Salman Shaikh from Kandivali was supposed to get married on 14th April but the wedding finally happened on 22nd October. “My dream of having a grand wedding with a band and baraat has been shattered, I am unable to create the kind of memories, which I and my family had always dreamt of,” said the groom. He always aspired to arrive at his wedding venue on a decorated horse, with sparkling lights around and hundreds of baraati dancing on Bollywood tunes. But his dreams did not come true. “This was supposed to be the best day of my life, but now the situations are such that I can’t even enjoy properly.”
The first thing comes to mind whenever one thinks of an Indian wedding, a groom on a decorated horse and baraati dancing on the beat of dhol or a band. Today, the new normal is all about intimate weddings with minimum guests in masks. Apart from taking down the celebration quotient several notches, it has also impacted the business of many.
Marriage season is around the corner, but still many small businesses associated with marriage ceremonies such as musical bands and horse carriers are yet to get any bookings. “Few days ago I opened my office but have not received any query. Gone are the days, when we used to earn big. Nowadays we are unable to even finalise a single wedding deal”, told Gauri Shankar. Shankar is the owner of Andheri-based Event Company called Gautam Events - Gauri Shankar Horse Supplier & Brass Band.
Wedding and festival season generally falls between January and May, and then between November and December. Out of the 12 months, these businesses could work and earn for around 7 months. But the lockdown during peak season time brought their businesses to a standstill. Many were either forced to return the money which they had taken for events scheduled between April and May, or the events have gotten postponed. “I have been in this industry for more than 20 years, but have never faced such a situation. Hamare bharose kayi saare logon ke ghar chaltehai, but now I am helpless. During season time I used to hire 70-80 temporary workers, but now I am sitting alone in my office with a hope of getting a booking,” added Gauri Shankar.
The pandemic and the social-distancing policies that have been placed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have effectively eliminated large gatherings and made many people cautious, thus impacting several businesses. “My family and I are engaged in making boxes; we have had no work since the lockdown was imposed. We used to have several horses, but unemployment forced me to give away my dear animals. I am unable to feed them.” Suraj Bahn (63) has been in the horse supplying business since 1975.
Sanjay Kurade, an employee of Hamid BhaiRathWala told that he is now driving an auto to support his family. “We are going under debts to feed the animals. Our other equipment such as raths (chariots) are lying idle, we may have to shell out money for its maintenance too. Life has become too difficult for businesses like ours”.
Most couples planning to tie the knot between April and May have postponed the events. “We are a group of 22 people, but now everyone has chosen an alternative work to feed their respective families. We are band people, we love music, but now many of us are into labour work,” said Jagdish Patil from Jivdani Brass band. Vishal Patil, a member of Gavdevi Kalasangam Brass Band said: “Our band had won many local competitions in the city, but now our future looks bleak. I now drive an auto-rickshaw for survival and earn 200-300 rupees daily”.