Tag Archive | "Hinduism"

The Recession: No Match For Fusion Weddings

By Sarah Laing

The date had been carefully chosen by an astrologer for optimal good fortune. The bride wore red. The groom arrived on a horse. There were 700 guests, wined, dined and entertained over four days of ceremonies, parties and meals of table-groaning proportions. The final bill would top six figures, footed by the bride’s father.

For Preeti Nanvaan, this is a “pretty typical wedding”. But in an age where a CNN Money poll reports the average American wedding has 100 guests and costs $25,000, Nanvaan is clearly no ordinary wedding planner.

That’s because Nanvaan is referring to a typical Indian wedding, an adjective that makes all the difference when it comes to nuptial size and scale.

“Indian weddings are all about the formality, the color and the pageantry. Back in India, it would have been an open invitation to the whole village, so in America they’re actually pretty scaled back,” said Nanvaan.

Preeti Nanvaan, 33, has been working with New York’s South Asian brides for the past seven years. Born in America, she grew up in a traditional Indian home. She says this was the best training she could have had before founding her company, Preeti Exclusive Creations.

“Indian brides today are trying to find that happy medium – keeping traditions they value but also having the modern wedding of their dreams,” said Nanvaan.

Achieving that old world / new world balance is Nanvaan’s specialty, what she calls “East meets West fusion”. To achieve this, Nanvaan focuses on the bride and groom’s personalities, and works with them to find innovative twists on cherished customs.

Namrata Shah was one such bride. Working with Nanvaan, Shah and her now-husband had a very traditional temple ceremony, followed by a reception at Cipriani on Wall St, which included cigar rollers and a desert bar. Shah always knew she wanted a wedding inspired by the over-the-top sparkle and spectacle of a Bollywood musical, and strove to combine contemporary glamour with a strong grounding in Indian culture. She found Nanvaan invaluable in making this “modern-day fairytale” a reality.

“I really loved when Preeti made us walk over and made sure we got some cotton candy. If she had not done that, I’m not sure I would have gotten to enjoy my own candy bar!” said Shah.

For Nanvaan, these kind of moments that define her job. She makes sure vendors arrive on time, and deliver what they promised. She stuffs envelopes with invitations, books hotel rooms and herds guests from event to event. She even soothes the raging Bridezilla, often playing amateur therapist.

“I had one bride who was really upset her parents weren’t attending because she was marrying outside of her culture. We had long conversations at 11 o’clock at night – I was her counselor,” said Nanvaan.

Nanvaan charges according to the level of involvement required of her and her staff. A late-stage entry into the process, where the couple merely requires logistical help on the day costs roughly $3,000. The number rises according to guest count and the intricacy of the events planned. Nanvaan has delivered several final invoices over $50,000.

Wedding planning is a seasonal business, lasting from March to October, during which Nanvaan can have a wedding every weekend. An average year of work nets earns her about $70,000.

The recession has affected Nanvaan’s business, although the importance of weddings in Indian culture has helped cushion her bottom line.

“Weddings are certainly getting smaller, and there are more laid off brides who have the time to plan,” said Nanvaan. “People consider the DJ and the caterer to be essentials. A wedding planner is a luxury.”

For some brides, like Debbie Barreto, a wedding planner’s services remain essential.

Barreto can remember the feeling of panic she felt when she attended a wedding expo, overwhelmed by all the options. Barreto had the special challenge: she was Punjabi, her fiancé was Puerto Rican.

Enter Nanvaan, and her specialization in optimizing compromise. Her key to nuptial bliss is negotiating cultural common ground.

For Barreto’s wedding, this meant lots of alcohol, and great food – think arroz con pollo served alongside biryani. And of course, red accents galore, a color considered lucky in both cultures.

“The dance floor at this wedding was a real party – it went from salsa to bangarah, merengue to Bollywood,” recalls Nanvaan.

The wedding industry in New York’s South Asian community is seemingly as convivial. Nanvaan regularly lunches with her major competitors, and refers clients their way often. Priyanka Prakash, of Fifth Avenue Events, a relative newbie, speaks highly of planners like Nanvaan “at the top of their game”.

Maybe Preeti Nanvaan’s success lies once again in the details. When she plans a wedding, the service doesn’t end with the honeymoon send off.

“I always wish all my couples a happy anniversary, every year, whether it’s a card or a text,” said Nanvaan.




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The Torch on the Radio: Faith in the City

On October 11th, the New York Torch’s staff did a webcast for Columbia Radio News. We focused on religion in New York’s ethnic communities; the show was called Faith in the City. The show includes several stories from our staff tackling issues such as the recent Liberian election, the conflict between faith and sexuality, and the cost of religion in a down economy.

You can find each segment on our site, or stream the entire thing here:
Faith In The City Webcast

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A Bangladeshi-American Non Profit Gathers the Voices of South Asian Minorities

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When Pakistan and India split in 1947, and when Bangladesh and Pakistan split in 1971, millions of refugees were driven out of the new countries into India. Many others were killed. Decades later, a Bangladeshi-American nonprofit in Long Island is trying to document the losses in their home country through the voices of the survivors. John Light reports.


John Light: Bangladesh’s violent road to nationhood particularly devastated women and religious minorities. Statistics for those killed and raped are unreliable, but most everyone believes that the toll was in the millions. Shuvo Dastidar is the executive director of a nonprofit called the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project – or ISPAD, for short. Dastidar’s a first-generation Bangladeshi American. He hopes to build public memory of the killings in Bangladesh through video interviews with survivors.

Shuvo Dastidar: “The legacy of it is something that, I guess with every single interview that we manage to do able to do and get online, then we’re building a legacy of it.”

Light: The problem Dastidar faces is that his interview subjects don’t want to discuss their violent past.

Dastidar: “If you have a story about how you were forced to watch your parents raped in front of you, these are memories that you manage not to talk about, and even forget, for the duration of your life. And then you’re coming up at the end of your life – is this something that you want to bring up and talk about.”

Light: Shuvo Dastidar and his father Sachi conduct the interviews in a small office at SUNY Old Westbury. Sachi remembers living as a refugee, and his presence helps subjects open up. So far, the Dastidars have interviewed 40-some Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Indians who are living in America. They have also inspired other Bangladeshi- and Indian-Americans to return to South Asia and document their families’ histories. Pratip Dasgupta is one of them. As far as Dasgupta knew, the last of his family had left Bangladesh as refugees in 1947. But a few years ago, he discovered he had a cousin whose family had stayed behind. So he booked a plane ticket to Bangladesh and met his cousin for an interview. 

Pratip Dasgupta: “He gave me the whole story of his family. Which is my family too. We felt very close when we first met, after fifty-odd years.”

Light: “Dasgupta was proud to see that his cousin was now a successful banker, but the cousin recalled in detail how his brother was beheaded by the Pakistani army in 1971. Dasgupta has also observed that minorities are not yet safe in Bangladesh, especially around the holidays.”

Dasgupta: “Every now and then I see on the Internet that temples have been destroyed, deities have been desecrated. These things are still happening.”

Light: This past week, Hindu Bangladeshis celebrated Durga Puja, their most important holiday. And in Bangladesh, tens of thousands of police officers were guarding Hindu mandirs to protect the statues of deities from attack. John Light for Faith in the City.

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