Poetry. Wedding. Love. Always
The story of Aditi and Sayan
Aditi and I got married reciting poetry on the eve of Durga Puja, October 11, 2018, in Pune, Maharashtra. This was our second marriage ceremony. We officially tied the knot in the Farmington city hall, Michigan in April 2018, the following week I proposed Aditi for marriage. Everything happened so fast, impromptu! Within a week my status changed from single, to engaged to a married man. But our friends and family in India could not attend the Farmington city hall wedding. So, we decided to hold our second marriage ceremony in India during the happiest time of the Bengali year, Durga Puja. Aditi, born in Mumbai and brought up in Pune, never witnessed Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal. I counted, my last Durga Puja was eight years ago.
Aditi and I belong from two culturally diverse states in India. Aditi is from Pune, Maharashtra, I am from Raniganj, a small town in Bengal. Aditi is vegan; I eat everything. She speaks Marathi; I speak Bengali. She has grown up seeing right-wing politics, I have witnessed all shades of left. Like food, language, and politics, we have different opinion and viewpoint in numerous aspects of life. However, these differences made our love stronger each passing day. Initially, there was resistance to this marriage from her family. Time and Aditi’s determination has slowly weakened the opposition.
Aditi and I agreed on one thing about Indian wedding. We wanted a wedding ceremony plain and simple, but rich in cultural experiences. Since most of our family and guests did not possess superior proficiency in Sanskrit, a language of ancient India most of Hindu scriptures are written in, we thought of translating the Sanskrit wedding verses in Marathi, Hindi, or Bengali so that all our guests could feel included. In summer 2018, we started studying Hindu wedding verses. More we learned about Hindu wedding verses and marriage rituals more we became convinced that like Indian politics, a serious reform and transformation is necessary to Hindu wedding verses. In the name of a tradition, today’s Hindu marriage ceremony blindly follows rituals and promises written thousands of years ago in the Vedic era, and significant part of these wedding verses and ‘mantras’ cannot be justified and applicable at modern times. At a time when equal women’s right should be a priority, several Hindu marriage verses are blatantly misogynistic, where it treats the woman as a property of man or means to produce children. Moreover, the description of marriage as an institution and the scope and bounds of marriage is poor and irrelevant at today’s date. But above all, a sizeable portion of Hindu wedding verses fail to capture the single most fundamental element of marriage – love! We realized present Hindu wedding verses do not reflect our love, conscience, ethics of our relationship. So, we threw away all our dogma in the name of tradition. Instead, we chose the best cultural medium and the most human form of expression for our wedding – art. What could be more romantic medium to promise each other to stay forever, than through poetry?
What could be more romantic to promise each other to stay forever, than through poetry?
A mixed feeling of joy, suspense, freedom, and fear exist when creating a new, different path against such well-established, no-questions-asked wedding ceremony. We had to face several challenges and question marks. One such big challenge was ‘Who will officiate our wedding?’ We cannot simply look for a ‘pandit’ or ‘Guruji.’ We needed someone who has a solid grasp over language, and poetry. Someone with an open mind who would understand our thoughts and feelings and help us write our wedding verses. Someone who will hold the key to the entire wedding. Fortunately, Aditi’s high-school Marathi teacher, Sudha Kamble stepped forward to rescue us. Sudha teacher had in-depth knowledge of Marathi language and contemporary poetry. We used to have regular Skype meetings with Sudha teacher before we could finalize the script of our marriage. During this period Sudha teacher was going through a personal tough time. Yet, she committed to helping us. Without her, our thoughts and ideas of poetic wedding would not be possible.
Poems, songs, and literary verses that profoundly shaped our thoughts and touched our lives, we included in our wedding verses. We borrowed poetry from across all languages and culture, around the globe – Rabindranath, Ghalib, Shelley, Shakespeare, Rumi, Uday Prakash, Keats, Dushyant Kumar, Dante, Amrita Pritam, Yeats, Sarah Kay, Neruda, Sartre. Growing up, these literary figures shaped our thoughts, liberated our minds. This time we returned to these poets to help us get married. As we started compiling our wedding verses, we realized ‘love’ – the central theme of our marriage remained unchanged through ages, countries, religion, cultures, and values. Dante to Dushyant Kumar, Mexico to Maharashtra, thirteenth century to modern times, the feeling and expression of love is identical. We were finally getting married through poetry!
We complied poetry and literary verses to create our own seven steps, ‘Saptapadi.’ We put love in the center and six key elements around it that would define, strengthen, and sustain our relationship. We felt that understanding, care, argument, support, trust, and surrender are the principal factors that harness, cherish, and nurture our love for one another. In our wedding verses, we explained each of these key elements through poetry. We promised that we deeply ‘trust’ each other because we ‘understand’ that there will be times when we would need each other’s ‘support’ and ‘care.’ ‘Argument’ is an integral part of our ‘understanding.’ We unconditionally ‘surrender,’ to each other, since above all, love and mutual respect remain between us for the rest of our lives. We uttered our promises through the most romantic human form – poetry!
Our marriage ceremony at Pune was short and simple. From the day we started planning for the Indian wedding, Aditi wanted a simple, inexpensive ceremony. She arranged the entire wedding expenses at Pune without bringing any economic burden to her parents. She saved money in a separate bank account just for this day. I bow to her iron-determination. At times she is my man, and I am her woman. Finalizing marriage dates and pre-marriage ceremonies, we cut down all unscientific, superstitious astrology practices. We gave importance to our culture and everyone’s convenience. We reduced unnecessary expenses on gifts; instead, we spent that on cultural experiences like food, arranging air travels, and short tours of Pune and Kolkata for our family.
We truly enjoyed every moment of our wedding. We kept ourselves away from the virtual social media, kept our cell phone away, and interacted with the real world, friends, and family. We requested our guests not to bring any material gifts; instead, we provided a one-page card for our guest to write something for us. We flew our friends and family from Kolkata to Pune, Pune to Kolkata. Our marriage was filled up with so many sweet incidents: several older generation family members traveled in an airplane for the first time, Bengali people enjoyed Marathi food and culture, Aditi’s vegan father accidentally ate chicken pakora, Aditi’s family visited Dakshineswar temple, I fell sick drinking cold water after playing cricket, our first argument after marriage was the color of Punjabi I should wear for Durga Puja pandal-hopping, after so many years I was at home during Durga Puja, almost every day we were invited for lunch and dinner at different neighbors houses … the list goes on.
Aditi and I, we both do not believe in “happily ever after.” There will be ups and downs. There will be turbulent times and unknown challenges lie in the unseen future, and the entire globe ahead of us to explore. But we promise to each other that we will stick together through all these challenges. For now, perhaps for another year or so, we are calling California our sweet home!