Indian Wedding in the 1970's vs. in 2000's

  • By Ujwal Thakar
  • August 11 2020
Happy moments
  • Ujwal, now 70, got married in the early 1970’s. He compares his wedding, both before and after, with his kids who got married in early 2000’s. Written years ago it captures the changes in India’ social milieu very well.

Marriage then and Now 

My son got married four years back, which sort of makes me an expert on the changing marriage environment in my own family in the 36 years since my marriage. Here are a few of my observations as I write on the eve of my daughter’s marriage.


AGE: THEN I was sub 23 admittedly young even by those day standards, but the wife was hitting the 24th birthday and there was no chance of getting further delays approved from her family. I had bought two years by getting her to do a MBA post M.Sc and so the academic window had also closed.


NOW...My daughter is in her late twenties and son had crossed thirty when he tied the knot...Both the kids wanted financial security, time to enjoy themselves, gain maturity, understand their own minds about what they expected from a spouse, compatibility etc...


I almost feel irresponsible in hindsight. I was a Ph.d student making Rs 400, had no clue about what the future held, had not even thought of it, had zero savings, no infrastructure barring an old lambretta (two wheeler).Was actually living in a bachelor pad and stayed with wife’s sister in Pune for seven days after we returned from the marriage so that I could find a house in Nagpur where I was then working.


I had known my wife for four years. She and I were both doing M.Sc in Biochemistry in Pune. We were comfortable with each other, but I am sure had given no in depth thought to compatibility etc. I was a junior research fellow when we got married, son was already CEO and daughter is a Manager in a multinational, both their spouses are in high profile jobs...


Talking about housing, both my kids had intense debates with their respective spouses four months before the wedding on the kind of a house they needed, the location, the size, the dimensions, the ambience etc.

Exchanging flower mala with wife. 

Agreement took about four weeks and the hunt spanned across six to eight weeks in which each of them saw atleast thirty to forty homes before finalising one. Both wanted sea views and carparks. The house had to be furnished before they moved in and that meant that my poor wife had to go first furniture and curtain hunting with them and then go to their homes and wait for the white goods to be delivered, installed, checked etc because the busybodies were at work.


In our case, we found a house in seven days flat, a one room kitchen with an independent bathroom outside the apartment. The only pieces of furniture that we bought were from the weekly open air bazzar Mangalwari.


In Nagpur in the seventies these bazars would be conducted in different parts of the city on different days of the week. Mangalwari representing the Tuesday bazar and was reputed to have cheap furniture. We bought a baaz (a wooden cot with ropes as the base) for fifteen rupees, three steel foldable chairs for twenty rupees each, a steel table for Rs 75 and a stove for Rs 35 and we were set. All in a day’s work.


Our scooter would be grandly parked just outside our drawing cum dining cum bedroom. In the early parts of the month it went all over, but the poor thing often times got forced rest towards monthend because there was no fuel left and no money to refuel.



The concept did not exist in our times.  His friends took him to Goa to binge and daughter had an all women party of which she was regaling us with the gory detail. I would certainly have been embarrassed to discuss the party with my parents if I had had one... In our times my Nagpur friends could not afford to come to Pune and so I gave them a party at what we considered a swanky restaurant "Ashoka' . Six of us went had a great meal and because this was a special occasion I treated them to a bottle of beer each. I still remember the bill was Rs 75 and that included 27 rupees for the beer.

On the hot seat-reception.  


I was not involved in any planning at all. I just landed for the wedding. My parents and the wife’s parents had agreed and executed. It was at Udyan Mangal Karyalaya (UMK) supposedly the best Maharashtrian place in Pune.


UMK had innovated a new concept in Pune which was called CONTRACT. It meant that the contractor took on all the responsibilities from arranging the hall, wedding Guruji, all ceremonial requirements, band, photographer, marriage registration and a sumptuous lunch with 5 sweets (panch pakwanna) for 100 guests. Those were rationing days and the law did not permit more than a hundred guests. All this for a sum of Rs 4,000...This was expensive, if you managed it on your own the costs could have perhaps been contained to Rs 3,000.Only the more liberal Puneites indulged in this fancy contract concept.


For the daughter’s wedding I have to negotiate first with her on the venue, It had to be open air, it had to have a great ambience, greenery, waterbodies, trees etc etc. When we finally located one that met her standards then there were the negotiations with tentwala, florist, caterer, live band, photographer, mehendiwala, sari draper, hair dresser and in each of these I dared not make decisions without consultation.


I made five trips to Delhi to finalise and supervise the arrangements. My dad did not even stir out of Bangalore where he was then posted to look at the arrangements (admittedly he was the grooms dad, but he insisted that he was spending half the money of the marriage costs).


In our marriage the festivities were just on the day of the wedding barring a small dinner for family the previous night. Now true national integration seems to have happened in our family. Events like sangeet, mehendi etc have come up and are expected not just by my friends but even by the parts of the traditional Marathi family.


 Guests coming for the marriage were expected in our times stay in the Karyalaya in a huge dormitory like hall or make their own arrangements. Today I have booked 50 plus rooms for guests and will probably need to hire thirty cars to ferry guests.


Mercifully, I have good friends who are influential, and are treating it as if it’s their own daughter’s wedding and a substantial part of my stay arrangements have been made in company guest houses, state Bhavans, IIC etc that did not cost the earth and are well located and comfortable. The Subroto Park venue is amongst the most beautiful venues in Delhi.


A friend, Robert Chhetri, God bless him has taken complete charge of the management. I am almost like a guest myself care free and confident that all will go well.


My honeymoon was three nights four days in Mahableshwar. The package cost me Rs 370 including all meals. More importantly, we had the meals at the hotel to conserve cash.... Son’s honeymoon was in Australia New Zealand for a month and daughter chosen a ten day honeymoon in Bali. I have not dared to ask them about costs involved, because I know they will consider an impingement on their privacy in financial matters.


When I think about it we enjoyed our wedding as much as we enjoyed our children’s. Times were different. Life was simpler. We did not know any better and could not afford it anyway.


Now we can only hope and pray that the children’s marriages will be as solid and happy as our own, and they learn that marriage is caring, sharing, give and take and accepting that bonds of love help wage war against any adversities that life throws.


PS. This was written over eleven years back just before daughter got married. We now have four lovely grandkids who are the centre of our universe (son has two and daughter two) and I needn’t have worried. Both son and daughter are as happily married as we are and were.


Of the four friends who made the wedding so comfortable, two Raghu Menon and Chandan Roy have passed on and are deeply missed. Yashodhan Parande and Robert Chhetri continue to be as hospitable and helpful. Thanks to them all these memories are so pleasant.


Author is a retired banker and was CEO of Pratham, an education initiative. 

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