Learning Indian tradition from the New York Times

How many times have we heard people say things like “This younger generation just does not know Indian tradition.”

I just realized they are right.? There is so much I don’t know about Indian traditions.? For instance, I was just reading this New York Times article on how people are photoshopping their vacation and wedding photos.? They are having fun adding absent friends, subtracting ex-husbands and providing everyone with virtual face lifts, liposuction and hair restoration.

Then I read a quote from “Mary Warner Marien, an art history professor at Syracuse University and the author of ?Photography: A Cultural History.?”

In India, she said, it is a tradition to cut-and-paste head shots of absent family members into wedding photographs as a gesture of respect and inclusion. ?Everyone understands that it?s not a trick,? she said. ?That?s the nature of the photograph. It?s a Western sense of reality that what is in front of the lens has to be true.?

See how ignorant I am?? I have never heard of this tradition. I am now learning of it from the New York Times.? It’s too late and too many years after my wedding to follow this glorious tradition.? See how I have failed again to follow Indian customs? 😦

Next time I visit India, I am going to take a look at some old wedding photo albums of my parents, aunts and uncles.?? Do you think I will find that a long dead great-aunt came back from the grave to attend my uncle’s? wedding??? That would be a gesture of respect, right?


31 thoughts on “Learning Indian tradition from the New York Times

  1. Now now why did we even invite all those people when we could have easily photoshopped them in 🙂

    Lekhni: You could have saved a ton of money if only you had followed Indian tradition! 😛

  2. You have company. I am as ignorant as you are! Either that or they are reinventing Indian tradition in ways that are unheard of to Indians like us! :p

    Lekhni: These are the “new” traditions, you think? Sounds a bit of an oxymoron, but what do I know? The NYT oracle has spoken! 😉

  3. I think they want to test if there are any wide awake Indian readers for their website. To help them customize and offer more Indian content. It is a booby trap and you fell for it 🙂 but seriously, after reading this I went “er… what was that?”

    Lekhni: It’s true, I was half asleep when I read that article, but it jolted me awake faster than extra strength caffeine 😛

  4. Now why didn’t we think of it before? Imagine how much fathers of the bride can save! If someone asked as to why he/she was uninvited, then just show them a pic! Ppl attend 20-30 weddings during the season, so whose gonna remm?

    Breelianth eye saye

    Lekhni: Absolutely brilliant! In fact, if we do this to everyone (why discriminate?), then we wouldn’t have to invite anyone at all to weddings! 😉

  5. Should I thank you or NYT for letting me know about this “glorious” Indian tradition?

    Lekhni: I hope you are not going to stop with a mere thanks. What about that other ancient tradition of guru dakshina? I accept all credit cards, fyi 😛

  6. I called up my mom and complained of not being in their wedding album. Last heard she was airbrushing me in a silk veshti sitting on the oonjal! I’d recommend all computer-friendly moms to do the same…

    Lekhni: Wouldn’t that, er, create complications?
    “Who’s this guy who looks exactly like the bridegroom? Is it his brother?”
    “No, it’s his son!”.

    Grandmas will go into shock. Aunties will faint. Others will fan themselves (the ones that are not already fanning themselves because of the power cut).

    Nope, I wouldn’t really recommend it 😛

  7. and here i thought i needed to hire a photographer for my wedding… all i need is old albums!

    Lekhni: No photographer needed. But a friendly neighborhood photoshopper may be helpful 😛

  8. Also enlightening is the fact that traditions take so little time to develop (esp in a 5000 yr old culture) ‘coz Photoshop was invented only in 1988!

    Lekhni: Yes, it’s amazing how quickly you can get a tradition (and then maybe extend it back in time). For instance, given that we now have a great tradition of blogging, I’d like to apply for a grant to research if Sanjaya in the Mahabharata was actually following the ancient tradition of live blogging the war 😛

  9. Is there any way of letting them know what a bunch of fools they are?
    Or may be we are fools and ignorant. 😦

    Lekhni: Well, the NYT would have received my pingback, if anyone bothers to check these things.

  10. LOL. Thanks for making me laugh. Or should I thank the NYT? On a serious note I dont think there is any such tradition. If it is, then it is a WTF tradition on which we all need to have a hearty laugh on a get on with our jobs. I thought NYT was doing some serious business there, but guess not so much.

    Lekhni: The quote was just as WTF as the entire article was 🙂 You are right, it belonged in the comic section!

  11. Possible scenario? 🙂
    Relative to father-of-the-bride: “Why didnt you invite me for your daughter’s wedding, eh?”
    FOTB: “But I did! Dont you remember attending? See, here’s a photo of you at the wedding feast… and in this beautiful blue saree at the reception.”
    Relative: “When did I become a woman???”

    Lekhni: Person looking at album over Relative’s shoulder: “OMG, you are a cross-dresser!”
    (Backs away from Relative).

  12. Tradition? NYT used the word tradition? hmmmmmm… how ignorant can we get, not knowing our own culture! *rolling eyes* 🙂

    Lekhni: Exactly! I am so embarrassed 😛

  13. heck, you can do away with the grooms AND brides if so required… can you imagine how useful it would be for GC et al?

    incidentally, dont know about photos but on wedding cards there IS a custom where the head of the family issues the invitation ( even if deceased). I found it quite spooky when i read one such card.

    Lekhni: That IS spooky! It’s bad enough when deceased heads of families watch the wedding from their huge, garlanded pictures in the altar. But that’s at least somewhat understandable. But why do they want to get a piece of all the action? What will they want to do next – have a bite of the wedding feast? 😛

  14. Tsk tsk. This is all because you left India and came to live in America – you have become American and forgotten all our glorious Indian traditions.

