Weddings in Pakistan are no different from those in India—grand, colourful affairs, lasting days and involving hundreds of guests. But the one-dish rule, which came some 15 years ago, works fine here.
It was in 1997, when Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the first time, that his government came up with the slogan, ‘One dish, One rule for everyone’. The Marriage (Prohibition of Wasteful Expenses) Ordinance allowed only one dish at the valima (a reception organised by the family of the bridegroom a couple of days after the wedding). The number of people fed was not to exceed 300. The objective of the ordinance, welcomed by the middle class, was to curb ostentatious expenditure and relieve the poor from the pressure of living up to irrational expectations. There was, of course, strong opposition from the elite, who argued the rule ran against well-established Pakistani traditions.
According to the ordinance, one dish strictly means one curry with roti, rice and salad. A fine of Rs 5 lakh is imposed on violators, besides a year’s imprisonment. Hundreds of owners of marriage halls, hotels and restaurants have been punished, especially in prosperous Punjab.
The implementation of the law is the responsibility of the city and district governments. The law clearly delineates the dos and don’ts of a wedding ceremony. It says “no person celebrating his, or the marriage of any other person, shall serve or allow anyone to serve more than one dish to persons participating in the marriage in a club, hotel, restaurant, wedding hall, community centre or any other place except hot and cold soft drinks”. However, the ordinance allowed serving of more than one dish within the house by members of the family celebrating the marriage or to house guests. Another section of the ordinance is directed at those running hotels, restaurants and marriage halls. “No person running a hotel, restaurant, wedding hall, community centre or club being the site of marriage ceremony or any caterer shall serve or allow anyone to serve more than one dish to the participants of the marriage ceremony other than hot and cold soft drinks”. The one dish law was re-enacted in 2000 by the Musharraf regime as the Marriage Functions Ordinance, 2000. It still remains in effect.
On the other hand, 200 dishes were served at a recent Mumbai wedding. A sampling...
Malmali Seekh Kabab, Reshmi Kabab, Bhatti Murgh, Tandoori Chicken, Classic Mutton Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Cubes of chicken, Hot and sour Vindaloo sauce, Fish Goa Curry, Sushi Bar, Wok Fried Chinese, Lettuce Wrap, Stir-fried Tiger Prawns with Garlic & Chilli flakes, Wasabi Prawns, Crispy Chilli Calamari with Black Pepper Corn, Mongolian Chilli Mutton. “Thai” Crab Cakes, Vegetable Spring Rolls “Thai Style”, Wok Fried Seared Vegetable in Oyster Sauce, Stuffed Mushroom with Soya Sauce, Steamed Dim Sums, Sesame fried Broccoli, Sesame-coated broccoli deep-fried, Crispy Lotus Stem, Corn Fritters with Siracha Sauce, Stir-fried water chestnuts, Zucchini Fritters, Laksa Penang, Miso with Sliced Shitake Mushrooms, Gado Gado, Raw Mango Tossed In A Spicy Sambal, Thai Papaya salad, Kim chi Bar, Crispy Lamb with Sesame, Chicken In Thai red curry, Sweet & Sour Pomfret “Singapore style”, Molasses-glazed baby spare ribs, Crispy Pak Choy Leaves, Sauteed Vegetables, Mushrooms, Hand-Picked Fresh Vegetables, Pad Thai and noodles made at site, Peking Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Pan-grilled Basa Fillet, Hand-Picked Fresh Green Vegetables Stir-Fried, Spicy Braised Eggplant, Sauteed Asparagus in Hoi sin Sauce, Sweet & Sour Cabbage Rolls, Noodle Bar, Fresh Miso yaki prawns, Steamed Edmami...it goes on.
Ginger Chili Mushrooms, Okonomiyaki, Crispy Pak Choy Leaves, Nasi Goreng chicken, Sweet & Sour Pomelo, Chicken a la Kiev Stuffed with Asparagus, Chicken Steaks Stuffed with Ham and Cheese, Fillet of “sole” Fish Almandine, Fire Roasted Lamb Chop, Pan-grilled Basa Fillet, Corn fed chicken, Mushroom in white wine sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Saffron & Asparagus Paella, Legumes Jardini, Mashed Creamed Potatoes, Cottage Cheese Pinwheels, Hot Garlic Bread, Fresh Fruit Bar, Hot Chocolate Gateaux With nougat , Banana Toffee, Date Pancakes Deep fried, Sugar free Carrot & Walnut Gateaux, Sugar free Assorted Cheese cakes, Cinnamon Flavored Stewed Fruits, Fresh Coconut Ice cream with Nougat Crunch, Gelato Bar, Samosa, Paneer Ka Soola, Pakoda, Salad Bar, Pickles, Mango Chutney And Mint Sauce, Mixed Vegetable Raita, Paneer Makhani, Palak Paneer, Jasmine Tea, Mushroom Do Piaza, Broccoli And Raisin Kofta, Yogurt, Turmeric And Cardamom Powder. Gobi, Gajar, Snow Peas Aloo Kali Mirch, Black Peppercorn. Chana Masala, Aloo Jeera, Vegetarian Malai Kofta, Aloo Gobi Masala, Bindi Do Piaza, Yellow Dal Tadka, Dal Makhani, Peas Pulao, Kashmiri Pulao, Kesari Pulao, Plain Naan, Garlic Naan, Butter Naan, Tandoori Roti, Gulab Jamun, Rasmalai, Fresh Fruit Platter