Vijay and Radhika
Vijay Valecha and Radhika Doshi Image Credit: Supplied

From being stranded in different countries to disrupted courtships and cancelled wedding ceremonies, the path of true love ran more unevenly than usual through the coronavirus pandemic. But even global events could not keep some couples in the UAE apart for very long.

Six months apart, then a bus ride

The UAE is no stranger to Bollywood-style wedding extravaganzas, but Vijay Valecha and Radhika Doshi raised the bar with their coronavirus story. The long-time Indian expats met as students at the Indian High School and married 20 years later last November — overcoming family objections along the way.

The thirty-something couple originally planned a big fat Indian wedding in Goa. “After Covid-19 hit, we were stuck in different countries for six months,” Valecha says. “That’s when we realised travelling to India would be difficult, so we decided on a wedding in the UAE.”

Forfeiting the initial deposit of Rs2,500,000 (Dh126,000), they shortlisted options in Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. “Then the second wave hit, so we had to cancel those plans too.”

The final event was a court ceremony at the Indian consulate. Before that, though, the groom wanted a creative proposal. In true Bollywood style, Valecha executed a series of five proposals at their favourite haunts, ending at their old school grounds where the words ‘Marry Me’ were spelled out in flowers. “I decided that if not a big fat wedding, I could be creative in my proposal,” he says.

As it turned out, they managed a unique wedding too, with friends converting a hop-on-hop-off double-decker tour bus into a corona-appropriate ride. “The coronavirus has certainly brought a much-needed perspective to spend more time with the ones we love and not take life for granted,” says Valecha.

Destiny plays a hand

“The first gift my fiancée gave me was coronavirus,” laughs Anmol Mehta. The man behind Dubai’s Little Italy restaurant explains how a Covid-19 test days after his engagement in Mumbai last November came back positive. By a process of elimination, he concluded that his new fiancée, Mumbai-based music executive Krishna Sanghvi, passed on the virus, although she remained asymptomatic.

Anmol Mehta and Krishna Sanghvi Image Credit: Supplied

On the other hand, she has helped him deal with the mental health issues afflicting him since the start of the pandemic. “She’s literally the medicine for me,” the Indian expat says.

Love at first sight may have something to do with it. Sanghvi and her parents, who know Mehta’s family socially, visited Little Italy during a Dubai holiday just as restaurants were opening again last spring. On the very day Mehta dropped in after several weeks away from work.

“One look and I knew she’s the one,” he tells GN Focus. “Since she was a guest, I couldn’t ask her out then. But I went over and introduced myself and asked her father for his number,” he says.

Thanks to the family connection, Sanghvi agreed to meet him over coffee for 45 minutes after a few days. Four hours of talking later, Mehta was more convinced than ever. “After months of rigorous texting and long-distance conversations, she agreed to marry me,” Mehta says.

“Sometimes I think, ‘What if I did not get out that day? What if I did not put on a brave face and go over to their table?’ But it was destiny — she visited the restaurant on the day I went in.”

The 26-year-olds hoped to marry last year but changing coronavirus rules meant their ‘small wedding’ for 500 guests has yet to take place. Mehta now hopes she will make an honest man of him sometime this year.

Coronavirus forces a change of plans

Naomi D’Souza Jacob’s wedding dress hangs in her cupboard, ready to be worn when Covid-19 allows it. She and her husband, Jacob Thomas, both Indian nationals aged 27, are among the Dubai couples whose wedding plans were upended by changing social rules around the health crisis.

“Jake proposed to me on January 17, 2020, and by March we had decided on the venue, made the down payment, and I was so excited that I even finalised my dress,” she says.

Naomi D’Souza and Jacob Thomas Image Credit: Supplied

The couple began sending out invitations in April, confident that normalcy would return in time for their wedding this January. By September, however, they had to cancel their church wedding because overseas family would not be able to attend, and opted for a civil ceremony at the Indian consulate instead.

The digital strategy consultant says a steep learning curve followed the heart-breaking decision. “When everything came tumbling down, we had a very hard time understanding and going through the process of civil marriage.”

As emotions ran high and tears flowed freely, the couple found themselves dealing with refunds and cancelled bookings. “With great difficulty we managed to get our wedding hall refund – but the wedding dress was non-refundable, so it’s just waiting for its special day to step out of the closet.”

In hindsight, she’s glad her husband proposed before the declaration of the pandemic. “I still tell him if he hadn’t done it then, I’m not sure we would be married now,” she says.