I dunno how many of you who are reading this post, would have read Freakonomics, the hidden side economics book written by two Stephens (Lewitt & Dubner). But I owe my current thinking process to them and their book. It’s about looking at the hidden side economics of all normal things in life. So I tried incorporating the thought process in to our marriages.
Marriages are part of the Indian tradition over the years. Almost every human being in India are bound to get married, although in the modern era the shackles are breaking, so that you can see some open relationships, live ins etc. But 90% of the population in India get married to someone else.
A election bureau statistics says there are about 10 Million marriages happen in a year in India (2007 stat). Thats actually more than the population of lot of countries. This statistics is only those registered with the government. Unofficially, there are even more marriages happen in the rural interiors of India. Currently, the Supreme court of India is in plans to make registration mandatory for all the marriages.
Each and every marriage in India is unique in its own way. The diversity of Indian culture gives this uniqueness to the marriages of India. Each religion, each caste, each sub-caste, each community have their own way of marriages and traditions. Only in India you can see the Chettinad marriage where the whole house is packed with gifts for the bride groom and a magnificent three day food extravaganza. Only in India you can see the ‘Thoda” marriage where the whole spending is taken care by the bride groom and they just have small ceremony of taking the bride to their house without any ceremonies.
The one thing that fascinates me in all the marriages is the amount of money spent in each of the marriages. Ok let me go from the micro level to explain this process. There were two marriages happened last year, in which I had an important part. One is my brother’s marriage and another is my friend’s marriage. Both are upper middle class families.
Let me take my brother’s marriage first, the marriage actually happened in Chickmagalur, Karnataka (bride’s place) and we had a reception in Thanjavur, our native place. The total spending we did for the reception alone was about 5 lakhs. Out of which half the money went for the food.
The other marriage is a Hindu marriage, their rituals are little bit elaborate and it went for two days. Starting from the betrothal, bride groom reception, marriage and the after marriage reception. Three times food was served, all vegetarian. The total marriage expenses went for 6 lakhs. And ofcourse the jewellery my friend wearing was amounted to extra money (enormously extra. Hey don’t worry I will not let the secret out).
So an average upper middle class marriages happen at whopping average of 5.50 lakhs in a small town like Thanjavur. All the future calculations are made on assumptions. So there a is large room for change (+ or – )
At a macro level, Let us divide the marriages in to 5 different categories.
Less than Rs.50,000 – 20% of 10 Million Marriages ( Some even happen at few thousands)
50,000 – 1 lakh – 15% of 10 Million
1 Lakh – 5 Lakhs – 25% of 10 Million ( May be the lower middle class, sometimes this also crosses over 5 lakhs, but i am excluding it)
More than 5 lakhs – Remaining 40% of 10 Million.
Lets take this 40% which are above 5 Lakhs. There are marriages in this poor country ( relatively ) which happen at the rate of few crores. I had seen a jain marriage in which the food cost alone was a whopping 15 lakhs. They had taken the posh Raja Muthaiah Mandram in Egmore, Chennai for the reception and the adjacent Rani Meyammai Hall for the dinner alone (we had 6 food counters, a Hindustani music party and a close circuit big screen viewing of the bride and the bride groom – uff)
I dunno how to put the average for these affluent marriages. Even the law of averages will faint at the amount. Let me have the lowest value and assume that all the marriages happen at a minum cost of 5 Lakhs.
5,000,000 X 40% of 10 Million = 2 000 000 000 000.
It’s your headache to calculate the number of zeros. Mind you these are only calculations of the marriage expenses and it excludes the dowry (gift for bride groom), jewels worn by the couple, gifts they receive (the total amount of gifts for my brother’s marriage were about a 1 lakh or so- and most of them were repeated gift articles, which are no use to the couple and their homes).
Only one thought is ringing in my mind. Do we really need this kind of extravagant spending for simple consummation of two families, two people and two hearts? Are we not fooling ourselves? I am not asking to stop the rituals, follow your rituals, do as usual but do it in a small scale. Why not invest or donate to improve the infrastructure of schools in the rural villages of India. Will it not be more meaningful than having the most extravagant marriage in town?
And why the govt. should leave these marriages to happen? Why not tax them and use the taxes for improving infrastructure? A lesser tax for non-dowry marriages and a stricter tax for dowry marriages. I heard from my father that there was marriage tax during the Janata period of 1977 (I am not sure), but I think it should be brought back to stop these unjustifiable expensive marriages.
P.S: For the past three days I was seeing so many marriages happening in Chennai on my way back home, one hotel was having 5 different marriage receptions…Ufff.. And for those who are munching that number, its 2 Trillion Rupees. If you convert it to US dollars its 46,728,971,962.62 USD., ie., 46 Billion Dollars. The current external debt of India is 165 Billion Dollars. I think we can reduce the external debt by about 30%.
Long live Indian Marriages.