Panj-sau-ik phada deo, fer playtaan chukna vyee
Shagun jodi nu pa deo, pher glassy chukna vyee
from Jaspal Bhatti's 'Jija Ji'
“Shagun, five-and-one, 51,” announced the tombola guy, the ignorant fellow still trapped in the good, old 20th century when the shagun used to be a double-digit affair. In today’s high-denomination world, Rs 251 is considered embarrassingly low, Rs 501 is middle rung, and anything above Rs 1,000 is grand. Punjab sarkar, far richer than all of us but still cash-strapped, offers Rs 15,000, but only to underprivileged brides, preferably genuine.
The slabs, however, change drastically when the occasions involve the spouse’s near and dear ones. Expect anything from a tongue-lashing to a black-and-blue bashing if you dare to tell your better half that Rs 10,000 are enough for her dear brother’s marriage. Though the latter is priceless to her, she might touch the six-figure mark as a ‘small token’ of her love for your saaley sahib.
As the shagun is mostly about money, honey, can fraud be far behind? My dad never worked for the CBI, but he played the sleuth soon after I tied the knot. Reason: he found half-a-dozen envelopes unmarked and empty. Relying more on his photographic memory than on the wedding video, he zeroed in on about 10 suspects. His probe report concluded that at least four had not even bothered to hand over cashless envelopes (what restored his faith in humanity was an unmarked lifafa with money inside, put there by some absent-minded guest).
Having just returned hastily from a ladies sangeet, where I paid panj-sau-ik but failed to stomach those oily-n-spicy pakoras, I’m in the loo right now, compiling a manual of shagun do’s and don’ts. Here’s a sneak peek:
* Always hand over the ‘entry fee’ to the host rather than the hostess. Uncleji’s three-piece suit has plenty of pockets where he can keep the stuff, while the overdressed and overmade-up Auntyji has only her hands and handbag. Don’t trouble her at all as she already has a lot on her mind and on her body too.
* Make sure the envelope is well labelled, in case you are putting some cash inside. Resist the temptation of using flowery language (nobody reads it). Take the eco-friendly route: write with a pencil instead of a pen. This will enable the beneficiary to erase the text and recycle the lifafa (the paperless option of direct bank transfer can be considered, if mutually agreed upon).
* Slip in crisp-and-fresh notes; soiled ones show you in a dirty light. Avoid as far as possible the Rs 100 denomination — it’s so LS (low standard, not Lok Sabha). Don’t let fake currency slip through. Otherwise, the victim won’t forgive you for the rest of his life, and in the afterlife as well.
* Never seal the envelope airtight, as if it contains a top-secret thing meant to be opened only in the court. Give some breathing space to Goddess Lakshmi, or else the hapless recipient might end up with a torn note and a foul mood.
* The shagun amount is directly proportional to the cost of the buffet. It is sinful gluttony to use up six plates for a paltry payment of Rs 251. But if you are parting with a hefty sum, go the whole hog and don’t hesitate from giving table company even to the catering boys. Keep downing the pegs till the alcohol goes out of stock or the shamiana comes down, whichever is earlier. email@example.com