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This post has been pending for some time because I felt that I may be held guilty of over-reacting to something that most people may consider normal. After having allowed the thought to fester for years, I decided to shoot this off. I do realise that this is an extremely personal view which everyone may not share – but I must say my piece.

Wedding functions, receptions and related events of all hues have now become commonplace as our country has prospered and disposable income has skyrocketed. The more affluent obviously have many more functions to celebrate weddings where ostentation knows no bounds. A wedding function is also a celebration of wealth and a display of ‘worthy’ contacts to impress other worthy guests. Politicians, judges, high ranking civil servants, military officials in addition to the ‘rich and famous’ lend the snoot and snob value to such functions.

My wife and I are sometimes invited to such functions, not because we are known to the family intimately but because the hosts feel that it may be good to have us around. Mind you, most are very good folks, courteous and well-meaning people to whom I am deeply grateful for inviting me. They need not do so in the first place. Their feelings are genuine and I receive repeated ‘gentle reminders’ so that I don’t miss the date.

So far, so good. The day of the event dawns. I pull out the invitation card (that came with a goody bag full of sweets and gifts) to check the details. The venue is swanky and the function starts at 7 pm . I decide to text my host to inform him that it would be a great pleasure to drop in at about 8 pm to greet the ‘to be’ newly weds. He is effusive in his thanks and replies saying that he looks forward to meeting us. The venue is 30 minutes away, says Google Maps. I tell my wife that we should ‘hit the road’ at 7.30 pm.

A slight drizzle breaks out and the roads are unusually busy. It is one of the first good ‘muhurats’ after a long hiatus and there is a wedding rush. The traffic is heavy and the going is slower than anticipated. We are sure that our host will forgive us for a minor delay – caused by ‘force majeure’,  after all. We reach our destination at 10 minutes past 8 pm and make our way to the function venue, mentally rehearsing a brief apology to our host for the delay.

As we approach the function hall, a photographer captures our picture for the record. The emptiness of the hall is striking. No host or hostess, no prospective bride or groom and a three-men band tuning their instruments for an impending performance. We spot an acquaintance and amble towards his table, sit down and order ourselves drinks. We seem to be the early birds. My wife’s raised eyebrow says many things all at once which assures me of a lively discussion on the way home.

The host breezes in after half an hour with an apology about how bad the traffic was and enquires if we are enjoying ourselves. “Sure” I say, clinking my single malt on the rocks. The crowd starts building up and reaches about a hundred heads by a quarter past nine. No sign yet of either the hostess or the couple-to-be. We seek permission of our host to leave and he insists that we stay for dinner. We have a quick bite, say our goodbyes and leave. The traffic has eased and the drizzle has subsided. We reach home discussing the evening and some interesting people we met.

This is but one occasion. I have been to a few others in the past. A young former colleague once invited us to his wedding at 8 pm. By the time we had eaten and were ready to leave, it was 11 pm. The ‘baraat’ was a kilometre away and more interested in dancing rather than trying to reach the venue. We met nobody from either the bride’s or groom’s side. The intriguing part was that nobody seemed to mind. We went home wondering if something was wrong with us.

In most parts of our country, entertaining guests is serious business. If you have invited guests, you better be present in full strength before the first one arrives, leave after the last one leaves and take personal care of them. The guests, on their part, will be most gracious to partake of your hospitality but will also not hesitate to tick you off for any lack of it. To my mind, that is how it must be. May sound old-fashioned but I would have it no other way.

For the future, I have decided that I will turn back and go home if the host is not present when I arrive. Not because my ego dictates it but because an important social lesson must be re-learnt before it is completely forgotten.

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