The latest celebrity flex of a big fat Indian wedding that consumes the lifetime fortune of an average middle-class person has given birth to the hope of “dreamy perfect weddings” to the gullible youth. However, the shadowed reality is that there are many who cannot afford to wed themselves, let alone do it in style. The situation is gruesome for brides who fall below the poverty line or have lost their fathers, who are often the sole earning member of the family. It is more depressing for the bride’s family when they are expected to bear the entire wedding cost.
While, in the face of other world-problems, this might seem far less important an issue. However, if you think about it, a wedding is likely to be one of the most special occasions in your lifetime. It is supposed to be your day, you know. The happiest one at that. It is not a set of rituals, but a dream for most. A dream not everyone can fulfil. Such dreams of a “perfect wedding” are hatched by Mr Mahesh Savani, a Surat-based businessman. He has married off approximately 3000 brides so far and supported their wedding as well as the initial expenses of starting a comfortable home.
Born in a well-to-do Gujarat family in Saurashtra’s Ranparada village, Mr Mahesh has nothing but gratitude for his fortune. He proudly credits his father as the real hero who started off as a humble diamond labourer earning Rs 125 per month and saved every penny for years to buy himself a machine to start off his own diamond business in 1978. He laid the foundation of the empire that Mahesh and his siblings expanded further. They clocked in approximately Rs 150 crores annual turnover in 2004.
“My father is the real man behind all that we have. We are just carrying forward and adding numbers. His life story is very inspiring for me.”
Upon graduating as a Civil engineer, Mahesh joined his father’s business. He learnt the tricks of the trade from his father. Later, with his own skills, he was able to take their business global with branches in Belgium and Hong kong.
“In 1990 I became part of the business. We started manufacturing more diamonds. My father used to produce 35,000 pieces per month but I started manufacturing three lakh pieces per month”.
Everything was a smooth sail till a storm hit their business in 2003 when Mahesh Savani found himself in a legal turmoil regarding diamond imports. His family became his biggest support system.
“Those four years, 2003-2007, were very frustrating. I was depressed and shifted to Mumbai in 2004, then for three years to Belgium. My family was supportive and that gave me courage.”
After acquittal from all the cases, he returned to Surat and shifted his base from diamonds to realty. Turns out, it was a successful match. He found success in no time. Today he is one of the pioneers of the real estate world in India with his business valued over Rs 1000 crores. His siblings, children, and members of the extended family have also joined him in his business.
“We do this business under P.P Savani Group and build housing, townships, schools, universities and hospitals in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan,” says Mahesh.
In 2008, a close aide of Mahesh, Mr Ishwarbhai died without being able to marry off his two daughters. Mr Mahesh assumed the responsibility of their father and married them off, spending about Rs 10 lakhs for their wedding. He not only bear the expenses but literally parented the brides by participating in every ritual a bride’s father is supposed to follow, including the sacred Kanyadaan. This wedding made him realise that just like these two young women, there would be many brides who could not afford a wedding due to the absence of their fathers, or the lack of money. Hence, he came up with the idea of mass weddings. Since 2010 he has been conducting a mass wedding program.
Initially, he passed circulars in various hospitals to make a list of the women who did not have a father or were unable to marry because of poverty. He shortlisted about 300 names for his first of many mass weddings. The selection process since then has evolved.
“Now there are thousands of forms and we have to choose,” says Mahesh. “We make sure those without parents get on the list, then we give them a catalogue of make-up and clothes to choose from, and I pay for everything”.
What’s heartwarming about his charity is that he does not limit himself to finances. He literally becomes the father of every bride, takes part in all the rituals, and showers them with affection and care. Caste, religion, or colour of the bride is no criteria in his mass weddings.
About 250-300 people from all walks of life get married each year under his guidance. Each wedding costs about Rs 4-5 lakhs. Along with the wedding expenses, Mr Mahesh Savani also gives each bride Rs 2 lakhs to set up a comfortable home after marriage. In fact, he says that he is a proud father of 3000 daughters.
The charity of Mr Mahesh Savani is not restricted to weddings. He also bears the expenses of about 3500 children across various schools in Surat who have lost their fathers or are forced to drop out of school due to poor financial circumstances. He makes sure that they get to study at least till class 12 without having to worry about the fees.
Examples of people with enormous wealth are many. However, Mr Mahesh Savani’s wealth is worth rooting for. His wealth fulfils the dreams and desires of thousands of brides and students. While people might quantify his wealth in terms of assets or liabilities, I personally think his gratitude, humility, and selfless charity is what makes him richer than most fortunate wealthy people. His choice to give back is what makes him wealthy. When asked about his charity, he simply has one thing to say,
“This work gives me real pleasure.”