Wedding season is upon us, and even a pandemic — that requires us to stay home unless absolutely necessary and stay apart when together — cannot dissuade engaged couples, and more importantly their families from announcing a Covid-era wedding.
The invitation I received was from a dear friend, and it promised to follow all Covid instructions at a reputed Mumbai five-star, including restricting the guest list to less than 50 people as per regulations. By confirming my presence, I automatically accounted for 2% of all guests at the wedding!
Over imaginative that I could get, I pondered how the bride and groom would be dressed?
…In full PPE?
…Struggling to place garlands over face-shields that kept getting in the way?
…Could the groom’s shoes still be stolen, or would we have to settle for hiding the plastic cover-ups on his sandals?
…Since everyone was supposed to maintain distance from each other, would we have to take a series of photos of a few people at a time, and PhotoShop them into a group pic?
…Most importantly, would there be lunch, or would we have to content ourselves with relishing the aromas of fine cuisine through the safety of our masks? On the appointed day, my friends and I showed up at the hotel, where obvious differences were visible from the start. The security person sanitised the handle of the car trunk before opening it and after closing it. My temperature was scanned (but not noted down), and splashing some sanitiser onto my hands was mandatory before making my way to the venue. Every single employee was wearing gloves and a mask.
At the entrance of the hall stood a box of masks which looked forlorn as the hours passed why. Not a single guest inside the hall was using a mask. After some initial resistance, I’m embarrassed to say that I took mine off too.
The hotel had asked for the names and contact details of every attendee in advance — to be shared with the municipal corporation for contact tracing, in case this turned out to be a super-spreader event — but no one checked if the people who showed up were the people whose details were registered.
The hotel had taken great care to minimise contact between employees and guests; all of the former who were involved in serving food had also donned face masks. One could not serve oneself from the buffet; a server stood behind a tall plexiglass barrier, ladling servings into my plate through a small gap at the bottom.
A wonderful innovation, but with lacunae — while the misal was served on my plate, I had to use a common spoon to sprinkle farsaan myself. Either to save costs or to minimise contact, only one server was available for every four dishes, leading to some waiting and crowding. Appetisers, however, continued to be served at each table, on a common plate… so much about Covid protocols.
Alternate urinals were blocked with signs, and the taps were sensor based, but I did not see a single automatic dispenser anywhere in the
hotel. Half measures executed by half adherence to protocol are only half or should I say no protection.
Each individual member of the staff did a commendable job of minimising contact time with guests to mere seconds, without compromising on hospitality, but the hotel’s SOP for weddings left much to be desired. Clearly, when the Great Indian Shaadi has to confront the Great Global Pandemic, emotion and enjoyment win over science and protocol.