Dining convenience

We were half way through the wedding lunch when a catering boy started handing over a paper napkin to each of the diners. We did not know why but nevertheless we collected it and continued with eating a delicious fare but served in a hurry. A few courses later the same boy started keeping a steel bowl in front of each banana leaf. Why for? I wondered because the paper napkin itself was something new — not the napkin, but distributing it at a wedding lunch. And now the steel bowl — another novelty. Yielding to my curiosity I inquired with the boy. “Oh! It is finger bowl, sir,” he said in a matter of fact tone and continued with his work.

I have eaten at many weddings over the years but at the end of each meal we are used to walking to the wash room where a line of taps awaited us to wash off all the remnants of the food we had just partaken. But here I was spared of this ritual because as the meal was nearing an end a chap came with a kettle of warm water and started filling the bowls. All that now we had to do was to dip our foodridden fingers into it and wash them off. Now I knew why the paper napkins were served. You don’t even have to take out your handkerchief to dry your hands!

Walking back home I mulled over the changes that have creeped in at the wedding lunch. There were no tables once — you had to squat on the floor if you wanted to eat, even if you had arthritis. Now hardly anyone sits on the floor. First came just the tables then someone introduced the paper roll that is spread on the table to make it more hygienic. Sometimes a thin plastic sheet between the banana leaf and the table serves as the insulating material.

We drank water from steel tumblers; now use and throw plastic cups have taken their place. No need to clean the tumblers. Going a step ahead some well to do hosts give half a litre mineral water bottles for each invitee at the dining table. If a coconut is a must at the wedding as a takeaway item, fancy bag to carry it is also a must. Here again the budget of the host decides the quality and design. Along with the coconut betel leaves and betel nuts are unavoidable and some use a zippable small plastic pouches for packing them.

One might admire these innovations but they leave a deep hole in the pockets of the helpless bride’s father who normally foots the bill. Each wedding heralds some improvisation — like paper napkins and finger bowls — and the marketing people are always thinking of ways to nullify the simple marriage concept and let it remain a mere idea. What next? I am looking forward to the next wedding invitation. Marriages may be made in heaven but the bill is picked up on the earth.

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