India's First (NOT) Big, Fat Zoom Video Call Wedding

India's First (NOT) Big, Fat Zoom Video Call Wedding
Raachyeta Sharma

When things started going haywire at Ross Geller’s wedding with Emily in American sitcom Friends Season 04, Monica asked Ross how long had he been planning the wedding for. The answer that came naturally to Ross was that he’d been planning his London wedding for a few months. Emily, on the other, Monica replied, had been planning her wedding since she was a little girl.

However cis-heterosexual and patriarchy-promoting that sounds (this episode had come out in 1998), for a lot of us, especially in India, that’s still not obviously false. Ever since I was young, as an Indian upper-middle-class Hindu kid, I knew I would have a big, fat Indian wedding. Probably one at a palace! After at least six pre-wedding ceremonies—a Haldi, a Mehendi, a cocktail party, some Teen-Patti, and many, many more events, my groom would arrive in a decked-up white car to marry me.

Until about a month and a half ago, Raachyeta Sharma from Mumbai was also churning similar dreams for her destination wedding to the love of her life, Satyajit Roy, in Sri Lanka. The wedding was supposed to take place on 26 April this year and had been in the works since January. Raachyeta, an erstwhile-banker, social entrepreneur, writer, and publisher, and Satyajit ‘OnionKnight’ Roy who is also known as the ‘Badshah of Birista’, were business partners and parents to their two initiatives, The Open Library Project and Publishing Infinity, before they decided to become husband-wife too. In fact, it was on one of the recordings of their podcast ‘Paperback by The Open Library Project’ when Satyajit proposed to Raachyeta, making it a very ‘digital proposal’. Satyajit, who says that it seems like they’ve been together for lifetimes, went on to announce that their special guest for the day was Raachyeta herself and pulled out the ring while reciting a poem to her. And oh, she said yes!

However, what’s a good wedding story without a twist?

So, simultaneous to their wedding plans was brewing another plan—that of sealing all international and inter-state borders and locking citizens inside their homes all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As India went into a nationwide lockdown on 24 March, it also pretty much became evident that the Sri Lanka wedding was not a close possibility anymore. “Zen yet fierce” Raachyeta, as Satyajit calls her, decided that a court marriage on 08 April was a way out.

The novel Coronavirus has surely turned our life upside down, and not so unexpectedly, it added another twist to Raachyeta’s and Satyajit’s story.

The court arrangement also had to be cancelled.

Any other couple would have probably been disheartened. The easiest option could have been to reschedule the wedding. Not for Satyajit and Raachyeta though. More than them, not and never for their parents and Satyajit’s brothers.

So, this is where the main action unfurled.

Raachyeta and Satyajit, along with their parents and Satyajit’s brothers, got together and organised what was India’s first Zoom call wedding on 26 April. The fun part is that thee couple got to know about this two days before the wedding. Special permissions and preparations were made to have a pundit called over (safely) and over 150 guests were given an hour’s notice to attend Raachyeta’s and Satyajit’s wedding over Zoom call.

Raachyeta told Homegrown that they realised that none of the things that people think are absolutely mandatory for an Indian wedding to happen was actually required, and they still managed to have a grand enough wedding, certainly, with some modifications here and there. The baaraat consisting Satyajit, his mother, his brothers, and his two dogs climbed up a floor to greet the bride. Dupattas were repurposed as varmala. (garlands). Mehendi, Haldi, everything was done with fewer people but was still just as much fun. The Punjabi choorha for the Punjabi bride was replaced with lac bangles. Desi home-made halwa replaced the fancy combination mithais and Gargantuan laddoos. As for bidaai, they took a round of the building after haveing feasted on a perfectly fine home-cooked meal of chana-puri and halwa. Since there were no photographers, photos were taken over the phone, and voila! they are happily married now.

What all of this goes on to show, says Raachyeta, that in reality, we need so much lesser than we think we do. All our lives, we keep chasing the next big car, the next destination for a fancy holiday, and the next big fashion launch. Happiness, on the other hand, lies only in the little moments. The Sri Lanka wedding would have been nice, but to Raachyeta, this was the perfect wedding. The best part, her sister, who would have not been able to make it to the wedding had it not happened digitally, was also able to attend it. Raachyeta and Satyajit shared the video with Homegrown where 150 guests had joined them from all over the world over Zoom call. I kid you not, it was a wonderful experience to watch their wedding. While some of the guests were in their traditional attire throwing flower petals at the couple, some were just happily amazed and overwhelmed to have made it. Friends, being friends, were jostling over the video call, talking to each other, pulling the couple’s leg, and cheering them. Come to think of it, when we get rid of the extravagant paraphernalia, what remains is the quintessential, and that’s exactly what happened at Raachyeta’s and Satyajit’s wedding. Raachyeta says that she’s proud of the fact that they were able to adapt themselves to the situation, keep what mattered to them close, and still make the best of it.

Raachyeta is currently living with her husband, but she does plan to go back to her parents’ house once the lockdown in Mumbai is lifted for her Pag Phera (return to parents’ house after the wedding). On being asked how does she see this impacting her relationship, she gushed saying that facing these struggles together has only made her relationship with her husband stronger and deeper. This has made them believe that no matter what happens, they will get through everything together with all their love.

After all, all of humankind’s history is the story of resistance and adaptability. Only, with a lot of love.

Homegrown wishes Raachyeta and Satyajit a happy married life!

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