The emotional cost of Indian weddings

featured photo prakruti maniar dancing for the article titled emotional cost of Indian weddings

Modern human life is kept interesting by phases of events. Every few years, as ennui and lethargy begin to settle, our senses are spiked by something monumental – a graduation, a wedding, a childbirth, a funeral. So every few years, you will find yourself in heightened emotionality as these events take place in bulk.

For the last two years, I have been in the weddings era of my life. Most of my friends and family have been marrying since 2019, with a cascade of weddings between 2021 and 2023. Four best friends, a brother, another close friend. And while weddings take an emotional toll, from hectic schedules to seeing people grow up, we don’t talk about the effect of one thing – transient intimacy that weddings bring with it, and the stories that are left incomplete at the altars of these mass gatherings.

A typical urban wedding routine involves about three days of festivities, with most guests staying at a hotel, or close enough. If you are part of the wedding party, you start to hang out with people much before, for dance practices at the very least. Over a few nights for a month or two, you laugh, share stories, make connections with probably strangers – suddenly you have a crush on a friend’s brother, or your friends best friend from a different part of her life has begun to vibe with you, or you have deeper reconnections with cousins you would have otherwise met maybe twice before in your life as a child.

Suddenly, in the confines of these very merry environment, you share precious hours snatched away from the blur of a work life. You marvel at how easy our human-hungry hearts find connection in these friends-of-friends. You come back home with big smiles plastered on your faces, with social media stories of wedding countdowns.

For a brief moment, they become your inner circle, whom you cannot wait to meet at the wedding, plan the jhoota chori with, sneak away from the elders for a drink or a smoke, and pool together to make the day memorable and fun for the bride and the groom. From dance rehearsals to dumb charades and antakshari, from sourcing alcohol to harmless flirting, a lot happens at weddings. Some of it spills over – relationships and friendships are made routinely.

But for the most part, these temporary friendships, with upteen promises of continuing fizzle away after the last picture has been shared on Instagram. They become part of the stories we share to keep our souls alive but beyond that, the jokes and laughter, the shared fun and masti ends at the airport as people go back to their real lives. No matter how many reunions you plan or how many dinner plans you make, reality tugs at us far stronger the lure of new connection, and unlike the days of college when we could run after social gathering, we must downsize our committments as adults.

It’s a strange, domestic form of escapism, these bursts of emotional bonds. Like for one weekend, you can graze the surface of niceties, without the pressure of reality. You can pretend without pretending to like someone, you can be a part of the collective fun without contributing much to it. You can dissociate from discomfort for three days, while staying with a tight-knit community – whether bonded by blood or water, or a mix of both.

It’s beautiful – you share stories you did not think of sharing with people you barely knew or knew in vastly guarded circles. Like cousins who were family before and became friends post. Friends who were just part of social circles before and you developed a one on one equation with them. A little bit of your heart, reserved from otherwise those getting married, gets shared and passed around among their own – so that the next time there is a birthday, you immediately ask if ‘that cousin’ is coming.

We give a lot of ourselves to these events I think. Not just planning and participating but engaging and forming connections that eventually leave. For those with a void, it only gets bigger. For those without, you are lucky.

For an extrovert like me, its always difficult to accept the fleeting nature of something happy and wholesome, but with time, I have come to realize, that relationships, like most things, run their course eventually. Some in a day some in a decade.

This realisation brings in a sense of patience. And a sense of value. It is with both that I enter 2024 – hopefully, a wedding-free year.

Want to talk more about it? Tweet to me @pramankapranam or email me at prakrut[at]purplepencilproject[dot]com