Walking into the Roman style (self- professedly) grandiosity at a luxury banquet hall in Ludhiana which certainly captures the Athenian imagination of the wedding feast (if not the architecture) by bringing to table everything the market has to offer, my eyes fluttered towards the human fountain, a fountain made by supplanting the fountain nozzle with a human figure. The painted figure, with all its aesthetic carving and ingenious display of water outlets through the fingers, feet and hair of a woman alongside the furry carriages for the bride and the groom marked the symbols of invitation into the night of splendour. There was indeed more to witness. Inside the wedding hall, parallel to galauti kebabs, an array of desserts and an artificial waterfall was beset a stage with a ceiling of hanging ribbons adorning colours of changing lights. A woman dressed in shimmery prototype of the khakee police uniform was performing the sitting in the air jig using metal support underneath her pants. The act of amusement while lost within other commodities was more than its jig. It was a stage to shake hands with a woman of conspicuously white colour (The bartenders, make believe violin players and other women involved in aesthetic display endeavours were non- local women of white skin tone). One could get photographs clicked with the woman, touch her body in the garb of attempting to understand her trick and pretend to be kind in the act of asking her for a drink. In the multiple jiggles like these, the underbelly of luxurious Indian weddings reveals modernized slavery. Such acts of consumption contain within them the illusion of fast moving objects which diffuse the distinction between objects and beings and make them commodities. The only relationship that one bears in such an environ is with one’s self as bearer of an object in relation to others and the commodity one seeks to consume. It keeps us from noticing the experience of the social matrix that produces such an artificial reality for a grand experience of an event. While the aspirational quality of an ideal wedding is being served on moving glass platters, exploitations based on factors like class status, gender, race and multiple other intersections of social identities are carpeted in the wonderful spectacle of the grand Indian wedding. Its symbols newly invent themselves. Yet, its iconography continues to bear testimony to a process of consumption that masks slavery and exploitative labour. It tends to be deeply political in its illusion of a never ending celebration. While luxury weddings continue to remain a terrain for an intensified experience of a class status, the symbolic attachment of class informed spending with social congruity of consumption leads to a subjectified experience of the self.
Kanika Rai is a Student at Department of Sociology, South Asian University