It was December 2019, and I remember starting to feel a bit rushed with a zillion things on my to-do list, endless phone calls being made to another continent in a different time zone. “Just a few more months and we’re no more going to be on video calls,” Christopher said to me as I looked visibly restless, counting down days to our wedding.
January is too soon, no offs in February, March will be Great Lent (Great Lent is one of the most significant Lents in the Christian faith as we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, known as Good Friday, and rejoice his resurrection on the third day, which is celebrated as Easter Sunday.) Usually, no weddings take place during the Lenten period, Easter was on April 12, so we had to choose a date after Easter.
April 16 it was. All exuberant over how we wanted the wedding – outfits, venue, time, functions – the planning began for the big day. What used to be calls between me and Chris adjusting our schedules around each other soon became family con-calls over weekends.
Wearing a gown for my wedding wasn’t particularly No. 1 on my list until I immigrated to New York with my family in 2018. I silently thanked my stars though for being on this side of the planet, the US, as I had the liberty to choose the gown of my liking – except that I didn’t. As much as it has become a trend to wear a gown in India for weddings, there are terms and conditions to it. I found myself juggling with a whole set of words like “well-covered” and “decent” which held different connotations for people from different eras.
But I only wanted two things – a gown that was pure white and had embellishments. A few trips to the City, an hour-and-a-half journey by subway from where I stay in Long Island, and my eyes landed on a particularly simple sequined gown with just a little bit of shimmer on one side of the outfit. It fitted perfectly with my short list of pre-requisites and I was elated to work on it with my exceptionally patient seamstress. “Cheryl,” she introduced herself to me. We bonded well from the first day. Hailing from Jamaica, during my fittings, she and I found a common likeness for a lot of things, especially spicy Indian food. I was stunned to realize how much she knew about Indian mythology. She told me she worshipped Lord Shiva. “The next time you come in, your dress should be ready to be packed and flown to India,” she said to me after half a dozen of fitting sessions over two months. Only the “next time” was going to be an indefinite one.
We had booked our tickets to India way back in November. Over the next few months, there were scattered news articles about a certain unknown virus that emerged in Wuhan. Quite nonchalantly, Chris and I got busy zeroing in on a honeymoon destination. After diving into the options of a bunch of places, we decided to tour Turkey. My plan was to fly to India a fortnight before the wedding and stay until three weeks after the wedding before I returned to New York in May.
It was mid-February when news feeds started getting flooded with the sudden eruption of the Coronovirus. It had entered Europe and by March, a lockdown was announced in a few countries. In a quandary over our travel plans, now just a month away, there were tense discussions, both on and off calls. Cards sent out, venue booked, photographer hired, everything was being ticked off the list, only to realise we may have to untick all of them. Little did I know it was going to be an incessant wait while I waited with bated breath to walk down the aisle the next month.
Then, our wedding was called off indefinitely. In less than two weeks, a national lockdown was announced in India, all flights were cancelled. In April, my mother and father tested positive for Covid in Long Island. What I had been reading about in news articles was happening to my own people. It was painful and scary, but they survived.
Then, in September, the government allowed small-scale weddings with a cap of 50 guests. What was supposed to be a lavish affair with 900-plus guests dropped to 200 invites as soon as the government relaxed the cap. “Doesn’t India have Covid restrictions? Are you allowed to have big weddings?” my colleague asked me, appalled at the 200-headcount, unaware of the big fat Indian wedding concept.
We finally booked our tickets for January just a week before our travel. The excruciating wait of eight months had ended.
We happily tied the knot on January 17, 2021. And now we are back to being miles apart in different countries until we meet again.
(Raija Susan Panicker works for a pharmaceutical company in New York.)
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