated as God and served to their satisfaction.

And for those worried about food shortage and food wastage, I fully agree that there should be no wastage. But the government should look at solving the problem by putting in place a proper cold chain or allowing international players who are willing to offer their services to improve the quality and longevity of food. On a lighter note, someone said a wedding should be so grand that you can afford to have it only once.

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