Notes from an(other) Asian wedding

I got back last weekend from a week in Calcutta. That particular time of year, around about mid-December, is always considered particularly "auspicious" for weddings (don't ask me why, I don't understand pagan festival timings very well), and as a result that's when all of the weddings and receptions happen to take place. This particular wedding that I attended wasn't really a wedding, per se- it was actually the after-wedding reception, since the couple in question had already gotten married and were just sort of "making it official" by wining and dining people.

As I've written in different contexts several times before here, looking at things from a decidedly old-school masculine perspective results in one becoming a complete outsider in almost every way. The problem with this is that you don't really ever fit in anywhere. The upside, of course, is that it allows you to be a relatively dispassionate observer without ever having to get involved with any of the silliness of the moment.

With that in mind, here are a few things that I observed at this latest round of festivities:
  • Every family has a linchpin. There is always one central figure in every Asian extended family who, whether s/he likes it or not, is going to be a common source of goodwill for everyone. That was definitely the case this time. The groom is the nephew of one of my father's oldest and dearest friends- and he's been very close to me and my family for over 10 years. He's a quiet, rotund, very hard-working and very sharp guy who's done very well for himself over the years, building up his own business and becoming quite wealthy in the process. And for whatever reason, when various branches of this family heard that he was getting married, they ALL insisted on sending over at least one representative to be at his wedding. That kind of goodwill takes years to build up, but no amount of money on this Earth can match its value.
  • Asian men seriously lack game. I've written about this before. Sadly, this doesn't change whether you're in Calcutta or London; South Asian men just aren't very good at figuring out masculinity. There are a number of reasons for that, and they all have to do with the fact that men around the world- not just in the West, certainly not just in Asia- simply aren't used to taking charge of their own lives. Most (South) Asian men live at home well into their late twenties. Many actually stay with their parents after they are married- one of my relatives did exactly this, and he shows no sign of manning up and moving out. None of them seem to have heard of the concept of "lifting heavy s**t", so they all have that skinny-fat look which gets much worse over time. They all think that the Right Way to Do Things is to settle down and get married in one's mid-twenties and have all of their kids by 30, so they end up settling for women who, quite frankly, aren't very pretty (like my friend did).
  • An Asian man who marries a lawyer is just asking for the Universe to piss on his parade. This, unfortunately, is also what my friend did. His wife is a lawyer of some sort for a big bank. He is a highly successful entrepreneur. They met through an internet marriage site. Now I'm no mathematician (oh, wait, actually I am), but I'm pretty sure this adds up to potential trouble. I do hope I'm wrong- the man's a good friend of ours and I have a lot of respect for him- but any man who marries a female lawyer in her early thirties is signing up to be provider-hunter bait.
  • Bengali middle-class society isn't actually getting any prettier or better. You guys in the West think you've got it bad when it comes to finding beautiful, feminine, pleasant girls who know how to cook? My friends, you ain't seen nuttin'. Now granted, I was in a part of the country where really beautiful women aren't that common to see (here are several very notable exceptions), but the reality of the Asian diet, combined with the rising wealth of the East and the consequent rise in sedentary lifestyles, means that women are rapidly becoming every bit as difficult to be around as they are in the West. They're not at that level of nerve-shredding irritation yet, but they'll get there eventually unless they recognise the dangers of an over-feminised society and do something about it.
  • Asian women are still superior in every way to American women. It's a sad, but true, generalisation. Indian men are still better off marrying Indian women than they would be any other group of women. Indian women still understand instinctively that a married couple functions best when the man works hard to provide for his family, and the woman works hard to keep her family together, keep them comfortable, and keep them close. The duties expected of an Indian wife and mother are much the same today as they were when my mum got married over thirty years ago; the difference today is that any Indian man who's blunt enough to say what he expects out loud is going to get his ass handed to him by his future wife and her mother.
  • Your parents are going to be on your ass about marriage the day after you turn 25. I'm facing this right now, and I'm quite annoyed by it. During my visit back to the old country, in every single place that I visited, someone (usually a close friend or relative of ours) would ask me the exact same question: when are you getting married? Now in my case I can sort of get away with pleading ignorance- there are certain advantages to not speaking the language that well and being functionally illiterate in it to boot. Indian guys who have never left India, or who have lived in India until adulthood and then left for a few years for an education, will have a much rougher time. I'm just waiting to hear from one of my colleagues at work, who was in a different part of the country at the same time as me for his sister's wedding; he's a little older than I am, and undoubtedly is getting the exact same well-meaning but extremely annoying advice.
  • Indian wedding ceremonies are getting waaaaay the f*** out of control. Honestly I think it would be cheaper to attempt to put a man on the Moon again than to go through an Indian wedding. These occasions have gone from celebrations of a marriage to opportunities for two families to engage in displays of oneupmanship that would put the legendary rivalry between Coca-Cola and Pepsico to shame. I saw this ten years ago at the first Indian wedding I ever went to; one family sent forty-seven gifts to the other, so the other responded by sending forty-nine. Families are now competing to see who can hold the most lavish banquet at the most prestigious hotel, instead of simply hosting a ceremony in one's own house. I'm not exactly a frugal man, at least not when it comes to my family, but if I have to be around other people, I'd rather do so in settings that are comfortable to me with people that I trust, instead of having to meet hundreds of total strangers at remote and ridiculously opulent venues.
I'm not going to post any pictures of the trip- partly because it wasn't actually very much fun, and mostly because I'm actually thoroughly useless at taking pictures of anything that isn't a heavy metal concert- but anyway, those are my observations from a week in the old country.

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