On vulgar display of wealth

Print edition : August 29, 2003

THE ostentation and vulgar display that one witnesses at a large number of marriages in different parts of the country is an affront to all sensitive people. Dowry deaths are a shame and bring discredit to the fair name of our country. The matrimonial columns in our print media make one wonder if we have not lost all sense of decency and restraint.

Johny Walker.-AFP

There are people who spend crores of rupees on the marriages of their children. They do so because they know they can get away with it. I am not a spoilsport or a killjoy but I do fell that we should have a country-wide campaign to discourage these excessively affluent individuals from flaunting their wealth in such a manner.

Our great ancestors laid down refined rules for marriage ceremonies. The spiritual heights reached by the authors of the Vedas have no parallel in history. These great sages lifted our sights to new ethical and spiritual heights. The Rig Veda is dedicated to the seers, our ancestors, the First Path Finders. These highly evolved individuals prescribed the following essential parts for a marriage ceremony. Here is spiritual intoxication for you:

Prag-Homa or preparatory ceremony opens with benediction and praise of the moral order, virtue and truth, and a desire for the spread of goodwill among mankind.

The opening verses are: "Our homage to the law of righteousness! Thou Goodness, we hold thee with Truth! Thou Truth, we hold thee with Goodness! We resolve to dedicate our lives in the service of that Light which leads humanity onwards. May our hearts be possessed with love for all!"

Mangalya Mala - Auspicious flower garlands. The bride's mother, or some one on her behalf, makes offerings of flowers to the bridal couple. These flowers represent eight virtues, the first being non-violence, and the following ones: self-control compassion, forbearance, knowledge, purity, meditation and truth.

In doing so the bride's mother says:

"Please adorn yourself with the grace of divine character and accept this offering of the first flower, that of non-violence; this second flower of self-control; this third of compassion for all living beings; this fourth of forbearance; this fifth of enlightenment; this sixth of purity; this seventh of profound meditation; and this eighth, that is the flower of Truth. May God bless you."

THE first death anniversary of Krishan Kant was observed at the Balvantray Mehta Vedya Mandir, Greater Kailash, II, New Delhi, on July 27. Present on the occasion were I.K. Gujral, V.P. Singh, Yunus Saleem, Nirmala Deshpande, Karan Singh and Suman Krishan Kant.

Less than 200 people were present. It was a Sunday. Sharad Yadav and Madan Lal Khurana did not turn up. We all have to learn to organise such occasions better. I am not suggesting that we have any kind of regimentation or drill. A certain amount of flexibility is unavoidable, bearing in mind our disregard for punctuality. Speakers at these functions generally inflict dreary and meaningless speeches, which destroy the solemnity of the occasion and try the patience of those present, even that of the family members.

We are in the 21st century but nine times out of ten, our microphones do not work - another sign of inattention to detail. We display impatience almost everywhere, but no people can match the docility with which Indians listen to speeches that are not worth listening. The dead deserve better.

IN the past few weeks, a number of film stalwarts have passed away. The death of Gregory Peck was followed by that of Katherine Hepburn. He was 87, she was 96. Both were artists of the highest order and role models to millions of people all over the world. More recently we read of the passing away of Bob Hope, the evergreen entertainer. He died at the age of 100, but his brand of humour and wit will be missed for a long time to come.

In the death of Johny Walker, India has lost a popular and original comedian. He was born in a poor family in Indore as were his two great contemporaries Mushtaq Ali, the great cricketer, and M.F. Husain, the artist. Mushtaq Ali is now 89 and Husain, 88. Johny Walker was the youngest of the three. He has left a void in the film world, which will be hard to fill.

LET me end on a less melancholic note. On August 7, Ustad Bismillah Khan enthralled the audience at the Balayogi Auditorium at the newly built Library of Parliament. The 87-year-old Shehnai player was accompanied by his adopted daughter Soma Ghosh. The principal host was Speaker Manohar Joshi. The Rashtrapati, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was also present. The time given on the invitation card was 6-30 p.m. Ustad Bismillah Khan was brought to the dais on a wheel chair at 6-40 p.m; he chatted away in a most endearing and engaging manner. The high and mighty arrived at 7 p.m. No explanation was given for coming late. Then followed the endless and agonising ritual of lighting the lamp and offering bouquets and shawls. The whole event was sloppy beyond words. Finally we came to the magical music and that made up for the mess and muddle. Shabana Azmi was as outraged as I was at the discourtesy shown to a great artist. He should not have been required to wait for his host who should have been there earlier to receive him.

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