According to Rita Banerji, founder of the ‘50 Million Missing’ campaign, the problem is that extravagant Indian weddings have a downside to them by fuelling the culture of greed and criminal extortion (in the form of dowry) that have become an inseparable part of weddings across all strata of Indian society.
Rita’s campaign wants to draw attention to female foeticide and infanticide in India along with dowry related violence and murders. Some 60 million (no longer 50 million) women have been eliminated from India’s population as a result of such practices, and many women lead a life of subservience, conforming to patriarchal traditions that regard a woman as the property of a man.
Rita believes glamorous celebrity weddings reinforce the ethos of consumerism that underlies the demands for dowry and condone the immoral grabbing of wealth from the bride and her family. This is why it is so important to de-link wealth and weddings. She feels that celebrity couples, from Hollywood, who organise lavish weddings in India are condoning and reinforcing the ethos that connects wealth and weddings.
Celebrities who are considering getting married in India, might want to consider avoiding the five-star hotels and wildlife parks and opt for a wedding in a village or a tribal community. It would probably be turned into a media pantomime, but it would hopefully funnel money into a place where it would directly help the people and community.
Rita suggests that foreign celebrities getting married in India should make a statement by avoiding the silk and satin costumes from exclusive boutiques. They should also set out to acquire the simplest hand-spun cotton purchased directly from the women who weave these cloths, and they should get one of the tailors from the local market to stitch their clothes.
A few more pointers from Rita include not buying gold and jewellery from overpriced jewellers in exclusives shopping arcades, but getting colourful beads and handmade stuff from the shops in the local market. Also, get one of those flower vendors you see at the market to make garlands for you. Furthermore, instead of accepting or giving gifts, give some money to a charity.
India is trivialised as a fantasy backdrop for the over-privileged to indulge themselves. As Katy Perry left India behind by jet-setting back to the US on the back of her lavish Indian wedding, the reality for most Indian brides will be somewhat different.
For many, a lifetime of subservience beckons. There will be no chauffeur-driven limo to the airport or five-star lifestyle.
The evidence suggests that their lives will take place in the shadow of violence — mental, physical or economic, if they ever consider stepping out of line. No, it’s not Katy Perry’s fault, but a bit more thoughtfulness wouldn’t have gone amiss.