The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: The big fat Indian wedding could be put on a diet if one MP has her way

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Big Lean Indian Wedding

Planning a destination wedding to the Maldives? Want a sushi counter and a French patisserie next to the Belgian chocolate fountain, the chaat stall and the the biryani bar? Thinking of Honey Singh for the sangeet? Wondering if the freshly imported Swiss swans would get a bit hot in this weather? You may wrap these thoughts up in tissue and put them away along with that Tarun Tahiliani lehenga.

The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, will put an end to all that. Introduced in the Lok Sabha by a Congress member of Parliament, it could be taken up as a private member’s bill in the next session. The bill seeks to cap the number of guests invited and dishes served. Weddings that cost above Rs 5 lakh must declare the amount and donate 10% of it to a welfare fund set up by the government and used to help poor families pay for their daughters’ weddings. Now, this bill may have been motivated by good taste or egalitarian instincts, both perfectly sound concerns. But there could be a catch or two in it.

It is not that we are complaining about the state getting in our business. In the last few months, it has decided how much cash we should have and wants to know all our private details before it hands out food subsidies, lets us write examinations and even own a mobile phone. So it might as well play wedding planner too. The concern here is mainly economic.

The big fat Indian wedding is a $40 billion industry. It has held steady in the face of economic downturns. It has given rise to cheery articles telling you not to worry, you can still have a great wedding for just Rs 10 lakh. The growing scale of these extravaganzas has also created thousands of livelihoods: think of the armies of make-up artists, decorators, caterers and florists quietly labouring away behind the scenes. These weddings have also fuelled the great Indian start-up, with wedding planning businesses mushrooming overnight.

Besides, what of Bollywood? Who is going to steal the bride from the wedding mandap that does not look like a palace? Where are the old college friends going to meet after years if not at a wedding in a fabulous Rajasthani fort? And everybody knows the end to a good romance is a big fat Indian wedding. This bill could single-handedly demolish the plots of thousands of Bollywood movies. Besides, what of struggling stars earning an extra buck or two by dancing at sangeets? Never mind anti-industry, this bill is anti-joy.

The Big Scroll

Mrinal Pande writes on how weddings in Kumaon brought ritual cash to many pockets.

Political pickings

  1. In Kashmir, the Army chief promises “tough action” against civilians who obstruct the security forces during encounters with militants or fly Pakistani flags.
  2. At a rally in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remembers the attack on Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1984, in which a member of the Congress was allegedly involved.
  3. The Union health ministry is contemplating an audit of doctors’ prescriptions to control the misuse of antibiotics, which has contributed to the growth of bacteria resistant to even the strongest drugs.
  4. Before leaving for jail, VK Sasikala appoints nephews as deputy general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Jason Burke on how United States President Donald Trump’s Islamophobia threatens to redraw the strategic map of the Middle East.
  2. In the Hindu, Yogendra Yadav parses the electoral reforms promised in the budget.
  3. In the Telegraph, Dipankar Dasgupta on the lasting effects of demonetisation and the perils of going cashless.

Giggles

Don’t miss...

Namrata Acharya on why Kolkata is a hub for “paper companies”:

“’Almost 90% of shell companies are in Kolkata,’ said a senior I-T official. ‘Hence, it will be a major activity centre for the government’s planned crackdown on such companies.’

The reason why Kolkata is the preferred choice of venue is said to be easy availability of professionals in this type of activity, with an established network.

‘The effective tax rate is around 24%,’ said an official. ‘Hence, for earned capital of Rs 1 crore, one pays Rs 24 lakh as tax. In Kolkata, one pays Rs 50,000-Rs 70,000 to the entry operator to form a shell company through a structured transaction and save on taxes.’”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.