No presents out… "paid presence" in – Wedding issues in South Kerala
Though it might sound strange, weddings in Poonthura, a small fishing hamlet near the state capital Thiruvananthapuram have become exclusive affairs for only a handful of invitees. The hamlet is thickly populated and is dotted with closely packed fisherman’s cottages who sustain a hand to mouth existence.
Christian weddings in the Poonthura area have of late become less well attended family affairs even when both the bride and groom hail from the same place. Though it might sound surprising, a closer look will reveal a few unpleasant truths. On any wedding day you will see many people waiting outside the church where the wedding is being solemnized without actually attending the wedding mass. Guess why? Only those who have paid Rs. 300 to the bride’s family are entitled to participate in the wedding and the ensuing feast! The spiralling cost of gold, clothes and the wedding feast have made it very difficult to marry off their daughters without the financial help from the community. So, those who cannot afford to pay, will have to wait outside the church till the marriage function is over. All they can do is to shower the newly wedded couple with blessings once they come out of the aisle. They share jokes, smile and tease the groom and when the marriage party moves on to the auditorium for the wedding feast these hapless local men and women walk back to their crumbling seaside shacks!
It is sad to note that with the trawling ban-induced lean fishing period already on, these families may not be able to take part in any wedding at least for the next few months.
Rejoinder: Any marriage should be a memorable and joyous occasion instead of a debt ridden burden. Say ‘YES’ to dowry free weddings and make sure that it remains a happy moment for the family and local community. The religious institutions in Kerala can spearhead a movement to promote dowry free marriages to save the population from misery and debts. Remember, marriages are made in heaven and why should man make it a harrowing experience?