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Of Weddings and Charity. 2008

Of Weddings and Charity (Unpublished)

By Ashali Varma

When a Cabinet Minister’s son gets married in a quiet, low- key manner it should definitely make headline news so that others get the drift. And when that Minister gives Rs 1 crore — that would otherwise have gone for flower arrangements etc.—- to start a Fund for medical treatment for the poor, than it should be put on the Front Page of all newspapers. Not because it is an unprecedented act but because perhaps others would follow suit. At least one hopes so as the one thing our country needs desperately is the kind of thinking that leads to such benevolence.

I know Milind and Pooja Deora will have a blessed married life together because they will have the blessings of the thousands of poor people who cannot afford expensive medical procedures and will now have the money from a fund to help them.

I was fortunate to interview Murli Deora for The Earth Times in New York in December 1992. He came across as a candid, no-holds-barred parliamentarian and spoke honestly about the problems India faced from poverty to sustainable development. But I didn’t realize the depth and compassion of the man. I knew he came from humble beginnings but then so do many others who have achieved greater fame and wealth but I don’t see them running to open charities for the poor. Think big weddings and the Mittals and Sant Chatwal come to mind amid countless others who spend millions on a three-day flamboyant junket just to keep up with the Joneses. I have seen tables groaning with several different types of cuisines and wastefulness that just cannot be condoned in a country where 400 million children are malnourished.

I know how even the poor feel obligated to give their daughters and sons a good wedding and celebrate the joyous occasion in a manner beyond their means just so their community won’t look down on them. I have heard this from countless women who say that they took loans from moneylenders so that their daughters would not be shamed by the groom’s relatives.

That is why I think that what Murli Deora did should be splashed across newspapers and television so others may use it as an example next time a son or daughter has to get married.