For Bengalis, winter is the ideal time for weddings and the year usually ends with us attending a lot of programs starting from engagements to receptions. Some think the reason why this particular season is a favorite among everyone to get married is because of the good weather, some think it’s because of the holidays while others think it’s just a nice way to end the year.
Even celebrities around the world are choosing winter to tie the knot and the media seems to be in frenzy about all these weddings. One billionaire sent his guests gold boxes with jeweled emblems instead of the common invitation cards while another flew the guests on chartered airplanes and brought entire cities under security lockdown. Venues in Europe are now in top demand and wedding pictures are being sold in millions of dollars. The guest list includes crème-de la-crème of the world’s elite class including politicians, actors, athletes and musicians.
Social media is flooding with pictures of musical evenings where celebrities worth millions and billions are performing in jewel studded costumes. One bride is applying henna designs worth crores while another is booking an island for honeymoon. The extravagance is overwhelming; bridal showers, private concerts, pre and post wedding celebrations, the string of never-ending events are mind boggling!
While we are gushing over the designer dresses, diamonds and photo shoots, Economists are voicing out loud that the rich is getting richer, the poor is getting poorer, the rich-poor gap is widening and wealth equality is at its worst. According to researchers, the wealthiest 1% of the world is twice as rich as the poorest 50%. The money being spent on these weddings actually portray the stark differences in the world’s affluent and poor quite well. On one hand, we are witnessing abundance of riches and on the other, we are witnessing poverty and famine.
In a society, some inequality is inevitable and overnight the per capita income does not change. As a country grows in opportunity and equality, its citizens gradually climb up the ladder of higher income and standard of living. But when governments foster the industrialists’ growth and they take away higher percentages of the revenues, the income distribution becomes distorted and the inequality becomes wider.
Let’s set aside the money being spent, the amount of food that gets wasted at weddings is stupendous! In India, where 70.6 million of its population is still living under extreme poverty, wedding food worth Rs 339 crore gets wasted every year. A 2017 research by Sainsbury’s revealed that in Britain, on average, one-tenth of wedding food gets thrown away which is equivalent to £500.
In Bangladesh the cost of a wedding venue varies between BDT 45000 to BDT 4 lakhs and decorations can cost up to BDT 5 lakhs and even more. Families easily spend thousands on saris and jewelries. Parents are torn between ordering kachchi biriyani or simple polao while brides are confused about which make-up artist to go to. Weddings are meant to be joyous and bring happiness to all involved, but can’t we do the same by making the underprivileged a part of our celebrations?
Procheshta Foundation, an NGO who has a running project called ‘Food Bank’ informed us that during the wedding season, on average their volunteers collect wasted food from wedding venues to feed 200-300 people. On a good day they get called to collect food for 600-700 people. A lot of the calls come from the affluent areas of the capital where food waste is a common.
The much celebrated wedding of Priyanka Chopra, an actor famous in both Bollywood and Hollywood, cost more than USD 500,000. WHO says that nearly one million children around the world die from malnutrition each year. An amount of USD 40 (approximately BDT 3500) can help save the life of one malnourished child in Africa. We live in the same world, why should our standard of life be poles apart?
Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human rights states that everyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity and race, has the right to food and shelter. As human beings we have the right to have a good life and no one can take that away from us but is it actually happening? If it did, why is there so much disparity among countries’ wealth?
Is the solution imposing more tax on the rich? Yes. Should we invest more on education and raise our minimum wage? Yes. Should the rich give more donations? Of course they should. Experts have pointed out that the reason why we do not see the rich-poor gap is because we usually stick to communities with similar economic background like ours. If we want our world to change for better, we can’t remain nearsighted forever.
Promila Kanya works at