When 24-year-old Amar Nath and 23-year-old Safna decided to get married, they were determined to keep any form of religious symbolism out of their inter-faith wedding. But even by that standard the venue they finally settled on for their celebration was an unusual one.
For this Kerala couple, who met and fell in love while studying at the Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, their alma mater has always remained an important landmark in their life. So, when a friend jokingly suggested that the campus that was witness to their blossoming love should also be the venue for their wedding, Amar Nath and Safna could only think, “Why not?”
On December 2, two days after they formally registered their marriage under the Special Marriages Act, the duo returned to Maharaja's College for a simple ceremony in the presence of their friends and family.
"We initially meant to just hang out at the college, along with our batch mates and family. But then Safna was insistent that I tie a chain around her neck and so we walked into a jewellery store the day before to buy a chain," Amar Nath tells TNM over phone.
Safna, a Muslim hailing from Kochi, and Amar Nath, a Hindu hailing from Chottanikkara in Ernakulam, have been in a relationship for the past five years. While Amar Nath studied Malayalam literature from 2011 to 2014, Safna joined the college in 2012 to study History.
Some of the best moments in their lives were spent on campus, says Amar Nath, recalling a few highlights. “I remember the night of February 13, 2013, when we all stayed on campus after a drama competition. We (Maharajas College) won the first prize after 15 years. So me and safna stayed there with our friends. we sat around the malakha kulam till around two in the morning, and that was one of the most wonderful moments ever in our life,” he says.
A giant tree next to which Amar Nath and Safna spent many of their college days together stood witness to their ceremony on Saturday.
"We had named this tree 'Shashi tree', after one of our friends. The name stuck even after our batch graduated three years ago. The tree is now a sort of a landmark in the college, and especially for us, who would hang out next to it," says Amar Nath, who is a video editor based in Bengaluru.
He adds that there could not have been a more appropriate location for their wedding. "As far as I am concerned, vidya (knowledge) is god and an educational institution is a temple. There's no better place than the college to serve as the venue for our wedding. Moreover, that's where we first met and fell in love. The nostalgia that comes with this is priceless," he says.
An old photograph from their college days
Safna says that for anyone who studied at Maharaja's, the campus holds a lot of importance in their lives, and their ties to it remain even many years later.
"We used to tell each other that we must go back to the college after our wedding, to meet everyone and to just be in the campus where we met. The idea of getting married at the college was almost spontaneous," she adds.
Amar Nath says that their families and friends were also excited by the idea.
“The only public event that we had planned for a wedding reception on the evening of December 2. When we told our respective families that we wanted to go back to our college to get married, they were supportive to say the least. They were more excited hearing the novel idea," Amar Nath says.
But not everyone seems to have taken the news of their unique wedding well. As news of their innovative wedding venue spread on social media, the couple also received some unwanted attention thanks to people objecting to their inter-faith marriage.
"I tied a chain around Safna’s neck since she insisted on it. But some people on social media saw in it an RSS agenda of tying a thaali – a Hindu ritual. Honestly, there was nothing religious about it at all!" Amar Nath says.