The Chinnar check-post and forest officials in Kerala’s Idukki district had an unusual task at hand on Sunday morning. It was not to check any illegal vehicles between Kerala and Tamil Nadu or swing into rescue operations to save a wild animal, but to set up a wedding mandapam (stage), sanitise garlands, keep hand sanitisers ready and to conduct an interstate wedding. Robinson, a native of Coimbatore, and Priyanka, a resident of Munnar in Idukki were ready to get hitched.
As the officials waited at the Chinnar check-post, the groom, Robinson, wearing a white shirt and veshti, walked from Tamil Nadu border. Soon, the bride, Priyanka, wearing a green sari with golden embroidery, walked from the Kerala side. The bride and groom, of course, had an additional wedding accessory — face masks.
The couple met in front of the Excise Checkpost in Chinnar (Idukki), between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and got married.
The officials rolled out a cloth mat as the mandapam on the road, in front of the check-post office, and arranged other items like a lamp and fruits on it. To ensure physical distancing protocols, the families of the bride and the groom were asked to stand away from the couple. The wedding was arranged at the border as it was not possible for all family members to get passes and anyone travelling to another state, will have to be in home quarantine for the next two weeks.
While they watched from a slightly afar, the check-post officials stepped in when it was muhurtham (auspicious time), between 8.30 am and 8.45 am on Sunday. The officials handed the sanitised garlands to the couple, and then the thali (wedding chain), but not before giving Robinson some hand sanitiser to clean his hands.
“The marriage was held without a priest. The health and excise officials provided the garland to the bride and groom,” said Abdul Majeed, Junior Health Inspector, Marayoor Health Centre, who ensured the wedding was conducted following all the necessary COVID-19 protocols.
As seen in the pictures, the couple also had some uninvited friends, a small troop of monkeys.
Robinson and Priyanka were officially married, but then came a heart-breaking moment for Priyanka’s parents. They could not send off their newly-wed daughter and her husband with a hug or blessings.
Due to the border restrictions, Priyanka had to take her luggage that she had carried along and wave to her parents from far as she walked away from the mandapam, with her husband, towards the Tamil Nadu border.
“That was a sad moment for us,” Priyanka’s father Shekar told TNM.
The groom taking blessings from his parents before wedding
Robinson (30) and Priyanka (25) were supposed to get married on March 22 at a temple in Coimbatore’s Saravanampatti. While Priyanka was working as a nurse in Kochi, Robinson was working in New Delhi. He had come to Tamil Nadu six months ago and the wedding was fixed during this period.
The families were ready with wedding ensemble, jewellery and had even distributed the wedding invitations, too, until the nationwide lockdown was announced.
“We tried for passes to travel to Coimbatore for almost two months but to no avail. Since the Karkidaka Masam (an auspicious month for the people in Kerala) was soon approaching and no weddings are allowed during this season, we once again requested the officials to allow us to conduct the wedding. Finally, with the help of former Devikulam MLA AK Mani, we got the pass from the Collector,” said Sekhar.
Once the respective Collectorates intervened, Priyanka managed to get a pass to go to Tamil Nadu and Robinson managed to get a pass to enter Kerala. Their wedding date was once again fixed, for June 7 at the Kattalai Mariamman temple in Tamil Nadu, which is only about three kilometres away from the Chinnar check-post.
However, they had to change the venue once again. Due to increasing COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu, border restrictions are strictly enforced, Abdul Majeed told TNM.
“We cannot provide passes to residents from Tamil Nadu to conduct weddings in Kerala. So both the families decided to conduct the wedding at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. When the groom reached the mandapam, we allowed only the parents to come near. The other family members witnessed the ceremony standing at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border,” Abdul told TNM.
“We had informed the bride’s family to take her suitcase so that she can leave for Tamil Nadu after the wedding. Normally, in Tamil culture, after the wedding ceremony, taking blessings from the parents is an important ritual. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we could not allow the family members to do this,” he said.
“Once the lockdown restrictions are completely eased, we will go meet Priyanka and conduct another small ceremony,” Shekar said.