Guest Column: In Covid times, weddings can be simple, chilled out and joyful too
The Covid-19 lockdown restrictions could not dampen the enthusiasm of my son and daughter-in-law for the wedding. After all, their bosom friend was trying the knot with her long time beau. Dressed in ethnic party wear, they were all set to attend the wedding. In amazement, I watched them open their laptop, log into their Zoom link, and voila! There they were: Attending the marriage online with friends from different parts of the country and across the world.
Online wedding! No, that is a misnomer. It was real wedding complete with all the rituals of jaimala (garlanding) and phere (when the couple circumambulate the sacred fire). The only difference was that the guests were present ‘virtually’ via video conferencing.
It was all about technology doing wonders, creating a virtual reality when physical presence was not possible in unprecedented times.
I sat in disbelief to watch the wedding sans band, baaja and baarat, the big fat Indian wedding reduced to a simple ceremony with just a few people around. No grandeur, no flashy decorations, no big pandals, no array of food stalls serving a variety of cuisines, it was just a simple wedding with rituals performed solemnly.
Covid-19 has cast its shadow on everything and jeopardised big events. Plans to tie knots have got tangled up hopelessly as the pandemic shows no signs of abating, so weddings are simpler with the scale of celebrations downsized drastically. Fortunately, they are lighter on the pocket of the host too.
Lockdown restrictions have meant significantly pruned lists of just a 100 guests, a number much smaller in comparison to the huge gatherings in the days before coronavirus. I recall the reaction of my son’s Australian colleague when he came to know that we were expecting around 300 to 400 guests for my son’s wedding, of course during the pre-coronavirus days. “Do you actually know so many people?” he asked.
Well! It was not easy to explain to a foreigner that guests in India include not just the immediate family and extended family but also neighbours, colleagues and former colleagues and sometimes even acquaintances.
Weddings in India are not supposed to be intimate family affairs, but big social gatherings offering opportunities to people to flaunt their riches and connections.
But then, two people coming together in holy matrimony is a special once-in-a-lifetime occasion, meant to be celebrated with friends and relatives. Virtual participation of guests may be the new norm due to abnormal circumstances, but it can never replicate the feel of physical participation; in no way replace the real experience, even though weddings don’t have to be crowded affairs.
One invisible virus has shown us how a wedding can be a chilled out affair with limited guests in an intimate gathering and spark off joy.
Yes, such events can be simple and joyful too.
The author is a retired associate professor of MCMDAV College in Chandigarh