Not time to panic yet…

Ever since Sara, my best friend, and I were young, she had always spoken about getting married in her homeland. Raised in the small city of Ghent, Sara (short for Saranya) was born in India and adopted by a childless Belgian couple who wished to use their wealth to take in and care for a child in need. Sara left for her new home when she was barely a year old and has been within the confines of Western Europe since. Her parents showered her with nothing but love and Sara was given everything her heart could desire. On occasion, Sara did dream of her birth parents… “Did I get my big eyes or curly hair from my mother? Was my father a kind man?” She often wandered out loud when she was with me. “I can only imagine the courage your birth parents must have had to give you up!” I told her. “They would have wanted you to have a life better than what they could offer, Sara.” But she never mentioned this to her adoptive parents because she did not want them to think that she was being churlish or ungrateful. Afterall, they had taken her in and given her an unparalleled life filled with happiness and love. However, she still longed to visit her country of birth, to experience the rich culture that she saw only on TV…

I met Sara when we were in first grade, and we quickly grew from classmates to inseparable best friends to soul sisters. I was born and raised in Antwerp to an Indian family who had moved to Belgium ten years before my birth. Sara learnt everything she could about Indian culture from my family, starting from the cuisine to the colourful attire we adorned. She was always present at our family functions, and our parents could count on us spending our weekends and every spare minute together. Neither of us had any siblings of our own, so we leaned on each other to be the support we knew we needed. We complemented each other in terms of our personalities, interests, and careers. I grew up to become a detective in the Belgian police force, and Sara preferred to give back to society as a teacher.

One day, during my lunch break, I received a call from my best friend. “Hello? Sara, is everything okay?” I asked, as it was unusual for her to call me without sending a message first. “You are not going to believe what just happened!” She squealed. “Can we meet today evening? I have to share something very important with you.” I agreed, saying that I would come to her home right after I ended work.

Upon reaching, Sara bounded over to give me a hug. Her eyes twinkling, she said, “So you know that Sven and I have been dating for 2 years now, right?” “Yes. What happened?” I asked, concerned. Sara held out her hands for me to hold. Clueless, I held her and asked her if everything was alright. “He proposed to me today!” She said, holding her blushing cheeks and smiling ear to ear. That was when I noticed it – her engagement ring on her left ring finger. Simple, yet beautiful. 

Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled for my best friend. I asked for more details, and she told me how the whole event went down. How Sven, a fellow teacher in her school, had proposed to her in front of her students, who were all cheering when she said yes. It sounded dreamy, just what my romance-crazy friend would love.

Not time to panic yet

Over the next few months, Sara and I began planning her wedding. “You know what’s crazy?” She told me one day. “Do you remember how I told you once that I would like to get married in India?” I nodded, remembering the numerous times she had dreamt of such a wedding. “I spoke to Sven about it, and he is happy to do it! Can you believe it?!” Indeed, I could not! I squealed in excitement.

And so, the planning for a wedding in India commenced! All that Sara’s adoptive parents knew about her background was that she was adopted from Chennai, which is a city located in the state of Tamil Nadu. Between work, we had fun browsing through locations in Tamil Nadu. Did she want a wedding in a traditional Hindu temple? Maybe a destination wedding in a resort amidst nature? She found the latter option the most enthralling, for then she had the freedom to plan her ceremony the way she wanted. She looked forward to the wedding with just a close number of family and friends.  

In not too long, it was decided that Saranya and Sven would get married in Ooty, where the weather would be very similar to Belgium’s hilly chillness. The resort they were to stay in was to provide all the amenities that she desired for accommodation. The wedding venue was to be a dais constructed in the garden of the resort, with the decorations in South Indian style – including the mandapams and flower decorations. The ceremony was to be a simple one where the couple would exchange their vows, exchange rings, and for the sake of tradition, exchange flower garlands.  The couple had chosen a date for mid-Spring for the wedding. Tensions were running high as the wedding date drew nearer, and a week before the wedding day we were all set to make the big trip!

At the airport, my family awaited the arrival of Sara and her parents. In not too long, we were joined by Sven, his brother Kris, and their parents. Sara’s family was a small one as her parents did not have any siblings, but this made Sara only more excited to spend the coming days with the people she loved most. A small crowd, we were filled with excitement to make our way to the land of incredible food and history. As we landed, my parents served as the guides for local scenery and culture. Sara was speechless and in awe of the backdrop during the drive from the airport to the resort we were to stay at, and she was practically jumping when we arrived. She could not believe it – her dream was finally coming true!

