When Aurangabad-based Omkar Deshpande’s sister, Pooja, was to marry Devendra Pathak, the pressure on the traditional family was huge. It was the first wedding in their home and the last few months had been particularly difficult for the family due to the death of a loved one and serious health issues of the others.
Naturally, both families wanted to have a smooth wedding ceremony.
Speaking to The Better India, Omkar says, “During ecstatic moments like a wedding, the guests offer blessings to the newly-wed couple. But do we ever think about the practical outcome of these oral blessings and prayers? It may give psychological satisfaction but does it ensure the happiness and prosperity of the couple?”
With this in mind, the family decided to try innovative ways to give meaningful blessings to the couple, all in an environment-friendly way.
1. Plant Parenting
Using the concept of child adoption in an environmental setting, the family distributed 50 saplings and asked their guests to grow them with the same love and care they would show while raising a child. Apart from sowing and watering it daily, the guests were requested to spend small amounts from their own pockets to build fences or protection around the budding plant to protect them.
“We have a population of 132 crores. Even if each of us pledges to become parents to one sapling, we could make the nation a greener place. Ours was only a small attempt at raising awareness about the concept. Instead of giving the newly-wedded couple a verbal blessing, we thought we would request guests to show it through their actions. Secure them and their future kids with cleaner air, water and a greener environment. All it would take is–planting a sapling and raising it like a child,” says Omkar.
2. Blood donation
One blood unit can save three people as it is separated out into plasma, RBCs, and leukocytes. The blood bank made each of the guests aware of the benefits of donation. When asked about why the blood would have to be sold when we were donating it for free, the authorities explained that every unit has to be tested for any blood transmitted diseases (aids, malaria, TB), which requires resources. Besides, the blood bank worked as a Trust and would require a certain profit margin to run.
The family was a bit reluctant at the start since the wedding was in the noon, and they were sceptical about the guests volunteering to donate blood during the summer. But the blood bank assured them that they were equipped to handle such instances.
At the venue, over 16 guests complied by donating blood. Omkar carried out the donation drive with the assistance of the city-based Dattaji Bhale Blood Bank.
3. Organ donor registration
As part of his research, Omkar had visited Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, (PGIMER), Chandigarh, which housed an eye donation centre. The idea of donating his eyes appealed to him, and he registered at the centre at the time.
He decided to create awareness about the concept at the wedding too. “Organ donation is just as important as blood donation. We should see organ donation as an opportunity to live in this world even after death,” shares Omkar.
They had over 20 organ donation registrations, including the bride and groom. The Zonal Transplantation Coordination Committee (ZTCC), Aurangabad, assisted them in this cause.
4. Other green initiatives
Further, the usage of plastic cutlery for consumption of beverages water was minimised. These were served in steel glasses and cups instead.
A popular Hindu tradition ‘akshata’ where the rice grains are showered on the couple as a metaphor for ‘blessing’ was alternated with flower petals. “There are millions of people who don’t have enough to eat.. So why to waste or disrespect the food, by wasting it?” asks Omkar.
To avoid food wastage, they had a buffet system where placards were put up requesting guests only to take the portion they were confident they could finish.
They discarded the tradition of donning turbans as these are disposable ones made out of non-degradable pieces of cloth and are later burnt adding to environmental pollution. Additionally, they also avoided bursting firecrackers or playing high decibel music.
5. Plans for the one-year anniversary
Omkar now hopes to create a WhatsApp group for all the guests through a unique initiative called ‘selfie-with-saplings’, where plant parents will be encouraged to send selfies at regular intervals to ensure the saplings grow into trees.
“I have a rough plan to celebrate the wedding anniversary as birthdays of the saplings with all the plant parents in a separate function by next year,” he beams.
It is thrilling to see couples and their families, redefine the quintessential Big Fat Indian Wedding. The initiative was a success, as not only the bride but also the groom and his family extended their unconditional support.
Omkar concludes, “Most people think if they want to bring about a positive change in this world, they need to be in an influential position. But that’s not true. At individual levels, each one of us can step forward and do our bit.”
Amen, to that.
If Omkar’s ideas inspired you, get in touch with him on 9422709920 or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)