By Ramjaane Mar. 26, 2018
Maharashtrians are frugal, Marwaris are shaukeen. A Maharashtrian’s wedding budget is a Marwari’s lehenga budget. I married a Marwari and though our cultures take us in two different directions, we’ve found a place to make things work. It’s called midway.
When it comes to looking for a life partner, you always look for similarities (in the age of dating apps we call it a match). You feel the more similar you and your partner are, the easier it will be to fall in love and to stay in love. Truth is, to borrow from Alain de Botton, that compatibility is the victory of love, not its precondition.
I realised this when I married a Marwari.
For instance, before our wedding, my in-laws wanted to gift me a watch. They were prepared to roll out the dough for a Rolex. Their faces dropped when I mentioned my favourite was Titan Edge. For the Marus a 12K watch isn’t a wedding gift, it’s a present fit for your 15th birthday.
I should have realised that that was just the beginning of the differences in the ideologies of the two communities. We Maharashtrians are service-oriented people, a nine-to-five community. We like to work. We take up jobs. We hate to take a loan, or at least are scared of taking one. We don’t like owing anyone money – be it a bank or a bua. Live within your means, we are told. Don’t own things you can’t afford. In fact, frugality goes beyond spending money. If you laugh too loud, it is frowned upon. If you dance and “enjoy”, it is frowned upon. You can’t be too bright, bold, garish, funny, fun. Too much of anything is a no-no.
The reason why a Maharashtrian is always convinced that money will be over, and a Maru is always sure there will always be more, may have to do with history.
A favourite reprimand among Maharashtrians is “shobha deta ka (is it becoming?)”. Becoming of who, exactly? Becoming of someone who is educated, has an unnecessary but harmless superiority complex, is God-fearing, cultured, and a Brahmin? Not to say others aren’t cultured – but Maharashtrians are perhaps the only community that judges itself more than it judges others.
Some of us want to be the Dairy Milk girl and run in gleeful abandon to celebrate a small, possibly insignificant achievement, and taste the swaad of zindagi. But no, things have to be measured. Expenses, happiness, expressiveness, love, the size of the family, anything.
In contrast, stand the Marwaris, the diametric opposite of what Maharashtrians are – despite the legendary stinginess that is associated with the community. They are more in number. They can be loud. They are unapologetic. All of this possibly because a Maharashtrian works for someone else and a Maru for himself. They can afford to have shauk (hobbies). And the shauk has no “mol (price)”. Marwaris know how to show you a good time. They have destination weddings, not weddings with deadlines in karyalays (marriage bureaus). They’ve stopped measuring – be it expenses, happiness, expressiveness, love, the size of the family, anything.
Marus have weddings that go on for days. Maharashtrians have weddings that barely make it past the hour mark. Maru buffets spread from one end of a ballroom to the other. Maharashtrians cap it at four sabzis and a dal. The logic: “Aaj kal koni khaat nahi.” (Nobody eats much nowadays). Marus believe in diamonds. Maharashtrians, in gold. (Even our gifts are an investment.) A Maharashtrian’s wedding budget is a Marwari’s lehenga budget.
To a Maru, a Maharashtrian is so frugal, he is cheap. To a Marathi, a Maru is such a spendthrift, he is irresponsible. “Why not spend when you have the money,” is how a Maru thinks. But then again, a Maharashtrian asks, “Why not save when you have the money?” See what I mean?
The thing is, a Maharashtrian always thinks he is poorer than he is; a Maru is convinced he is richer than he is. I know you think you think most of this is stereotyping, but there is reason why these stereotypes endure. The reason why a Maharashtrian is always convinced that money will be over, and a Maru is always sure there will always be more, may have to do with history. Maybe it’s because Marus have old wealth – wealth from the zamindari and opium trade of yore. Maharashtrians do not have wealth per se – at least most of us don’t. Even if we get wealthy, we continue living the way we always have. Moving out of your old, simple home into a posh one, is almost looked down upon: “Shinga Phutle” being the reprimand (Grown too big for your boots).
So where does love fit in all of this?
If your cultures take you in two drastically different directions, where do you meet on gifts, on spending, on weddings, on choices, on everything? My wife and I have found a place where marriages work. It’s called midway. We’ve decided to meet each other there every day.
If this means I wear my “cheap” 12k watch while she insists on a buffet for dinner, so be it.