Sri Lankan pre-sex parties (weddings) are extravagant affairs as long as you don’t compare them to Indian ones. Their splashiness cloaks the critical role weddings and marriages in third world societies. December – January period is one of Sri Lanka’s two wedding”seasons” (the other is in July – August). A perfect time to contemplate the significance marriage and its festivities in a feudal society such as Sri Lanka.
Marriages are the arteries of social networks. They are vital to surviving the eternal catastrophe we allow politicians to inflict on us. Weddings are the life force of that network – pumping fresh blood into newly formed lattices of relationships. As with most third world societies, ties of family are the most powerful networking links. Consequently a marriage in Sri Lanka extends your connections in unexpected ways. It enables you to find beds in overcrowded hospitals or secure the right specialist during a critical operation. You can get a hit man off your tail, escape a frivolous traffic ticket or acquire curfew passes at short notice (so bloody handy during the late 80s).
Another utility of these networks is insider information. Critical in a society where any other kind of info is harmfully irrelevant. The highest quality of such information consists of getting access to people with authority to override red tape. Preferably without have to “tip” a clerk so a file can move between desks at a government department.
The social utility of Sri Lankan weddings is to provide a intensive networking environment, sowing the seed of future “helpful” relationships. Such events are essential to rejuvenate ties among network nodes scattered across continents. Weddings are the few occasions these scattered network nodes meet face to face. Particularly during this December – January period which coincides with holiday seasons of the first world. Most of the networking actually takes place in in the run up to the wedding. The happy chaos of running around, hanging out, the hen and stag parties create plenty of bonding/”catching up” opportunities. Specially for the younger set.
Yes we have Skype and email and texting and facebook. Yet these cannot realise the invaluable “chance” meetings and information exchanges that take place in the face to face gurgling curry of a Sri Lankan wedding. The technology merely assists the logistics of keeping in touch.
Wedding are universally occasions for speed dating and other mating activities. Introductions and meetings are arranged for sons and daughters flying in from afar. Married female relatives exchange data about prospectives with terrifying efficiency. Sons and daughters for sale are put out for show in their wedding finery. I have seen my fair share of proposal photos of “prospects” dressed up for a wedding. Or worse in some ridiculously cruel bridesmaid outfit. Its a meat market all right but you know that already so don’t look so shocked.
By mid January it will be over in the quiet misery of airport drop offs. The hotels will cool down a bit. The wedding industry will take a break. Life will bleed on.