Spending on birthdays and weddings has now gone to another level of insane
Spending on birthdays and weddings has now gone to another level of insane

I celebrated my birthday last week. Less than eight close friends, a gourmet meal, fine alcohol for the ponces, Heathen beer for me, and mad, unbridled conversation that mercilessly included deeply embarrassing anecdotes about me when I was a teenager. Total cost: Less than a second-hand iPhone 6. Value: Priceless.
That got me thinking about how spending on birthdays, engagements, and weddings, which were always out of control, has now gone to another level of insane. And it's got nothing to do with the child or the wedding couple.

Let's start with birthdays. I challenge any of you to remember a birthday of yours, before you were four. Exactly. So when I see a couple splurging on designer outfits, monogrammed return gifts, and an event-coordinator, who otherwise does David Guetta concerts, for their child's third birthday, it isn't difficult to see who they are doing it for. Certainly not for Alia (or Atharvashrey, or Maia). It's their way of flexing their muscle in their circles. At this point, the correct thing for me to say is: But it's fine. It's their money, and they can choose what to do with it. But, just consider an option. Remember, the goal is to make your fellow banker/automobile-parts manufacturer look at you with a mixture of envy and admiration.

But, what if you decided to use the R10 lakh to educate 200 girls through college? I'm not joking. That's what R10 lakh will buy you today — 200 girls through under-grad. What if you invited a few of these girls to come and share in the festivities, so they could informally chat and tell their stories to Mr Competitive Kapoor, and Mrs Insecure Jhangiani? How cool would it be to put up on your office wall a certificate that reads: 'Thank you, Mr Anand Shah, for educating 1000 girls.' And a separate one that reads: 'Thank you, Alia. Because of you, 1000 girls will take their families out of poverty'.

How would you feel when your daughter realises what she helped do? Because monogrammed towels as return gifts will be recognised for what they are: One couple saying to the world, we are rich, and so, we are powerful. But, putting 1,000 girls through college will say, we are rich, and we recognise that true power is giving power to others.

I have two friends who are competing wedding planners, who tell me stories of bags of cash being offloaded on to them during wedding season for bookings. They've had to literally escort these gutkha-merchants/ jewellers out of their offices politely.

This time, I'm not even going to suggest philanthropy. I'm just asking Mummy and Papa to think about Yudhisthir and Mirigangika. What wouldn't the Rs 15 crore they're spending on fake castle-wall ramparts, tired elephants and bookings of an entire faux-Rajput themed hotel, buy the couple for their home? Hell, after the central air-conditioning and the home theatre has been built, there'd still be money left for a swimming pool.

But, herein lies the kadva sach: Most Indians aren't interested in celebrating their children, they're interested in celebrating one-upmanship — a culture that cleverly plays on their insecurities, and yearning for recognition. At any cost. If you think I'm exaggerating, ask yourself how paid news and the Page 3 culture came about. But that's fodder for another piece. Enjoy. And give my love to Amritanshu and Amaayra!

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