By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Aug. 12: As if the stress of working, studying and maintaining some semblance of normal life during COVID-19 was not enough, people are also having to contend with a new headache since the lockdown was lifted – weddings.
Now that restrictions have been somewhat relaxed, people are hastening to get married. Mandala Baidya, who works as a matchmaker, said that many were set to get married and had arranged everything when the lockdown was imposed on March 24. “So, the weddings that had been postponed then are happening now.”
She said that new couples were also hurrying to get married before the end of August because of the coming Malamaas (month without any auspicious dates) and out of fear that the lockdown might be imposed again.
As the matchmaker, Baidya gets invited to the weddings of the couples she sets up. But she does not go. “Scores or even hundreds of people gathering at one place? No thank you!”
Baidya is one of the lucky few because many who get invited to nuptials are often not in a position to decline. One such person was Prakash Khanal who had to attend his niece’s wedding in Nuwakot two weeks ago. “I didn’t want to go but it was my own niece and my absence would have soured family relations,” he said, nodding his head in disapproval of his own actions.
Khanal was horrified at what he saw. Everybody approaching the 87-year-old family matriarch for her blessing, people coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths and noses, the cooks, waiters and other staff members with no gloves and people being repeatedly asked to take their masks off to snap photos.
So far, there have been no cases of COVID-19 transmission linked to weddings in the country and reports of authorities having to interfere in such celebrations out of safety concerns remains rare. Still, Chitra Shakya has avoided going to any parties at all, which is why she felt tricked when she went to the wedding reception of her friend’s son a few days ago.
“I was assured that it was a small event with no more than 50 people and sanitizers and masks would be provided to all,” she said in fury without mincing her words. “But I was lied to.”
Let alone masks and sanitizers, there weren’t even soaps in the restroom, Shakya said. “People behaved like they would not catch the virus simply because they were at a wedding party.”
But while Khanal and Shakya went by choice, Shlok Poudel is forced to put himself at risk to earn a living. As a wedding photographer, the lockdown inflicted heavy losses on Poudel. So now, he takes any work he gets despite being aware of the safety violations. “I put on two masks, wear gloves and hope for the best,” he said.
However, he wishes that people were more careful with their celebrations, if not for themselves then for people like him who have to be amid them and their guests for their livelihoods.