When we reached the resort, we took in the scenery, breathing in the crisp air. The resort was located in the midst of a hundred acres of tea plantations, and each family was given their own private cottage to spend the days of our stay in. Sara and I decided to stay in one cottage together. Her parents stayed in one, Sara’s in-laws in one, Sven in one with his brother Kris, and my parents in one.

Each day leading up the wedding was spent in preparations for the venue, decorations, caterings, and costumes. Luckily, my parents knew of a wedding planner who had liaised with Sara before our arrival. Most of the preparations were already done and ready for our bride’s inspection upon her arrival. Between the stress of preparing for the perfect wedding, we also took time to look around and enjoy the sights of Ooty. Every day was an adventure, and Sara and Sven were taking it in good spirit and relishing every moment. Time flew by…

At last, the day had arrived!

Not time to panic yet

On the morning of the wedding, Sara was awake by 4 AM, mostly out of excitement and nerves. She woke me up and we sat in the dark talking about how far our lives had come. “Can you believe that this is it? I am getting married today! It all happens today!” Exclaimed Sara. “I know! And to think that Sven is the man of your dreams that you had spoken about since we first watched Cinderella together!” We giggled and shared memories of when we were children and had dreamt of how we would have liked our special day to be. Sara also shared reasons why she was excited to live with Sven, how Sven takes good care of her, looks out for her, and tries his level best to make her happy. “I kind of think of him as my knight in shining armour, you know?” She said dreamily. “Pffft! I think you mean retard in tinfoil!” I exclaimed, and we laughed heartily. I was happy to hear how my friend, whom I had known since the age of 6, had met a guy who appreciated and loved her.

We chatted in bed and had breakfast at 7 a.m. at which point we decided that we must start dressing up. “Seriously, I think I am more excited about your outfit than anything else.” I confessed to Sara. She had opted to wear a beautiful pastel green and yellow lehenga which was beautifully embroidered with pink roses. Laughing, she said, “Don’t tell Sven that this is the part of the wedding that I am looking forward to the most!” Soon, the make-up artist arrived, and the room become busy with our mothers flocking in and chattering while dressing up together. My mother helped with the sari-tying for Sara’s and Sven’s mothers. The mood in the air was that of enthralment and happiness.

As I sat on the couch and watched my best friend get her make-up done, I had a strong feeling to check on the bridegroom. “I hope he hasn’t slept in!” I muttered to myself as I quietly excused myself from Sara’s room. I made my way to Sven’s cottage, and I noticed that the lights were not on. “Come on!” I thought, and politely knocked on the door. I heard shuffling behind the door, and in a few seconds was greeted by a very sleepy-looking Kris. “Well, good morning Kris! Where is Sven? You guys have less than 3 hours to prepare!” I said. His eyes widening, he stuttered, “Uh… Sven? Yes, yes, um… I will wake him up.”

I started getting a bad feeling in my gut. “Where is Sven?” I asked. Sighing, Kris said, “He went for a walk a while ago because he couldn’t sleep. Don’t worry, I will call him and get him to come back soon.” He excused himself and closed his cottage door, leaving me to wonder if he was telling the truth. I calmed myself, because I was no good to my best friend if I was stressed out. Maybe Sven had just gone out for some fresh air and would be back soon. It was not time to panic… yet. I went back to Sara’s room and started dressing myself.

2 hours to go… I checked my phone every minute in the last hour and did not receive any message from Sven or Kris. Was everything okay? “No, it is not time to panic yet!” I told myself. Although I was surrounded by the happy and excited chatter of my and Sara’s families, I could not focus.

Not time to panic yet

“I will be back, Sara!” I said and left to check Sven’s cottage again. This time when I knocked on the door, Kris opened it immediately. He looked flustered and spoke before I could ask him anything, “I know I know! He isn’t back yet, but don’t worry! We have two hours to go, he will be back by then! It is not time to panic yet!” Although his words were assuring, I had a nagging feeling at the back of my head.

“Kris, be honest. Did he run away? Did he tell you anything about getting cold feet?” I inquired. “Um, not necessarily… Well, he did mention something last night…” “KRIS! Stop stalling! Tell me what he said!” Startled and slightly uncomfortable, Kris unwillingly said, “Alright alright… You know how much he loves Sara, right? You must promise me that you won’t tell Sara what I’m telling you. Yes?” My heart was pounding. I promised and urged him to continue. “Well… Sven has gone to pick up some very important guests.” He said finally.

“Who are these surprise guests? Seriously, this is the reason why Sven is risking missing his wedding day? What is so important about these guests?” I demanded. He sighed and said, “Look. He has planned a surprise for Sara, and I promised him that I won’t tell anyone. Just… Don’t worry, okay? We have it under control.” Exasperated, I I stared hard at Kris. “You better be telling the truth, Kris. I am going to call Sven right now,” I said. Kris looked like he was going to fight me for a second, but then decided against it. I grabbed my phone and dialled Sven’s number. After a few rings, I heard his voice on the other end of the line.

