‘To what do I owe this special treatment?’ Tahir asked, as soon as I extended a fork with a piece of paw-paw on it to feed him.
‘To the fact that I never fed you as part of the wedding ceremony when we got married.’ I explained, smiling up at him as I resumed eating my fruit breakfast.
‘Yes that’s true. But was it even a part of the marital rites then? I thought this whole cake-cutting and feeding of spouse business was a new thing?’ He replied, taking a chair on our dining table.
‘Well it was part of the celebrations among white people and in other cultures but it’s only recently been adopted by our people. Now it’s such an integral part of weddings that society weddings just don’t seem complete without it.’ I said.
‘Yes, and it means more expenses too since those cakes don’t seem like they come cheap.’ Tahir observed, serving himself some paw-paw on a side plate.
‘That’s true, but do you know what strikes me anytime I see newly-weds cutting their cakes and feeding each-other? I always look at their radiant faces and say it is worth it. Like the last two wedding dinners I attended, the brides and grooms looked so beautiful and happy. You can tell they are looking forward to a bright future. At such times I couldn’t help forgiving parents for their extravagance. I may not approve of it, but if it makes the young ones happy, I somehow find all that ostentation forgivable.’ I declared.
‘I hate to be the devil’s advocate, but I really do worry that one day something can go wrong that will mar those happily married faces. This is why I still believe parents should invest less in weddings and more in marriages.’ He said, philosophically.
‘Really, and how is that possible?’ I asked.
‘Well it is, actually. The simple trick is to do a simple wedding, make the celebrations minimal and not ostentatious, then pack all the money saved from an otherwise society wedding and give it to the bride and groom as a gift. That would really give them a comfortable start in life. And if they were wise enough to invest it well, they might reap from it for years to come.’ He explained.
‘That sounds sensible but it will take away all the shine and glitter off weddings as we know them today.’ I countered.
‘Yes it might but it will also give us stronger marriages that could stand the test of time and weather any storm. Why do you think marriages crash so easily today and everywhere we go people are talking about increasing divorce rates? It is because we pay more attention to impressing others through grandiose weddings than in giving the young couple the financial aid they will need to comfortably live together. Look at the disturbing show my nephew Aliyu and his wife did during the last Ramadan fast. What do you think caused that? The very issue we are now talking about. I mean you were at their lavish society wedding last year, were you not? Would you have believed it if someone had told you that one year later they will be at each other’s throats because of lack of money?’ He asked, rhetorically.
‘Aliyu and Samiya’s case was particularly disturbing.’ I said agreeing with him. ‘For a while I was disappointed in them both. There he was shouting that between doing the Ramadan shopping and buying baby diapers, he had nothing else to buy her Sallah clothes and there she was saying that he never gave her clothes even when she had her baby two months ago, so if he didn’t buy her Sallah clothes she will move back home. And it all seemed too trivial. Why would they be so mad at each other over the simple matter of sallah clothes?’ I wondered aloud.
‘Because there was no money to buy it. It’s all a matter of simple arithmetic, if my brother and his wife had thought of sparing some of the expenses they incurred getting their first son married, they would have aided him with it to make it easier for him to live his first few years of marriage. But they spared no expense and the boy is now left struggling to raise a family with the little that he earns as a graduate-employee. Married to a wife who doesn’t work and doesn’t see beyond the fact that his parents brought her numerous suitcases and gave her an expensive wedding reception, she thinks he should bring out money and indulge her every time she wanted. Otherwise, why would a lady who had several suitcase-load of clothes last year still seek more clothes for baby’s delivery and for sallah? It is very likely that she hasn’t even sewn half of those clothes. Now what you saw in their case is a typical example of some of the reasons that lead to early divorce.’ Tahir concluded.
‘I’m glad we intervened the way we did, I by giving her that Super Wax wrapper and you by giving him money to go and handle their Sallah expenses, otherwise things would have escalated.’ I said.
‘Yes they would have.’ he concurred. ‘This is why our parents did the aajo, I’m sure. You remember the aajo don’t you? When we were young it was a common practice to do the event in order to raise funds and help newlyweds settle into their new life comfortably. Of course it wasn’t done for us when we married, I think at that point in time people already felt it was an archaic tradition but it is full of wisdom, if you asked me.’ He concluded.
‘The aajo is back actually. Just that it returned in the same ostentatious way things are done today. The one I saw recently included the bride’s and groom’s family striving to outdo each other in donating cars to the couple. By the time nine cars were realized, the groom’s uncle rose and handed the key to an Abuja apartment, causing a tie in the donations from each side.’ I recalled.
‘Can you believe it?’ Tahir asked incredulously. ‘Nine cars for two young people, why do we always spoil an act of goodwill by our desire to show off? The whole idea behind the aajo is to do a ceremonial fundraising for the newly-weds, aid them with something to start their new life together but not to give them something they can’t handle. What will these young people do with nine cars now? I mean an Abuja apartment seems reasonable, it will always come in handy, whether they use it or they rent it out, but nine cars are simply outrageous.’ He lamented.
‘Well, they can always sell them too and invest the money into something beneficial. If I were to advise them, I would say let them pick a car each and then keep a third car in case of any eventuality. They should sell the six and share the money between them or invest it in something beneficial. But they must at least dedicate between 10 to 20 percent of the proceeds to charity. In these days of internally displaced people and too many poverty-stricken folks, they should spare some amount to give to those for whom finding even what to eat is a great challenge.’ I advocated.
‘Yes, that’s a good suggestion and you should try to forward it to them, if you can. But note that in other cases, lack of money is the root cause of all marital problems and this is why marriages just don’t last.’ He emphasized.
‘In other words, there is ‘no romance without finance’ or so says the American singer.’ I joked, rising up to take our fruits plates to the kitchen.