How I Attended My Brother's Wedding in India Virtually. Your guide on attending weddings during Covid-19 Pandemic.

28 August 2020

An unusual post on my blog, but very relevant in the times we are going through. This Coronavirus pandemic. These cruel times when families can’t re-unite; celebrations are bland and restricted; friends can’t attend baby showers; kids can’t go to zoo/daycare/park. Who would have imagined this slew of events that 2020 brought along?

If there’s one thing I’m certain of during this pandemic, it’s that it affects us all, in one way or another. Some face health issues, others with their mental health, some are in a financial crunch, others have cancelled holidays/plans/life events. This is what makes it a pandemic. It affects us all.

The positive impact of this is that technological advancements have balanced out the negatives in a huge huge way. I attended my only brother's wedding a few days ago, virtually. It was a kick in the gut! It was an emotional time. I had been on an emotional rollercoaster for many weeks leading up to the event. Despite watching the whole event live, glued to my phone screen at all odd hours, I admit it wasn’t the same. That human connection was missing. However, thanks to technology, I was lucky to be part of their day. I could participate in the action in some way. I am truly grateful for that.

I am also very proud of how I handled it. Considering the fact that this is the wedding I have waited for since I knew what weddings were. Going back home (Punjab) from NZ for my brothers' wedding was a given, whenever they chose to schedule it. I was to make it home, summers or winters. Leave approved from work or not. Until it happened in the midst of a pandemic.


I am choosing to write about my experience because -

a. I am proud of how I handled it, physically and emotionally

b. This will help some of you going through similar struggles and disappointment over cancelled events/plans.

c. I wrote about my own wedding, then my sisters, then my best friend's, over on this blog. The most significant days of my life. My bother’s big day must get featured too.

How I handled it?

I admit in the days leading up to it, I wasn’t doing well emotionally. Despite taking solace with the fact that I have absolutely no control over this disease and the world affairs, I did feel low. This sadness and disappointment over the high expectations I had of this life event.

I talked about this overwhelming feeling of sadness on my Instagram story and my best friend reached out to enquire. I poured my heart out and told her how I was going to miss out on dressing up and enjoying the celebrations in India. And then she blurted out- but you can still dress up on the day and celebrate where you are. That was my lightbulb moment. And from that moment on, I did not feel the pain of missing out. In my head, I started planning out the day, the things I could do to make it special and the outfits I’d wear. It changed my entire mental game. I still had no control over this pandemic but I had control over what I felt and how I dealt with it. I did cry a few times on his wedding day but hey! that's allowed. I'm human.




The Paath Ceremony

The first event in the string of wedding events was the Sikh religious ceremony. My family back home brought over the holy book ‘Guru Granth Sahib Ji’ and organised a Sukhmani Sahib Baani Paath. To seek Guru's blessings before the events ensued. This event was a part of my own wedding and my sisters wedding too.

The timing of this event back home was their morning hours, which coincided well with my early finish from work (due to level 3 lockdown coming into force again in Auckland that afternoon- August 12, 2020). I dressed up in a traditional Punjabi suit, the same I wore for my own wedding paath, with my mother’s hand-embroidered Phulkari dupatta. My most prized possession.

I made Karra Parshad/Halwa/Flour Pudding, the holy preparation that is offered to Babaji and relished by all. Aiza helped me prepare it and we enjoyed this way more than I expected. While my mum made it for the event back home. I made it in Auckland. All the while, I was on my phone live, watching the event. Bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter, thanks to all the sugar and ghee consumed.


Sangeet

The second event was the Sangeet. The most fun event during a North Indian wedding, that involves dancing the night away. Now the family back home have a restriction on gatherings as well so with a limited number of people, they did the best they could. Weddings aren't the same for them either.

Despite my assertion that I must get ready for each event, I forgot that some events will be at odd times since NZ is 7 hours ahead of Punjab (India). I slept at 8 pm that night and was woken up by a call from my sister at 2:30 am. The event was on! Leaving Aiza to sleep with my husband, I woke up, went to another room, glued on the phone. I had no desire, no energy to put on a tight outfit and makeup at that witching hour.

