Big, Fat Indian Weddings, and a Few Divorces

July 7, 2007

The inevitable news of Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie’s divorce hit the news this week, with an embarrassing statement from Rushdie’s publicist: “Salman Rushdie has agreed to divorce his wife, Padma Lakshmi, because of her desire to end their marriage.” But it was Rushdie’s fourth time around, so I’m sure he’s learned to take it in stride by now. Besides, it comes on the heels of Rushdie’s knighthood -- I guess you win some and you lose some.

Personally, I’m pretty into Padma Lakshmi – as I’m a big fan of Top Chef, even though she’s a bit of a weirdo. Okay, I just think she's hot. Do you really think I would buy a cookbook called Easy Exotic: Low-Fat Recipes From Around the World? I’ve also heard the rumors that she’s a pothead, which always makes me partial to celebrities.

As ridiculous as Padma and Salman's marriage was, as South Asians who got divorced, they are in the minority. A recent Little India article said:

This Indian universe of matrimonial bliss is increasingly running up against the inescapable American reality, in which almost half of all marriages end in divorce. By contrast, Indian American marriages are far more stable. According to 2000 census data, just over 3 percent of Indians were divorced or separated, against about 12 percent nationwide. Nonetheless, the divorce rate is on the rise both in India and in the South Asian community in North America. Between 10 to 15 percent of all Indian American marriages culminate in divorce or separation.

An article in India Currents discusses the psychological impact that divorce has on Indian Americans, especially children. As a child of divorce, I know first-hand how isolating this issue is in the community.

But the dark side of marriage just doesn't seem to rain on the out-of-control wedding parade. I’ve noticed this explosion of South Asian bridal magazines in the past couple of years, which started with Bibi Magazine in 2000. Or perhaps every South Asian American magazine I see just overdoes it when it comes to the marriage issue. Take Nirali, for instance. An on-line magazine for South Asians, I’ve always been pretty impressed by Nirali’s web-savvy ways and articles. I think their blog is great. But then my best friend emailed me a link to their super-dooper wedding issue, and I was a little shocked at the excess. I mean, I guess it’s a great resource for desi girls who just can’t find the right advice in Modern Bride but when – as a community – are we going to get beyond our obsession with this ritual? Maybe never.

I think what really bugs me is the opulence of it -- all silk and gold. What about those of us on a smaller budget? Those who want our guests to invest in non-profit giving instead of buying us another salad bowl? Those of us who want a Guns&Roses cover band and a keg of PBR at our wedding shindig? What about people who don't want to get married? Or people who are not legally allowed?

Okay, I did really like this story about a documentary-style wedding videographer. What a great idea!

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Rebecca Mead’s book One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding:

According to Mead, the average commercial wedding costs about $28,000, involves 43 professionals, and has 165 guests in attendance. The average bride's dress costs $1,025. Last year American brides and grooms registered for over $9 billion worth of gifts, and 96 percent of engaged couples plan to register.

Anyway, I’ve been to enough Indian weddings to know that 165 guests is on the low, low side. Maybe what needs to happen is an investigation of the South Asian obsession with marriage. Perhaps when I get over my own issues with the concept, I’ll look into that.




I think all cultures (and most parents) are obsessed with marriage and weddings. There's probably been an explosion of wedding magazines in mainstream American culture as well.
I don't think all cultures are obsessed with marriage, or with weddings, which are two separate things. I think certain cultures have been deluded by the Wedding Industrial Complex into thinking that in order to be in a happy marriage, you must first have the perfectly FABULOUS! wedding.
I'm Nigerian, and most of my friends in college are Indian, and the similarities between the cultures are almost eerie! I'm only 19, but I'm terrified just thinking about what an ordeal my wedding is going to be (My parents wedding had over 2000 people). I've already decided that I'm not changing my last name so I foresee quite a few disagreements with my family. And whats funny is that all my family and parent's friends think that I'm the perfect, traditional, pretty-in-pink, pre-med Nigerian daughter, but little do they know they have a feminist on their hands...
ironically, shyam and i were married on this day... and i am quoted in the chronicle's story on rebecca mead's book!