To Be or Knot to Be: The Sense and Sensibility of the Great Indian Weddings

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Since Made in Heaven is back in our yards after four years, everyone and their mothers are ready for the wedding season a few months prior to its original tenure. The elegantly extravagant visuals and narrative premise of the series are particularly reminiscent of India’s penchant for preposterous weddings. Each wedding in the series is more lavish and aesthetically stimulating than the last, expertly shrouding the darkness lurking in the crevices. The dichotomy of Tara’s (Shobhita Dhulipala) own marriage crashing in an avalanche while her firm orchestrates Delhi’s most distinguished weddings is classic dramatic irony. Now that it has been some days since the series started streaming, people have had enough time to form and reform their opinions about the series, and the themes surrounding it. One of the most intrinsic themes of the series is India’s relationship with the sanctum of marriage.

What I find most intriguing about Made in Heaven is the ambiguity the show treats the issues in the weddings with. In one of the episodes, a bride is constantly abused, mentally and physically under the guise of passionate love and protectiveness. Regrettably, the wedding proceeds as planned and a scene with the bride’s crying father washing the groom’s feet very pointedly, adds insult to injury. The fact that such sequences aren’t very far removed from reality to be termed ‘fictitious exaggerations’ is an ode to the lack of poetic justice in life. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate narrative choice or the result of balancing multiple stories on one platter, but it definitely struck a chord.

The institution of marriage, ironically, is one of the most revered and ridiculed practices in India, depending on the perspective of the lens one views it from. For some, it’s the ultimate dream, for others just a means to an end. You will frequently hear weddings dubbed as the ‘most important day in a girl’s life’ and pay no mind to the statement- because it’s certainly correct, isn’t it? What better is a woman if not for her bridal status! As far back as I remember, one of the earliest questions posed to me as a young girl at social functions was “How would you like your wedding to be?” before anyone even asked about my favourite sweets.

I am in no way demeaning people who dream about their wedding day for years and meticulously plan every moment in detail. If it makes someone happy, no one has any place to dictate how to feel about it. I’m simply not overly fond of the forced generalisation of the emotion. A groom can (and should) be as excited about and involved with the wedding as their partner. A couple can wish for a simple ceremony with only their closest people in attendance or they can decide to spend a fortune for their fairytale union. A woman can choose to stay unhitched (single) for the entirety of her life. A person is allowed to depart from marriage if it comes down to compromising their integrity as an individual.

But India is a land of cultures, and it would be deplorable to question the sacred threads of holy matrimony. Even the law in the country is favourable to married couples. Yes, you must be an upper- caste, upper-class Hindu, cis heterosexual couple to reap all the favours but the Indian legislature is predominantly generous in granting social, economic and civic rights to married people. For unnumerable families in India, this is a boon they can’t appreciate enough, for a few others, it’s a matter of renouncing their subjectivity.

Various official and unofficial doctrines in India have described marriage as a contractual union between a man and a woman that entail certain social, physical and emotional obligations. But who’s to say the balance is not tipped a bit too heavily on one side? Who’s to say the derision of being powerless during one’s partner’s second marriage isn’t intolerable? Who’s to say the individuals needn’t be of the opposite gender identity or sexualities? Not the Indian law, that’s for certain! A glance at the Indian marriage laws reveals that the lawmakers were mindful of different religious sentiments but not overly concerned with an individual’s proclivity. For instance, the Hindu marriage act announces women as the property of the father before marriage and subsequently of the husband post-marriage. The LGBTQ+ community, who were barely absolved of their criminal status for expressing their identity can only dream of seeking legal acknowledgement for their unions. With the recent court hearings on the topic (although it concluded with a reserved verdict) the dream is not so far-fetched.

Nevertheless, the most important facet of a marriage is the pursuit of companionship everyone seeks in their life. Despite its flaws, the consensual partnership of two people coming together to celebrate their bonds is what dreams are made of. It’s no wonder that millions of Indians tie the knot every year, and thousands are fighting for the chance to be able to. The rose-tinted dreams that start with the vermilion, some heartfelt vows or even a soliloquy of repeated confessions are a promise for a lifetime of trust, respect and shared love in a country that finds its heart in its people.