The surreal year of celebrity weddings, Sabarimala, mob lynchings and protests

The year 2018 witnessed many high-profile weddings. But glamour quotient aside, the pressing issues of mob lynchings, polarising rhetoric and price rise continued to plague us as a society

Pragati Saxena

The year 2018 was a year of celebrity weddings. It actually started with Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s marriage in December last year. And then, there were a series of celebrity weddings.

While there were instances when love triumphed, there also were several incidents involving killings of lovers who dared to marry beyond their caste lines.

Pranay Perumalla was killed for marrying an upper caste girl. Ankit Saxena was killed because he wanted to marry a girl of another religion.

It was the year when Hadiya was finally given relief by the Supreme Court to change her religion and marry whoever she wished to. She was, after all, an adult.

Amid the shocking incidents of mob lynchings, rampant violence in the name of religion and what came to be called ‘love jihad’, it was the celebrities who gave us a respite by overlooking casteist and religious barriers. And of course, when they get married, no one asks their ‘gotra’, or the caste of their spouse. Rather, the focus was more on designer lehengas the celebrity bride donned and what designer costume adorned the handsome groom. Who attended the wedding and how the bride and bride groom were laughing, with their ‘curated’ mouth open, in a precise manner.

This year brought into light the lehenga designers too. The name Sabyasachi became a household name as even the RJs were talking/guffawing/chuckling while mentioning it. Of course, the lehenga ‘exclusively’ designed by Sabyasachi for the ‘exclusive’ celebrity became a rage overnight and the lanes of Chandni Chowk were replete with almost the same kinds of lehengas, in more colours than even Sabyasachi could imagine! The make up and jewellery of the bride and ‘get up’ and accessories of the groom paved way for more innovative copies in the markets down town.

Strange was the year, when amid election campaigning and Ram Mandir campaign of the right-wing groups, people seemed more concerned, or at least that was shown on TV channels, about the caste and religion of the persons dying in mob lynchings than the brutal violence.

The farmers reached the National Capital in huge numbers to register their protest. Some violent fanatics did not even concede the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. Women could not enter the temple. And the country was once again divided on whether women should be allowed in the temple or not (It’s again ironic that people and political parties of this country, which worships women as goddesses are so adamant about letting women enter a temple! It’s a matter of faith, they say.) Eh, but well, we were more interested in Priyanka Chopra’s wedding with Nick Jonas.

Of course, the Rafale deal rocked the social media and the country, too, but our prime minister maintained a stoic silence over it, though he kept congratulating the celebrities on their birthdays and the country on important occasions through his Twitter handle and, in fact, graced Priyanka Chopra’s wedding with his presence exactly when a cop was killed by a lynch mob in Uttar Pradesh.

Now, since our PM claims to be a ‘fakir’, it’s only becoming of a fakir to maintain such a long silence over the issues that kept the people of this country on edge. But his being so gracious so as to continue wishing celebrities and people on occasions did not reflect the conduct of a fakir. But well, who are we to say anything about a celebrity? We can only be surprised, or shocked, or may be awestruck, by what the celebrities wear, eat, say or who they wed!!

That brings us back to the marriages. This was indeed a surreal year which kept us oscillating between the mob killings (as many as 24 took place, according to an IndiaSpend report) and celebrity weddings (as many as 17 took place, we might have missed a few in our counting, and the 18th touted as ‘the wedding of the year’ is yet to take place in December), between the protests by farmers, students, workers Dalits and women and the movement for the Ram temple, between the ever increasing prices of fuel and LPG and the government’s claims of increased GDP.

But the real winner among them all were the celebrity weddings, which, though, for a while made us all forget the drudgery and frustrations of our lives and gave us some brilliant ideas about the low-cost copies of wedding dresses, wedding looks and wedding ceremonies. Isn’t it what India is so popular for in the world besides elephants and snakes—the glamorous shiny weddings!?

It was, indeed, a strange year when we kept taking pride in the idea of what we are and kept sinking deeper in our frustrations, failures and regressive faith and trivial issues, when grimmer realities kept eating us from inside.

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