Log Kya Kahege? ( What will people say?)

Over the past several years, I have come across newly married couples carrying a heavy burden; often well within several years after their children are born. It’s a burden that they either took upon themselves but most often one that was emotionally foisted upon them by parents and often distant relatives with the classic lines, “log kya kahege?” (what will people say)

Weddings in India are a multi-crore enterprise. Currently, the Indian wedding industry is worth over Rs 100,000 crore and is growing at 25 to 30 per cent annually. The estimated cost of a wedding with no expenses spared could be between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 5 crore. The pressure to conform and match up with the Jones is tremendous, leading young couples to enter into a whirlpool of debt in the first few years of married life; years that could well be the most testing for any newly married.

Yet this grave crisis is rarely spoken from the pulpit. If handled with tact it can become a great turning point among Christians who wish to scale down their weddings to match their bank balances with a realistic celebration rather than swipe their credit cards in favour of wishful expectations.

For the priest, the fear of addressing this contentious issue is realist. Congregations could always glibly misconstrue such a well-meaning suggestion as interference into their personal lives. Lest we catch the bull by its tail, the case being made is for celebrations that are debt free, celebrations where expenditure matches bank balances and where local customs (not Church requirements) do not contribute to making marital life a financial nightmare.

If I may use the license of my imagination applied to the Gospels, I would like to think of the wedding at Canna as a debt free marriage too. What if the bride and groom had spent all their money on the wedding and then the wine ran out? Six stone water jars filled to the brim and holding 20-30 gallons would total to 120-180 gallons of wine or about 680 litres. Jesus’ mother saw not just an embarrassing moment for the couple but the consequences of the future.

Many of my parishioners have often expressed their desire to marry but the reality of homes no larger than 200 square feet and the fear of wedding expenditures simply make what should be a natural calling into an impossible dream. Yesterday, the parish of St Jude situated in the suburb of Mumbai broke that glass ceiling.

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