“This is the marriage season, I will be very busy”, said a neighborhood moneylender. How do weddings make a lender busy?
Did you get it?
Weddings obviously mean business to many like caterers, decorators, jewelers, etc. We missed out another category of businessmen who look forward to the wedding season – The moneylender.
The affluent lay down certain traditions to show-off their prosperity. In the process, probably they do not realise the quantum of damage they cause to society.
A practical example. In our town, at any wedding, the entire community was invited for three full course meals. ‘Sigree noota’ – all the members in every family were on the invite list. This translated to 200-250 people on two of these meals and 400 people for one of them because people from the neighbouring townships were also invited.
Funnily enough, for those who could not attend, a parcel to their home! Obviously, these meals mean a lot of money. Someone who probably wanted to boast about his wealth must have started this and with time this became tradition.
Those who did not have adequate sources of income, also had to host three meals. They were worried that if they failed to host 3 meals they would be looked down upon by the community. Their fear was valid.
Whenever invited by the affluent class, even the members of the low income profile families would go for the dinner. Not attending was considered as an unfriendly act. Once they went, it was understandably difficult to avoid inviting when there was a wedding at their own home – an endless chain.
Think of the amount of harm this tradition caused. Those who could not afford, borrowed money. Some sold or pledged their homes to finance the meals. A few had to convince their wife and daughters-in-law to sell or pledge their ornaments and jewelry.
Obviously, loans from banks was not available for weddings. Therefore, they had to borrow from private lenders. The maximum amount a moneylender would lend would be about half the value of the property pledged. An additional condition was that if the loan was not repaid before the amount accumulates to the total value of the property, the owner lost his right to the house or the jewelry. The interest on private borrowing was anything from 24% to 36% (usually monthly compounded) per year. This means over a period of 2 to 3 years, the amount repayable would double. In short, within 2-3 years if the loan was not repaid, hard earned pledged items became the lender’s property.
Why? What is the root cause? Is it just to maintain a tradition in the society? Will the society for whom this has been done come to his rescue? No. Just forget it, they would be busy gossiping!
The irony is it hardly made any difference to the guests, but the host was doomed. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in certain cases, it led to suicides. What is the point of following such traditions? Inspite of knowing the consequences, no one dared to amend or rectify.
Justification : “why should I be the first one to defy tradition? Let someone else take the blame”.
If we can sensibly act. For example, at my wedding in 1971, we were reasonably better placed financially and could have managed to host 3 meals easily. For me, this was an opportunity. I explained the above consequences to my dad. He was well aware of such unnecessary burden on some people in the community.
I suggested “Kakaji, why not we restrict the wedding celebration by hosting just one dinner? Let us take the blame for curtailing this tradition and the change could save someone”. My dad was in favor of a positive change in the society and he readily agreed.
Yeah, we did it! We changed over to all-in-ONE dinner for my wedding. It is almost 43 years since then and this system is followed to date!
This is just an example of one tradition at a wedding. Sure, there are many other such opportunities at weddings, but the same principle hold good for birthday celebrations, religious ceremonies, anniversary functions, death ceremonies, etc.
Value of return gifts is another classic example. If you can take a bold lead in curtailing them down, you have done a great service to society. My appeal to youngsters – Enjoy and Celebrate in life. But sensibly, curtail the formal events to the extent everyone in the society can afford.
I have constantly tried over 40 years ‘Take no gifts and give no gifts.” Some firm traditions of giving and accepting gifts have discontinued in the family. However, I was only partly successful. But you could do better, will you?
Written: Badri Baldawa Edited: Meeta Kabra