Barbecue Pit Needed.


I should forewarn you that this is as much about the trials and tribulations of holding a Hindu wedding in Singapore as it is about being a brown skinned girl in this country.
I’ve grown up here all my life. I’ve done the rounds of the Mangali and Apu nene jokes, I’ve learnt to shrug off people mispronouncing and worse, making fun of my two syllable name, occasionally while shaking their heads from side to side (really now Ms See? First name Phyllis, Really? ) I’ve mastered the art of not moving my facial muscles every time someone asks me if I speak Indian. And then patiently explaining myself each time I say I don’t speak Tamil.
And though I bemoan it every year, I’m used to Christmas decorations coming up before Deepavali is even over. So you’d think I would have known that it would not strike anybody that I would wear a sari at my wedding, not a dress, because I am a Hindu and I intend to have a *gasp* Hindu wedding.

Now just in case, despite several years of national education, field trips to Little India and racial harmony days where you wore your friend’s saris with your PE t- shirt and sport shoes, you still, shockingly know nothing about your Hindu friends, the Hindu wedding ceremony involves a ritual which is known as Saptapadi. Central to all Hindu rituals is also Agni, or fire. The hyperlinks are for yalls to educate yourselves.

I know now that I should have been armed with my nifty hipflask full of whiskey to drown the agony of wide-spread ignorance when going through the agonising task of finding a wedding venue. (Before I EVER do that again, I’d rather be the person who has the job of cleaning this leotard) But with the same optimism that Miley makes her fashion choices in the face of yeast infections, I thought an outdoor wedding might be nice.

I found out almost immediately from NParks that as a Hindu, I basically could not hold my wedding ceremony on their premises because they have a “no open fire policy”. Here are a few choice snippets from my exchange with them.

Hi,
I am looking to hold my Hindu wedding ceremony followed by a reception dinner at Hort Park. In this light, I would be considering booking out the MPH as well as the lawn for the event for a whole day. Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Regards, Pooja

Hi Pooja,
Thank you for your interest in having your event with us at Hort Park.Unfortunately, any type of open fire or any fire walking ritual is not permitted within the parks.
Kindly furnish us with the following pertinent details to check for you the availability.
Regards,
Nparks Admin Robot.

Dear Nparks Admin Robot,
Thanks for your response. As mentioned in my email, I’m looking to hold my wedding there so am not sure why a fire walking ritual would come into play. Although it might add an element of excitement.

I have noted the rules on open fires, and sent my feedback to NParks pertaining to this. The Hindu wedding ritual does involve a small contained fire which is easily disposed off after the ceremony and Hindu ceremonies have been held all around the world in indoor and outdoor spaces with no issue.

It is disappointing that in a supposedly religiously inclusive society, a large sector of the community is excluded from using the parks premises and I would urge NParks to reconsider this rule at least in indoor spaces like the multi purpose hall where plants are not at risk.
Regards,
Pooja

Obviously at this point, Nparks Admin Robot was out of her depth, so she redirected me to the Nparks Admin Megabot who had this to say

Hi Pooja,
Thank you for your interest to hold your wedding at HortPark.
Regrettably, due to the safety of all our park users, we do not allow open fire in our event spaces (including all indoor venues), and this is stated in our Parks Usage Terms and Conditions.

Our venues are heavily surrounded by trees and nature. Having the open fire may cause potential fire hazard.

HortPark has been hosting various Hindu weddings and many venue hirers have adhered to our park usage guidelines.We do seek your understanding on the matter.
NparksAdminMegabot.

Because that’s what happens boys and girls, everytime a Hindu gets married, a tree somewhere burns down. Here was my response in part.

Dear Nparks Admin Megabot,
I have contacted SCDF who have provided me with the attached information which clearly states that pertaining to the concern of fire safety in such religious ceremonies, there are no restrictions as long as certain guidelines are followed. In fact, in their email to me they stated that “SCDF temporary change of use is not required for wedding/funeral activities” I have attached the guideline information for your perusal.

Once again, I urge NParks to take this feedback and be a more culturally inclusive organisation that does not alienate a significant religious domination in Singapore from what should be public spaces open to all Singaporean regardless of their beliefs.

Regards,
Pooja

Of course since I used the words “religious” and “inclusive”, Nparks Megabot decided she would only now speak to me on the phone and not commit anything to print. The phone conversation effectively consisted of her repeating stock phrases designed to frustrate me into defeat, and it was at the point where she brightly suggested “why not get married in a temple hall???” where I lost my will to live and hung up. Listen MEGABOT, I KNOW I can get married in a temple, but I should not be FORCED OR LIMITED to getting married in a temple for sheer lack of other options because of a lack of consideration and inclusivity.

Similarly, all wedding packages in most hotels are geared towards Chinese weddings. ( Wedding packages need a WHOLE post for themselves) But listen, there’s going to be a full on riot if I make my Indian aunties drink something made from abalone and braised bamboo piths. So most places told me they could offer me a Continental menu and after a lot of prodding said they could maybe find me an Indian menu for an additional charge. I don’t know what shocks me more, serving a Steak at my Hindu wedding or the fact that they have never catered Indian food in all these years. I’m asking for some naans and Biryani here, not an exotic dish of lightly simmered locally sourced something covered with a compote of organic something else.

To be fair there were two or three venues that were really lovely and accommodating. Tanjong Beach Club here’s an Indian loving shout out to you.

In short, planning my Hindu wedding reminded me how it’s okay to be me, as long as I’m me in my designated spaces. I’m fully aware there will continue to be infuriating and potentially hilariously stupid responses to this issue such as the one a teacher friend of mine got from her students when telling them about my struggle to find a venue in the hopes of opening a discussion. In all earnesty, some of them suggested I get married around a barbecue pit.

On some level this is an enticing thought, (who wouldn’t want to have satay to munch on when the ceremony goes on too long?) But when I hear things like this, one part of me feels like there is little hope for a true acceptance of cultural diversity in our country. The other part of me would like to keep trying to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. In Indian.

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