Chennai: The e-invite began with an ominous line: “In these gloomy times…”
You might assume it was a sobering CEO mail to employees, explaining the dark tunnel ahead, but it was a rather cheerful message. It heralded the new beginning of a couple’s engagement ceremony — on Zoom.
Narayanan Natarajan, a Chennai-based software engineer who had started his own education platform, had his misgivings about holding his engagement ceremony on the video communications service. But the more he considered it, the more viable it seemed.
The 31-year-old entrepreneur had to cancel the ceremony in view of the lockdown measures across India to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. His fiancee, Sindhuja K, a resident anaesthetist with a penchant for the new, gave her go-ahead.
Narayanan had two tasks if he had to pull this off: get the message across quickly so that the people login on time, and get his father and a few others in the demographic to learn the tech in a few weeks. With Narayanan in Chennai, his fiancee in Kolkata and the in-laws on both sides spread from Kumbakonam to Vijayawada to Pune, the Zoom participants were truly an eclectic mix.
Come the date and time (Monday, 6.30 p.m.), Narayanan himself faced a few tech glitches that made him late to his own party. After his arrival, the priest started off on the rituals in rapid Sanksrit, all done remotely and over a hundred people listening on mute. “The cacophony started after one bold relative unmuted to send a greeting and a praise flying, and after that all heaven broke loose,” says Narayanan. Thanks to his soon-to-be in-laws who turned moderators, the wishes were streamlined like in a queue. By itself, the event went on for two hours.
“My biggest challenge was to get my Dad on Zoom,” Narayanan said. “A retired banker and a lover of traditions, my father was initially sceptical but agreed to it later. He said he was pleased with the way it went."
While it was strictly incidental that Zoom turned out to be the platform of choice for Narayanan, the American company said the impact of Covid-19 has been that previous notions of where video chat would be used were getting rearranged. “All these virtual happy hours, coffee breaks, afternoon hangs, dance practices, yoga sessions, and so many other events over Zoom — their creativity and resilience in these tough times are inspiring!” a Zoom spokesperson told CNN-News18 in an e-mailed response.
It is hardly surprising that a Zoom engagement happened in Chennai, the city that birthed one of the country’s largest matchmaking platforms. Murugavel Janakiraman, who runs the online service BharatMatrimony, says the coronavirus situation has definitely moved a lot of processes to the virtual world. His venture had long before offered online chat as a platform for prospective partners to connect, and would soon add video capability interfaces.
While virtual is no match for the real and physical, it does turn out to be a fulfilling substitute. What about exchanging rings? Natarajan had a simple answer: “We’ve exchanged hearts. Rings can wait.”