RENT-A-GUEST

Death, Marriage, Get a Job

With a rich, glorious past, and a population that still largely lives in it, the state of Rajasthan is renowned for weddings that are so ostentatious, they border on vulgarity. Couples usually spend most of their lives saving up for their daughter's weddings - gilded, opulent, week-long celebrations that can easily cost over $100,000 (in a country where the annual per capita income is $1219) and include every single person the bride and groom's families know. After all, large weddings connote wealth and a high social status.

A fact that was not lost on Mr.Syed, who rounded up a group of people and formed the Best Guest Centre - the country's first group of wedding guests for rent. The Best Guest Centre has over 70 members - a good mix of students and professionals - who attend weddings pretending to be friends or acquaintances. The guests are divided into categories based on their looks and conversational abilities, with the best-looking category costing about 600 rupees ($12) an event. According to the founder, the group is usually hired to round off the numbers when the bride's guest list is smaller than the groom's or vice versa. The are usually briefed about the family before the event - apparently so well that they have never been caught.

As absurd as the practice may sound, it is not the only time that the average Rajasthani will rent guests. Because just like weddings, funerals too are measured by how many people attend. That's why, Rajasthan is home to the Rudaali, a group of professional mourners who wander from village to village, hiring themselves out to mourn at funerals. Always dressed in black, the Rudaali cry hysterically, screaming and wailing along with the family of the deceased. In this case, though, there are no secrets about them being hired performers, as they are usually brought to instigate the mourning, motivate people to cry, and get into hysterics if the wife of the deceased is unable or unwilling to do so, due to her social status.

 

Image: The Rudaali (source:designinindia)