The big fat Indian wedding, with its reputation of being obscenely, ostentatious, still continues its unabated cost growth year on year. In a middle-class home, a wedding can cost anywhere between Rs 5 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs or even more. Every family has the sole ambition, to have a fairy tale wedding. This reflects the parental love in how much they can spend for their offspring’s big day.
Across towns and cities, one emotion runs deep, the majority of young girls want a Sabyasachi sari or lehenga to look their best, on their wedding day. For the ones who can’t afford a Sabyasachi, the local tailor is pressured to create the same Sabya faus clothing for the D day. In Delhi’s Chandni Chowk lanes, one can find shops that sell all the leading designer styles, copied and sold at half the price. This fulfils the gap of aspirations and affordability. The idea is to look like Deepika, Kiara or Parineeti.
Sabyasachi is the coveted Indian designer wear for weddings who happens to be gay. Ironically, the celebrated wedding designer belongs to a community that is deprived of the right to marry a person of their choosing. Is that fair? No. Is it surprising that India fails to acknowledge this? No.
Weddings are a huge case of worry as the daughter’s father goes bankrupt to keep up with the Joneses for his “ladli beti’s” marriage. So, this investment of sending off the daughter is the ultimate dream many parents nurture. A child irrespective of gender is not “settled” until they marry. For girls, the pressure is even greater, as their biological clock ticks faster with anxiety within the immediate family. Her hands must be yellow, is a Hindi saying. They don’t mean with jaundice but with mehendi.
The good news is that this institution of “until death do us part”, isn’t unsuccessful. One can often hear Chinese whispers of marriages that are falling apart, but the reality is that India has a low annual divorce rate of 1.1 per 1,000 people, with only 13 out of every 1,000 marriages resulting in divorce. In most cases, the male is the one who is usually the initiators.
So, net marriages are still working in India. Man marries a woman and they have children, who go on to continue progeny. Anything outside this concept is a tough pill to swallow. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the judgment of the Supreme Court for the sanction of same-sex marriage status was declined.
Personally, I was hoping to attend weddings where one is declared “wife and wife” or husband and husband”. But unfortunately, this dream has to wait, where love is celebrated sans gender. Where the sanctity is the emotion and not the sexual orientation.
Undoubtedly this decision of the Supreme Court disappointed the Queer community, leaving many with anger and rage for the acknowledgement of only one kind of union, which is between a man and a woman. The truth is that society is changing only in the urban areas of India. Rural India still has honour killings and caste-based violence. So as a country, we are not yet ready to redefine marriage. Even if, in the process, we undermine genuine human emotions flourishing in Queer relationships.
It is only as recent as 2018 that the SC of India scrapped a colonial-era law that banned homosexuality in India.
So, acceptance of homosexuality is still growing. Indian society continues largely as conservative. The resistance to opening up to same-sex marriage may take some more time. Let’s wait till then, to take one step at a time, however unfair and arbitrary it is for Queer couples who are denied the right to have a legal heir to their property transfer or have the same bank accounts and official documents, just as another heterosexual married couple, who takes this for granted.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, and podcaster and has started a digital marketing platform called Asmee which is a space of storytelling reserved only for women.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: Love Remains Hopeful: Petitioners On SC's Same-Sex Marriage Verdict