March-15, Tarun’s heart sank as he crossed the arrival terminal of the Calicut International Airport. Things got a bit messy after the pandemic outbreak. He is working as a Graphic Designer in an advertising firm in Kuwait which had most of its clients from Europe. The company was going through a tough phase due to economic slow-down and his salary was cut by one third. His marriage was fixed on 12th April and authorities have strictly demanded 14 days of home quarantine from him.
Tarun had to rethink his plan to renovate his home, which includes decorating the courtyard with new interlock bricks and painting the home. He had a plan to buy a new sedan car worth 12 Lakh Rupees in exchange for his old Wagon R. Additionally, marriage expenses like buying a wedding dress, booking an Auditorium for the wedding reception, food catering, wedding video including pre-wedding photoshoot – Save The Date, are yet to come. He was almost thunderstruck by calculating the estimated cost which crossed Rupees 20 lakhs. Unfortunately, a few months back, he had already assigned a contractor to do the home renovations (but the work was not started yet) and a sales representative (his neighbour) for purchasing the car. Money wasn’t a problem for him at that time, but now the situation had changed, and to make the matters worse, he is not even sure whether he could sustain his present job; totally a catch-22 situation.
Next day, the speculating wizards of that village started circulating a rumor that our protagonist is infected with Corona. The contractor called Tarun’s father and informed him that they will start the work once his son’s quarantine period got over. He tried to back-off from the contract. Tarun’s father tried to convince him, but all his attempts went in vain. In a heated argument between both of them, his father cancelled the contract. The same happened with the Sales Representative who was reluctant enough to go there and give a demonstration of the new car models. As the whole family was on tenterhooks Tarun took his cell-phone and called his cousin brother Deepu, a silent boozer to join him for a drink. In a drowsy voice, Deepu replied that he has been in Goa since last week as a part of Holi celebrations and will return home within 2 days.
Nimisha, a small-town engineering graduate, is the bride who is the only daughter of a local restaurant owner. Her father’s present financial condition is almost akin to that of Tarun’s. The Restaurant business has been dull since the Covid-19 outbreak. He had been saving a small amount monthly from his modest income in the past 20 years foreseeing his daughter’s marriage. He planned to purchase 50 sovereigns of gold as a wedding gift for his daughter in the first week of April and to meet the remaining expenses, he thought of taking a loan from a bank. All of a sudden Corona cases started surging in our state and the state government imposed a complete lockdown for one week on March 23rd, followed by an extension of nation-wide lockdown for 21 more days by the central government from the next day onwards.
A big relief came when the Covid-19 result of Tarun was tested negative. By that time the state government had already imposed certain strict rules by restricting the number of people attending marriage ceremonies to 10. Both the families had no other options and decided to bring 5 members each from their side. But, due to the ongoing pandemic outbreak their family members were hesitant towards attending the wedding. Finally, on the wedding day, they were 7 in total from both sides which included the bride, groom, both their parents and a priest who is the neighbour of the bride. After completing some simple rituals, they were declared as husband and wife by the priest and after having the traditional vegetarian lunch in a banana leaf, they returned back to the groom’s house in the old Wagon R.
As the Thali Chain was sponsored by his mom, Tarun almost didn’t have any additional expense, altogether the expense amount was under 2000 Rupees. As the textile shops were closed during the lockdown, the bride and groom came in traditional Kerala outfits which they wore during some Onam celebrations in the previous years. Just when Tarun was thinking about the materialistic obsession and extravagance in Indian weddings, he got a call from his Kuwait office informing him that they have got a new client from Canada and the management has given him provision to work from home in the coming months until the pandemic gets controlled. Enjoying the peace and tranquility around him, he changed his WhatsApp status to “Home sweet/safe home” but was a bit puzzled to see the name of a WhatsApp group operated by his cousin Deepu being changed from “C2H5OH – The Spiritual Venom” to “H2O – The Liquid Gold“.