A couple determined to reach their wedding venue on Monday despite flash floods and landslides ravaging southern India found themselves with limited travel options — so they sailed to the ceremony in a giant cooking pot.
Video footage of the groom, Akash Kunjumon, and his bride, A. Aishwarya, floating along muddy waters in the aluminum container caused quite the stir in the neighborhood — with many celebrating some good news after days of heavy rainfall which claimed the lives of at least 35 people.
“People from the temple arranged the pot for us,” explained 26-year-old Kunjumon in a telephone interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, adding that they had been unable to locate a boat.
“There was a brother who had helped with everything. He told us that there is no other way but to use the pot,” Kunjumon said.
So, dressed in their colorful wedding attire, they climbed into the pot, known as a “Chembu” in Malayalam.
“We traveled in that pot for at least 20 minutes to get to the venue,” the groom said, praising helpers who helped them navigate the waters which had “a strong undercurrent.”
But while the couple’s journey to the temple by cooking pot went surprisingly well, their relationship hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Kunjumon, who works as a cleaner, said he first met 22-year-old nursing assistant Aishwarya at a hospital late last year, with the two making their relationship official in February.
“We met, fell in love and got together as we were on COVID duty,” he said, but explained that members of Aishwarya’s family had disapproved of their relationship because of their caste difference.
“I am Ezhava and she is from Nair caste. Her parents were OK with it but her relatives, especially some uncles, were opposing it. So we eloped,” he said.
The couple’s decision to elope sparked Aishwarya’s family to file a police report against Kunjumon — although police officials supported the couple’s choice, describing them as independent adults.
At the wedding ceremony, there were only a few people in attendance, due to floods, the lack of family support for their union, and the coronavirus crisis. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, in the last 28 days the state of Kerala recorded the second-highest total of new cases in the world with more than 330,000 infections.
“My father swam to the temple and my mother, grandmother and sisters used another pot,” Kunjumon said. “The photographer had to struggle. But he knew the story and was ready to take the risk.”
Admitting their wedding day was a little “strange,” and that she had been “disheartened” by her family’s absence, newlywed Aishwarya said the pair “never expected such a reaction” to their unconventional start to married life. “Everyone was thrilled,” she said.
“With God’s grace, we got married.”
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The Washington Post’s Shaheen Abdulla in Kozhikode, India, contributed to this report.