    Lekhni: Yes, it’s very sad. I am mortified 😦 I hope you at least kept up our ancient tradition and photoshopped all your relatives in 😉

  15. Wow, that’d be great. Even the bride and the groom don’t have to sit in the heat and do all the rituals! Just photoshop the rituals also, I say!

    Lekhni: Priests are so scarce these days, you are right, we should start by photoshopping the priest 🙂

  16. Oh great, I am sending a mail to my friend and ask him to insert my head in his wedding photos. That way, he (and his wife) won’t remind me daily that I wasn’t present at the occasion. Thanks to NYT 🙂

    Lekhni: Exactly! Tell them it’s part of our ancient traditions 🙂

  17. I wonder why we ever lost this tradition? If my mother had taught me well I would have eloped to Bali for my wedding and photoshopped in all the relatives later…

    Lekhni: That would have been the perfect example of the traditional Indian wedding 😉

  18. If I remember correctly, Vedas and Mahabharat do mention certain instances of photo-shopping. After all, our civilization had mastered science and technology. 😉

    Lekhni: I am sure we will soon see an email forward that tells us all the instances of photoshopping in the Mahabharat. Krishna’s life, for instance, must have been extensively photoshopped. The Vishwaroopam? Galaxy pictures cut-pasted on Krishna’s mouth. The Kalinga Nardan? Snake cut-pasted below Krishna’s foot…

    I am sure there are many more instances. I will wait for that email to tell me what they are 😉

  19. What??? I haven’t heard about such a tradition.
    So Indians are pretty smart and invented photoshop before the company did.

    Lekhni: I am sure it is described in great detail in the Atharva veda 😉

  20. Lekhni

    I am so grateful to have heard of this ‘tradition’ from NYT via you. Now I can photo-shop my dead mother into all my photos taken since age 4 🙂 It will be respectful to her memory I imagine. It might upset some living relatives though but who cares? We have a tradition – definitely – of murda-parasti (worshipping the dead) so we do not really have to care what living people think or feel.

    Lekhni: On the other hand, photoshopping your mother in (with appropriate aura/ halo) just shows that she was present in spirit, if not in form (maybe you can blur the edges of her form). Who knows, maybe she was present at all important occasions of your life?

  21. Actually, I’ve heard of it happening although I wouldn’t call it a ‘tradition’. Ah, what Indian photographers can do, I am yet to see it in west! Ye just need to get hold of a wedding album and glory would be yours. I got married in India, had pictures done there … took a lot out of me to convince them to NOT make me emerge out of a lotus flower as Pati floats on a leaf towards me. :/

    Lekhni: I loved the part about emerging from a lotus 🙂 What, you passed up on the chance? How could you? 😉 I hope you at least agreed to the wedding video with the movie song as background music (or classical music, if you like) and photos of the bride and bridegroom with PowerPoint animation? 😉

  22. I have lotsa such pics in our old albums here 😀 😀 😀 (must say it looks wierd…but its amusing!)

    Lekhni: I suspect they make them purposely amusing sp we can look back at old photos with a smile 😉

  23. My parents and I have long had an agreement that if I ever decided to get married I would not attend the actual wedding – I have no wish to meet the extended family/parents’ friends unless there’s no alternative. It’s comforting to know that Unfortunate Groom and myself can later be photoshopped into the wedding pictures.

    Lekhni: I am sure it’s possible. I know at least one instance of an engagement ceremony happening with neither the bride nor bridegroom present. From there, it’s only a little while before one’s presence at own’s own wedding becomes optional. Videoconferencing? Skype? Will save so much in travel expenses and reduce one’s carbon footprint too 😀

  24. Ah, and what fun that people can be photoshopped out as well! The page isn’t showing up in NYT but I wonder if this benefit was mentioned!

    Lekhni: I just clicked on the NY Times link in my post and it does take you to the article. In any case, the article is called “I was there. Just ask Photoshop”, if you want to search in NYT archives.

    And yes, the article did mention people photoshopping out their exes 🙂

  25. I dunno what ‘ll be the fate of the generations to come if our present state is this! God save Indian culture from evaporating. If people take up bringing up their child as a priority, equal to that of their bread-earning job, it would be a delight as we can see the future of India shining.

    Lekhni: You fear that Indian culture will “evaporate”. Indian culture is liquid, you think? 😛 You are sure it’s not a solid, and won’t melt, or sublimate, or be gaseous and condense or freeze? This needs serious research. What state (of matter) is Indian culture in? 😉

  26. I have never heard of this! Now I have to worry about whether people will think I have photo-shopped my wedding photos…because well almost everyone attended! 🙂

    Lekhni: Well, you can tell them that the photos are proof that you did not photoshop out anyone 😉

  27. Hmmm, wonder why my avatar didn’t show up.

    WordPress.org (the self-hosted variety) does not show avatars created in wordpress.com. They should get around to remedying that someday 😦 Meanwhile, you can sign up for a gravatar (it’s free and only takes a couple of minutes), and your avatar will show in all self hosted blogs 🙂

  28. Why just Photoshop parents in the marriage photos, we Indians also send NYT restaurant guides to the guests, so that they may enjoy themselves. We also include some helpful links of NYT foodie column, so that guests feel completely pampared and taken care of. Hyderabadi Biryani anyone? Burp!

    Lekhni: That is a good idea! One can also cut-paste pictures of food, so the guests will see that they enjoyed some great gourmet food at the wedding 😉

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