Monsoon weddings in extra time
Covid-19 and the nationwide lockdown to combat it have meant different things to different Indian sportspersons. For some it was a welcome break, for others an avoidable speed breaker; for some it gave hope of stretching careers, for others it forced a re-evaluation. But there were also those who used the unscheduled break to get married.
Tennis pro Rutuja Bhosale and Maharashtra cricketer Swapnil Gugale went from no talk of getting hitched a few months ago to tying the knot in a two-day ceremony on August 7 and 8. Archers Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das brought forward their special day and got married on June 30 making full use of the Tokyo Olympics being deferred. India men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh utilised his break from the national camp to finalise preparation for his wedding in December with Illi Saddique. On Saturday, India cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal announced his engagement to Dhanashree Verma.
It was to make the best use of unexpected free time that got Pune’s Bhosale and Gugale to formalise their four-year relationship. Gugale, 29, popped the question to the 24-year-old Bhosale a month into the lockdown knowing that professional sport would take a while to resume.
“Marriage wasn’t even on our minds this year,” said Bhosale. “In late April, he asked me how I thought this year would go. We just had a brief conversation about a possible wedding. I spoke to my dad and he agreed. After that, the families met and it all escalated very quickly from there.”
The initial plan was for dates in June or July but a spike in Covid-19 cases and another lockdown in Pune forced a rethink. “Nothing seemed to be improving, so we were like, ‘let’s just do a small wedding in August and finish it off’,” said Bhosale.
Kumari (25) and Das (28), India’s top recurve archers, tied the knot in a low-key ceremony at Morabadi, Ranchi on June 30. They had got engaged in December 2018 and had planned to get married after the Olympics, originally scheduled in July this year.
“Initially, we thought we would get married after the 2020 Olympics because we did not want it to affect our training and competitions. That is why we had waited so long after the engagement. But now the Olympics are postponed. So, we decided to go ahead with the ceremony once the nationwide lockdown ended,” said Das who is ranked 22nd in the world.
For Bhosale and Gugale, the upside was being involved in every aspect of their wedding: from selecting the venue, choosing the trousseau to supervising floral decorations. It’s a luxury that India’s second-highest ranked doubles tennis player believes would not have been possible in a normal world given her weeks on the road playing tournaments around the world.
“Every girl has a set of ideas about how she wants her wedding to be. After our decision to get married, I spent the first three weeks just deciding what I was going to wear, where I wanted to get married and all of that stuff. I then put my head into literally everything: from what kind of flowers I wanted to the decoration to everything else,” said Bhosale.
Also involved in planning was Singh. Hockey India allowing players to go home in June, after being stuck in Bengaluru from March, meant the 28-year-old midfielder could return to Mithapur, a village in Punjab’s Jalandhar district. The six-week break at home allowed Singh to focus on preparations for his marriage on December 2 with his Malaysian fiancé.
“I was busy but I enjoyed settling the necessities for the big day,” Singh said. “Planning for the big day can be overwhelming at times and I consider myself very lucky to have the luxury to do pretty much everything on the to-do list by myself. I was happy to contribute to it with the help of Illi and my mother.”
It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill wedding prep. Singh and his mother were in Mithapur while Saddique was in Malaysia and through a series of daily video calls, they coordinated details of the wedding and reception in Jalandhar. “Everything was done virtually except for the shopping part,” said Singh.
Quarantined at SAI Bengaluru after testing positive for Covid-19 on returning to the camp last week, Singh said: “We’ve pretty much finalised everything: from the tiniest details to the venue. Hockey will always be my main priority. If I was busy with camps or tournaments I wouldn’t have had the time to get involved in the preparations,” he said.
Singh is aware that the fluctuating Covid-19 situation means they may have to make do with a small family affair. “All we can do right now is plan and pray that things will ease by then. If not, we will proceed with a smaller wedding and focus on what’s truly important with family members and close friends only,” said Singh.
Not one with dreams of a big fat Indian wedding anyway, Bhosale said she didn’t mind the ceiling of 50 guests --- as mandated by the central government guidelines for weddings— at The Corinthians Resort and Club over the weekend.
Tying the knot amid a pandemic brings its own set of challenges with it—masks and sanitizers were probably as important as the wedding rituals and, of course, the food. “Obviously, there was a little bit of fear even in my family. Whenever we have stepped out for shopping and other things, it was a little difficult with the situation. Even the guests were scared, and everyone had their sets of questions. But since it is family they were there to celebrate my day,” said Bhosale.