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Marriages during Covid-19, blessing in disguise for the poor or curse for the rich?

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By Zeeshan Ali Siddiqui

The coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on our lives and forced everyday life to a grinding halt. As the rate of coronavirus cases in India rises, around 7 million people have been infected and 97,497 people have lost their lives. With the commencement of the wedding season, there’s also been a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases.

Prior to the covid era, when no one was aware about COVID-19, Many families  had commenced arrangements for a grand wedding. And almost all the guests used to be  invited in advance to their wedding from different parts of India. In India weddings are all about extravagant spendings, tonnes of food and thousands of relatives. But in a matter of time after lockdown was implemented in India, Big fat Indian weddings were reduced to a simple wedding with a crippled menu and only 50 peoples in attendance with no marriage processions which according to me is a blessing in disguise as a lot of money used to be spent during weddings.

Many of them were left with no option but to postpone their weddings as either bride or groom or both of them used to work in distant cities or abroad and were not able to make it on time. Compared to the normal times Marriage halls and banquets were not available and had to be booked in advance, but within a month time the entire scenario has changed resulting in huge losses to the people associated with this business of marriage halls and food catering.

Apart from all these rules the government has made the following rules mandatory which are as follows:-

  • People should conform to the norms of social distancing throughout the entire function.
  • During the ceremony, everyone should wear a mask.
  • Ceremonies should be kept as minimal as possible.
  • Guests should also use a hand sanitizer.
  • No drink or food shall be eaten during the ceremonies unless considered necessary.

More than 10 million marriages take place annually. Accounting and consulting company KPMG claims that the wedding market is more than $50 billion. The lockdown has impacted the clothing and jewellery industry badly, but there are chances of recovery  as weddings are an indispensable part of Indian culture where, except in the West, living together and domestic partnerships are scarce.

Marriages in India are considered to be the most important chapter in the life of Indians. They not only bring smile on the face of couples but also brings happiness to those associated with the billion rupees industry like the Cloth merchants, Jewellers, Food caterers and marriage hall owners, photographers and many more players. Mobile phones have replaced the professional photo-graphers which has affected the livelihood of the photographers and those associated with the marriage industry very difficult. People have resorted to virtual weddings to avoid overcrowding and unnecessary expenses.

When will we be able to see a normal wedding again with a lot of guests and lengthy food menu, only time will tell along with the acceptance of social distancing norms by the people of India. The government of India should announce some relief package for those who were associated with the marriage industry and have lost their source of livelihood so that they can survive this year of uncertainties brought by Covid-19.

The experience of the poor regarding the Covid 19 lockdown has been a mix of happiness as well as distress. They don’t have to entertain the huge number of guest at their wedding like before, thereby saving them from the worry of arranging funds for transportation and food. Meanwhile, the restrictions imposed by the government regarding public gathering has been a curse for the richer section of the society, they have been deprived of flaunting their riches and competing with their well off relative’s wedding and making it more grandeur shows the ugly picture of the difference in our society where majority of the population is struggling to make their ends meet and the useless tantrums and complaints by the prosperous and well off families sounds preposterous. Indian practices and customs seem to have overpowered the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as the bigoted practice of dowry is increasing day by day. The amount of dowry increases with the education of the groom and skyrockets if the wanna-be groom has a government job. Another worrying trend is steep rise in child marriage and we have to understand the deep connection between Covid-19 and child marriage. Educational institutions are closed and midday meals are not being provided to the economically backward students. Amidst all these tragedy, families confronting economic turmoil are forced to get their school going daughters married as they perceive them as a burden.” Millions of socioeconomically deprived Indians have been stripped of their source of income and a feel of financial security, likely to result in girls being pulled out of school and married away at a tender age to much older men due to no demand for dowry. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 doesn’t seem to have stopped the supporters of Child Marriage. There have been increased cases of domestic abuse against women in India. According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) of India, , the officials received 5,584 phone calls relating to underage marriages across the country between the last week of March and June.

The irony of our times is that people are filing PIL seeking a complete ban on “Halal Slaughter” and removing the Shahi Eidgah of Mathura which were later dismissed by the honorable Supreme Court of India thankfully. while people are dying due to lack of treatment, food and women are being raped every day tells a lot about the bigoted priorities of India. We as a society need to shun the social evil of dowry and adopt austerity measures in marriage so that the parents of the bride can enjoy their daughter’s marriage without having to think about arranging hefty sum for a big fat marriage. We have to be the change makers for the greater good. It has rightly been remarked by Margaret Mead that “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”

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