Yesterday I attended a family function in the house of an uncle-in-law.
Spending 3 hours there made me wonder at the management skills of the hosts.
Multi-tasking was the first thing I noticed. They were juggling different tasks expertly, without any sign of confusion. Whether it be receiving guests, escorting them to seating place, introducing them to other friends and relatives, seeing them off, taking care of their dinner and the list goes on.
Protocol was the next thing I noticed. Apart from receiving and seeing off guests, they were ensuring that no one goes unattended. It was a bhajan sandhya (an evening of religious songs) and they were taking care that each one gets involved in coming to stage and becoming a part of celebrations, and is not left out from formal ceremonies like arti (prayers).
Cash & logistics Management People were coming at different times. Hostess was receiving gifts/cash from them. The gift packets were taken in lots to a safe, locked place so that in the confusion no one steals anything. Hostess was keeping track of who gave what, as the return gift had to be given accordingly, apart from relation factor.
Time management They ensured that water, cold drinks, snacks are served at right time, and guests are at ease. The dinner was to be ready right on dot, when the programme ends, so that it is not cold. They had to be on the exit door so that no one leaves without dinner. Drums/dhols and cake cutting ceremony started just after the programme ended. Just-in-time, you say!!
Planning All this could not have been possible without pre-planning. They booked the ceremony hall, performers, caterers, tent-house, parking space, personal invites, advance payment and what not.
And mind you, it was all done by non-professionals, not an event management agency. They did all rigmarole- choosing date, time and venue, exploring the market, negotiating the rate, closing the deal, on-ground management, post-event analysis.
And I recalled a function at my home. It was really chaotic. Organising beddings for relatives who came few days in advance, their meals, bus-booking, venue-hunting, cash control, ceremonial purchases, return gifts, band party, dhol/drum, clothing, jewellery, invitation card printing and distribution, personal follow-up. Indian marriages are really a bundle of activities. And in a middle class family like ours, there is no system of having wedding planners. We are foolish enough to do it all ourselves. And in this marriage, I actually forgot to bring the suitcase containing gifts for the bride, and one person had to specially go back from mid-way to bring that.
There are drunken relatives and friends to complicate the things. Then some relatives use the marriage invite to bring back and discuss all pending complaints against you- why you did not come to that marriage, why you did not give this and that, why you cheated us on property, why you left parents to be taken care of by us and blahblah. Then eunuchs mostly come and demand their charges as is the tradition here. In some cases, the last minute differences between families of bride and groom aggravate the tensions.
In some marriages, there is shortage of food, and some people have to make do with whatever is left. That is always a pain, because the host family will never be allowed to forget this shortage by constant reminders in every family function.
Management school, anybody.