Kris and Kiyana had begun to plan their wedding in Nepal before the pandemic started. They had already planned everything, and almost all of the preparations were done, so retracting their decision seemed impossible at that point—they simply went along with it. They wanted a traditional wedding, so not only did it take time to plan everything out, it was also meant to be something huge. Kris was dressed up very traditionally, which seemed unconventional for a groom. Kiyana, on the other hand, had spent a lot of time with her mother in choosing the right dress. While sending out invitations, they didn’t bother themselves with the number of people that would attend, nor was the seating arrangements a matter of concern. After all, it was their wedding, which had to be replete with as big a celebration as possible. They had been asked if they wanted to have their wedding in another venue, but both insisted on getting married in Ratnanagar, Chitwan.
Both had several relatives that they wanted at their wedding, with a total of 250 people in attendance—not including their families or close friends.
Due to many guests attending, one of Kiyana’s best friends came up to her and asked something that weighed heavily on her mind.
“Kiyana. Will you and Kris be asking the guests to wear masks?”
“Masks? Of course not. This is a unique occasion, and I wouldn’t want them to look back on this day with masks covering their faces.
“Are you not worried about the pandemic?”
“Not for the wedding. Nobody is even sick, and if they are, then they will just stay home. We are all family, so I’m confident that we would all be safe,” Kiyana told her.
Standing by what she had said, no one was asked to wear masks on the wedding day. Although the ceremony was wonderful, nobody adopted any safety measures; no social distancing whatsoever. Everyone danced like it was their last day on Earth, with absolutely no regard for their own health and safety.
The newlyweds’ families were overjoyed at the occasion and mostly kept to themselves throughout the ceremony. None of the guests appeared to be sick indeed, and the virus was the last thing on anybody’s mind that day. As far as they were concerned, the night was a success, and there was nothing to worry about. None of them suspected that anything would go south until Kris’s mother called the two of them, panic-stricken, two days later. “Are the two of you okay?” she asked them.
“Of course, we are okay, mother. Why wouldn’t we be?” Kris said.
“I have just gotten a call that your uncle tested positive for the virus and is currently at the hospital”.
“Will he be alright?”
“I do not know yet. We can only hope and pray. I was calling to make sure if either of you had caught the virus.”
“There is no way anybody had it at the wedding. I spoke to everyone who was there, and nobody was feeling ill. Nobody was even coughing, so I know that he didn’t get the virus from there. He must have gone somewhere else and contracted the virus. Please let me know if you hear any changes from him,” Kris told his mother and hung up.
The husband and wife did not think much of this until more calls kept coming in. More relatives from the wedding had tested positive and were now showing symptoms. They looked at each other, realising that their wedding might have been where they all got infected. They didn’t know how this was even possible until they started looking at the news about the virus. They learned that the virus could be transmitted from someone even without any symptoms. It left them distraught because some of the relatives they invited were older and at a much higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus.
They were ashamed that they wanted to have a traditional wedding so badly that they put their family and friends in danger of getting seriously ill. They realised that if they wanted the wedding to be truly traditional and authentic, they should have waited until the coronavirus pandemic was over. Or if they wanted to have the wedding now, they should have scaled it down and made their guest follow social distances and wear masks. Unfortunately, they didn’t know or attempt to educate themselves about preventive measures. The final hit to Kiyana came when her best friend called her on the phone.
“Hello, Kiyana,” her friend said weakly on the phone.
“You sound terrible. What happened?” Kiyana asked, knowing what her friend would probably say.
“I was not feeling well and went to the doctor. They told me that I tested positive for COVID-19 and had to remain at the hospital.”
“You are at the hospital?” Kiyana asked.
“Yes. It is getting harder for me to breathe, so they want to put me on oxygen and possibly a ventilator if I don’t improve.”
“I don’t understand, though. You aren’t old. You are as young as me, so the virus shouldn’t have made you this sick.”
“Just because we are young doesn’t mean we are immune to the virus. I had a weaker immune system anyway so I was already vulnerable to the virus.”
“I am so sorry that I did not listen to you when you tried to tell me to adopt precautions in the wedding.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. Just be careful so that you don’t become sick like me too.”
“I will. I hope you feel better soon,” said Kiyana before hanging up the phone.
Putting someone their age in the hospital hit Kris and Kiyana hard. It gave them a new perspective of what was important to them—and it wasn’t big weddings or celebrations. It was keeping the people they cared about safe and healthy. They made sure to call everyone on the guest list to warn them of possible exposure and told them to get tested. The couple also got tested and came out negative for the virus. But, it still felt like they needed to do more; they didn’t know what.
The days went on, and they got calls and updates about family members doing much better and some still having mild side effects, like headaches. There wasn’t any word on Kiyana’s best friend until another few days later. The call was what she had dreaded the most, and she found out that her best friend had died of the disease. She was devastated, and Kris did his best to try and comfort her. As she slowly recovered from her grief, she understood what she had to do now.
She became an advocate and tried to educate everyone in Chitwan about the virus and its devastating effects. She told her story of how she was oblivious about the asymptomatic nature of the virus and how her ignorance had led to the death of her best friend. She told people that although tradition was necessary, the life of their loved ones was more important. They needed to protect themselves if they ever wanted to recover from this horrible pandemic.
Kiyana and Kris even found other young people preparing to get married and urged them to not go through with the wedding like they did. They might not have been able to save their friend, but they might be able to save someone else’s. It was a long road ahead, both in their marriage and in the pandemic. Nobody knew for sure when it would end or how long things would need to be different. The only thing they knew was it was their responsibility to tell their story and keep the people in Chitwan safe from the virus and its ever-emerging variants.