Weddings are a grand affair in India. The extravagant amounts spent, loud music, delicious food and what not! But for half of the population in the country, weddings need not be big, fat – just satisfying. When financial crunch starts taking over the happiness of her daughter, a mother loses all hope to see her girl as a ravishing bride. So when her daughter’s marriage was fixed, Radhika, a widow, was worried. She couldn’t even think of paying for a reasonable wedding dress, forget about making her daughter’s special day memorable. Delhi-based NGO ‘Goonj’ then came to her aid. It took up the responsibility of shouldering the financial burden of arranging a ‘Wedding Kit’.

An old dictum says, ‘There is no end to how much you can spend on a wedding or on constructing a house.’

Goonj - wedding kit

Goonj came up with an idea to recycle ‘mata ki chunnis’ to make wedding dresses affordable for those underprivileged brides. In short, the traditional  ‘mata ki chunnis’ are converted into wedding lehengas.

Also Read: Harley-Riding MP Seeks To Curb Big Fat Weddings

SheThePeople.TV reached out to the co-founder of Goonj, Meenakshi Gupta, to discuss how the idea was born. She said, “It is a pleasant surprise when you find that the beautiful lehengas you see at Goonj’s processing centers have been created from what is given away in bulk at temples and religious functions.”

Goonj - wedding kit

“Weddings are made of sweet memories for all of us and that’s probably why most of us don’t part with our wedding dresses. No wonder then that we find it very difficult to get enough wedding dresses from urban India. And this is how this problem is solved. We adopted a small Indian-style jugaad (alternative) to fill this gap, a little spin to connect the proverbial dots. A lehenga is ready with two full-size chunnis and with a matching fabric, a blouse is made. Hence, a wedding kit is ready,” explained Gupta.

While weddings are about celebrating two individuals and families coming together, for most families in rural India, they spell financial burden

So how did the plan initially spin off? Gupta says, “In India, where often peoples’ actions are dictated by the intangible concepts of ‘honour’ and ‘dignity’, wedding celebrations wreck financial hell in the lives of many. The reality for millions is totally different and even the basics in a wedding comes at heavy cost of loan from local moneylenders. This is where the wedding kit was born, made from wedding apparel and other new material collected from people, to women and families like Radhika’s.”

A typical Wedding Kit includes the wedding dress for the bride and bridegroom, general clothing, footwear, purse, makeup box, cosmetics, jewellery, bed sheets, set of utensils etc

Certainly, the initiative is a classic example of how small things can make a big difference. Gupta went on to say how they help make the entire arrangement. She said, “We collect wedding apparel from cities, carefully sort them out and then put together a collection of new, fancier clothes by modifying the collected material. Recipients are chosen based on their economic condition through volunteers and local panchayats. Once a family uses the wedding dresses, we suggest that they pass it on to others in their community who need them as well.”

READ: From Good Times To All Things Wedding, Meet Smeeta Chakrabarti

Goonj - wedding kit

Gupta gave the example of Reena who lives with her parents and three siblings in the village of Siyuna in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. Her parents are farm labourers. So when Reena’s marriage was confirmed, they struggled to arrange funds for the occasion. Like most young girls, Reena too had great dreams for her wedding. When Goonj offered to ease the burden, Reena’s family couldn’t be happier.

Goonj - wedding kit

An elated Reena said, “My parents would have spent a large amount of money in renting a lehenga and other bridal accessories from the market. Thanks to Goonj’s Wedding Kit, they will no longer have to do that. And no lehenga in the market can be as beautiful as the one I got in the kit.”

To make it more comfortable for the people, Goonj also came up with the idea of ‘Pandaal kit’, a set of essentials like utensils, blankets, daris (mats) etc. in large quantities as a community asset. This not only make the arrangements convenient in the village itself, expenses on a wedding are also reduced to a great extent

The Wedding Kits are evidently saving families from financial ruin but there’s an environmental advantage too. According to Gupta, “Apart from doing the emotional bit, this is an alternative to stop putting ‘mata ki chunni’ in the rivers that end up polluting the environment as a result. Once a family uses the wedding dresses, we suggest that they pass it on to others who need them as well.”

Goonj - wedding kit

With hundreds of wedding kits reaching needy families in different parts of the country, making their weddings special, we salute the organization for such a great job.

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Read More Stories By Ria Das

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