Continuing in the same vein as yesterday, the Man from Madras Musings remembers cash gifts– most of them of a value that probably just about covered the cost of meals for two. That mention of cash gifts also reminds the Man from Madras Musings of, no, not politics, but of the practice of a notebook being opened at each wedding for meticulously listing what each person gave by way of cash. This would in some communities be read out to the general public over a broadcasting system. Those who gave niggardly amounts would writhe in agony, as the value of their cash gift was made known to all. MMM in all his innocence assumed that the notebook was maintained to tally receipts. But that it had a second and more sinister purpose was revealed much later to him. It served as an aide memoire for the bride and groom’s families as to who gave what. That in turn helped in deciding what amounts needed to be given in reciprocation as and when an invite came from the other side. Some families had long memories and the same amounts used to be given chiefly in retaliation, generation after generation, with not a care about inflation. MMM has known of guests who gave crossed cheques for rupees fifteen! By the time it travelled between bank accounts, it would have cost everyone involved a pretty penny, barring the giver.

The notebook was usually entrusted to a sharp-eyed cousin who was also good at mathematics. As MMM failed on both accounts, he was never ordered to report for duty. At one wedding none of the sharp-eyed cousins were available and having lightly passed MMM over, the family zeroed in on newly married American aunt. It was the considered view of the some of the senior ladies that it would give HER something to do and help HER understand our customs. The aunt took the notebook with enthusiasm, mounted the stage and seated herself behind the newly weds. She collected the cash but noting down our many syllabled, tongue-twisting names was an impossible task. By the time she had noted one name several others had gone by. So practical American that she was, she kept collecting the cash and skipping the names.

After the flood had abated to an extent, she set about tallying each guest with the cash they had given. This was done by going around the crowd, seeking out familiar faces and then having fixed them with a steady smile, asking them in a stentorian voice as to how much they had given. Several guests who had given nothing began to beat a hasty retreat at the approach of the aunt. It was a laugh riot for the younger and irreverent ones such as MMM but the senior members of the family were not amused. The notebook was quickly taken away from the aunt and handed over to a sharp-eyed cousin who tallied books of accounts for a living.

Today most of all this is gone. Wedding gifts are usually flowers, and here too there are some ugly bouquets. Many invites sternly forbid gifts. But when the Man from Madras Musings received one that said Mr & Mrs XYZ request your presents on the occasion of the marriage of …etc, it made him wonder if it was a typographical error or a Freudian slip.