Me and two of my cousin sisters in Sydney joined in (who also missed out on the wedding and were incredibly bummed about it). We all made a group call on WhatsApp and ensued on a running commentary of the event as it unfolded on our phone screens. I admit I am the worst at keeping connected with friends and family, so this was a very rare event, where we bonded over our shared disappointment. We watched the whole event on WhatsApp from 2:30 am to 6 am and had a mighty good time. The people on the phone in India couldn’t really hear us in loud music, but we talked to each other and had some great chats while watching a live event. Priceless!

6 am I did my Yoga and got ready for the day, beaming with energy.








Groom getting ready for his big day





The Wedding

The main day of the wedding, I was prepared. I had my family heirloom outfit ready (29 years old, pure silk green suit salwar), my jewellery and footwear sorted. At times, I felt really stupid for putting on a full face of makeup with nowhere to go, but I called it my therapy. I was allowed to celebrate and the family here supported it. I dressed up Aiza, I dressed myself up. As my brother and family got ready for the wedding venue, I was on call, fully decked up, beaming and happy.

As it was the weekend (Sunday), I and husband decided to cook something special to celebrate the event to come. While the family was fast asleep in India (7 hours behind in timezone), I made jalebis and pakoras. Husband made a cake with a heart on it.

We recorded a video message that my brother was to forward to the photographer to play at the wedding for everyone to see. My cousin sisters in Sydney sent their message too.

My mother and family knew we were to watch the whole event live so they made sure their phones had internet, were fully charged and they had chargers on them.

During the wedding, I and my cousin sisters were on WhatsApp video call the entire time, from about 3:30 pm NZT to 2:30 am (11 hours!). I took wee breaks as I fed and put Aiza to bed. These coincided with the downtimes they had during the wedding. The photoshoots, mealtimes and all.

My husband minded Aiza in bed so I could watch the entire wedding (she was well-fed). When Aiza woke up for her feed at 3 am, the wedding was done and I was exhausted; ready for bed and due for a busy day at work ahead (Monday).

During the wedding, our phone callers kept changing. We would call another person if the first had their phone battery flat or were busy. Switching between people and annoying them all (jk), we managed to watch the entire event.

As they danced at the wedding, I danced in my garage and spare room, on camera. It was bliss. It was a bit odd at 1 am; I was alone but I felt connected. I'll post these videos on my Instagram Stories today for you to watch.

Our videos messages at the event were played on the big screen and the whole family got emotional. Our mothers cried. They knew our pain. They missed us too.

And this is how I celebrated my brother's wedding. Eating, dressing up, dancing- the essence of Indian weddings.





Some words of advice for someone who can't travel to attend an event

- Please know that your feelings of sadness and disappointment are valid. Do what you have to do to make yourself feel better. Call it your therapy.

-But also know that what we are going through, this pandemic, is an extraordinary event. This is the stuff we will be talking to our kids and their kids about. Kids we lived through a pandemic! These are not ordinary circumstances, hence we cannot enjoy weddings/events like ordinary. We have no choice but to accept this reality. The sooner we accept, the sooner we start looking for alternative ways of making it work.

- Accept that we have no control over this disease but we control how we handle and respond to it.

- Technology is the answer. Hangouts and movie sessions on a Zoom call are a norm. Weddings on Whatsapp. Virtual fashion shows and collection reveals on Instagram. Technology is the answer to this pandemic's woes. You could send recorded messages, live videos, choreograph a dance even to be played at event.

- If planning to attend a wedding virtually, plan it ahead, make an occasion out of it, dress up, cook up a storm (or order-in if you prefer) and have a drink or two if that's what celebration means to you (I'm a teetollaer).

- Charge your phone well. Ask family members to carry chargers too. Make it known that you will be on call all day so they can arrange someone to show you around.

- Have contact numbers for multiple people. Best yet, arrange the photographer to livestream the wedding. My brother asked his photographer repeatedly but the guy didn't cooperate. This would have saved us a lot of time and hassle trying to connect calls.

- Take lots of screenshots and screen recordings. Those are your memories.  

- Lastly, Smile and be grateful. You are healthy and merry. The world is dealing with a lot right now so our problems must be someone's dream life. If alive and well, our family will get together one day and celebrate all that's been missed.


Praying every day for the world to heal
Nishu

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