“Sven! Is everything okay? Where are you?” I demanded. “Yes, I am alright. Uh look, I got to go now, but I will see you s-” he said, but before he could finish his sentence I interrupted. “Don’t you hang up on me, Sven! I spoke to Kris. He told me that you are planning a surprise for Sara. Is that true? You better not lie to me!” “Alright alright, calm down!” he said. “Yes, okay? But I won’t tell you what it is – not yet. But don’t worry, it is not time to panic yet! Can you just hold the fort till I get there and just, trust me?” I rolled my eyes, promised not to tell Sara anything, and asked Kris to ensure that he and Sven were ready for the ceremony. Then I went back to her cottage.

With one hour to go, Sara’s make-up was complete, and she was about to wear her bridal attire. “Where were you? I got nervous! Is everything alright?” She asked me, her eyes boring into mine. “Don’t worry, Sara! I just had to speak to the wedding planner about some last-minute decorations, but we are good to go now!” I started adjusting her hair and was anxiously looking at the clock on the wall. I could only hope that Sven would reach and be ready in time for the ceremony.

In no time it was ten minutes for the ceremony. Our mothers, all dressed-up and ready, had made their ways to the venue of ceremony. Sara and I remained in the cottage. I went up to Sara and my eyes filled with tears as I looked her up and down. “You look incredible, Sara.” I said, trying to hold back my tears. “You know, I am sure that Sven is the right choice for you. He seems to love you so much. Maybe not as much as I love you though…” I said, and she chuckled. “I feel so lucky and loved today. Thank you.” She said simply and smiled.

With five minutes to go, I escorted her to the venue. The decorations, the flowers, and the colourful attires of the guests present were a sight to behold. When it was Sven’s turn to recite his vow, he held Sara’s hand and, looking into her eyes said, “Sara, I love you very much. I know that you have planned this day since you were a child. And I want to make sure that all of it comes true. All of it.” He said and smiled. Unsuspecting, Sara smiled at him. “Sara, I did something… No no, it is not time to panic yet!” He said quickly, noticing her eyes widen in surprise. “I managed to track your birth parents, Sara. And I have invited them here today. They are right here.” Gasping, Sara looked at Sven in disbelief. All of us were in shock. I turned to Kris, and he nodded at me, smiling. So, this were the surprise guests that had kept Sven busy all morning!

Sven gestured to a couple standing at the back of the venue, and gently nudged Sara to walk toward them. “Sara, these are your birth parents. They are here to give you blessings on our special day.”

Sara stood in shock, tears flowing from her eyes in disbelief. She looked at her mother, a small lady with a caramel‑complexion and took in her big eyes and curly black hair, so much like hers. Her father, she recognised, had eyes that radiated kindness. Her birth parents took turns in embracing Sara, and they too were trying to hold back their tears. “Come Sara, let us finish our ceremony. Just know that you are surrounded by people who love you to no end. We can all catch up after this. Plus, you don’t want your make-up all ruined before the ceremony, do you?!”

The anticlimactic speech from Sven came as unexpected and snapped us out of reverie. Laughing, he walked Sara back to the front of the hall where they resumed exchanging their vows, rings, and flower garlands. Once they were pronounced as husband and wife by the resort’s own officiant, the couple led the way to lunch.

Sara got the opportunity to resume her reunion with her birth parents, and they were the happiest amongst those present to see their long-lost daughter all grown, beautiful, and settled. Sara’s adoptive parents, feeling no tinge of negativity, joined in the reunion. Sven narrated his whole adventure – beginning with how he had first gotten the idea to track down Sara’s birth parents and invite them for the wedding, how he had gotten in touch with them when they arrived in India, and how he had convinced them to attend the wedding to bless their daughter. “It was easy that you were always fussing over the details of the wedding!” Sven told Sara, “That gave me lots of time to orchestrate this!” Everyone was smiling and in high spirits.

I stood back, watching the whole exchange. My eyes brimming with tears, I realized how lucky Sara was. She had two sets of parents who loved her unconditionally, three if you counted Sven’s. In one day, all her dreams had come true. Being her best friend, as someone who knew Sara better than anyone, I knew that she deserved every bit of good. And maybe, Sven was indeed her retard in tinfoil, who had a heart of gold!

Manavi Kapur

Manavi is a fun-loving, tech-savvy, lady of the media and you better believe us when we tell you that she can sing! Needless to say, she has done all that with aplomb because some of her articles are highly cited in this niche.

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