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Omicron spread throws cold water on wedding plans



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By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Jan. 13: Hari Krishna Gajurel was eagerly waiting for the coming Nepali month of Magh. Not one, not two, but all three of his sons were getting married on Magh 11 (January 25). The 63-year-old had planned to have a huge celebration with multiple receptions at multiple locations in Kathmandu Valley, leaving no expense shared.

But then came the District Administration Office’s order on Tuesday banning gatherings of more than 25 people and restricting the carefree movement of people in public places, including and most crucially, in party venues.
“This poured water all over my plans,” a disappointed Gajurel exclaimed. “What a time COVID-19 chose to raise its ugly head again!”

Magh is perhaps the second busiest month for weddings in Nepal after Mangsir, said matchmaker Mandala Baidya. “Unfortunately, Magh also happens to be the month COVID-19 cases start increasing every year,” she said.
Baidya does not believe that people will cancel their weddings entirely but has started receiving calls from clients about trimming their guest lists. “As soon as news broke of the restrictions, people started calling me about reducing the number of invitees,” the professional Lami shared. “Omicron looks set to dampen many people’s marriages.”

One of those people is Hem Raj Sapkota. The 34-year-old resident of Bhaktapur had already booked the musical band, the vehicles and the party venue, bought dresses for him and his family members and had spent nearly Rs. 200,000 in preparations for his big day. “That money has gone to waste now,” he complained.

He is also worried about his and his relatives’ contracting COVID-19. “We obviously will not be able to wear masks or use sanitizers during our marriage,” he said, referring to him and his to-be wife. “We would never be able to forgive ourselves if our parents or relatives got sick after attending our wedding.”

Sapkota has been especially unlucky with the coronavirus. He had initially planned to marry in Baisakh 2077 (April 2020) but had to cancel due to the nationwide lockdown imposed to control the first wave of the pandemic in the country.

Then, he planned to get married in Magh (March) last year but tested positive for the virus a mere three days before he was set to tie the knot. He had hoped to be third time lucky when he scheduled his wedding for Mangsir (November) 2021 but the bride’s grandfather died. “And now, we have Omicron in Magh,” he said.
“Should I laugh or should I weep now?”

Some though anticipated the Omicron spread and had prepared accordingly. Anish Gautam had two plans ready for his wedding on Magh 27 (February 10). Plan A was to invite a limited number of people to the wedding but hold a relatively decent reception for his peers, he said. Plan B was to hold an intimate ceremony with the bare minimum of family members and no outside guests.
“Plan B goes into effect now,” Gautam said, stating that he would not hold a grand celebration while the pandemic raged around him.

The month of Magh has seven astrologically auspicious dates for couples getting married – 8 (January 22), 11 (January 25), 13 (January 27), 22 (February 5), 23 (February 6), 27 (February 10) and 28 (February 11). And the re-emergence of the virus has cast a pall over all of them, Mandala said.

“And if previous years are anything to go by, it will also affect the single wedding date of Falgun on February 18 and the auspicious dates available in the first few months of next year,” she added.