I took the last flight out of Abu Dhabi so I could wrap up work in peace. By the time I reached home in Delhi it was nearly 5 am. Our appointment with the lawyer was for 10 am and the courts were nearly an hour away from home. That left me four hours to catch up with family, eat, sleep and get dressed on that cold, foggy morning. Not a lot of time if I had to convincingly look like a bride. Yeah, no way that was going to happen. So I just wrapped a pretty red net saree (in 5 degree Celsius you also wear not-so-pretty legwarmers underneath and hope nobody spots them) and put on a matching bindi to go with it. Dark circles and undone hair along….I was set to get married.
I could not feel the magnitude of the situation right then. To be fair, I rarely ever feel anything while something important or life-changing is happening. It is always in retrospect. So I was just bothered about the paperwork involved, the office work and my team back in Abu Dhabi, the traffic and so on. Everything was in place.
My mom and dad, Chetak’s mom and dad, the respective bade bhaiyas and us. Eight of us in the lawyer’s 4×4 chamber. Some small talk and old tales later, the lawyer’s sidekick came to get things started. After the first round of paperwork we were called for the religious ceremony in the temple nearby. All of us went. The priest looked like he hadn’t showered in a week. The first floor temple looked like a workshop. But we weren’t complaining. And we weren’t the only ones there. Everyone who cares to get a visa to join a spouse in another country in time for the bigger ceremony goes through the same process. And a civil registration through the simplest (of a few) legal routes involves going to this temple to solemnise a marriage. Of course, it’s valid only if both parties subscribe to Hinduism (legalities). So there we were with used headgear and garlands that were provided at the venue. We took everyone’s blessings, overpaid for one wedding photo (after all, it had to go with my visa application and NEVER to be shared with anyone else) and signed on the first of two marriage certificates.
My mom had carried kaju barfi for this moment. We stepped out of the temple and she shared the sweets with everyone. Because technically, her daughter had just got married.
Following that we went through the slow process of legal registration and showing our faces to the registrar before we got the legal paper that certified our marriage. But wait, there has to be a screw up. I pulled this one off. Through that entire morning we must have signed in at least 20 places. The final of these signatures was on the main certificate which we were made to check and proofread at least thrice before it was finalised.
Now. I used to have two signatures – a full signature that was on my passport and tax papers. The other that I started using later because my full name is too long to keep signing everywhere. This second one was on all other official papers including bank accounts. So after consciously signing the full signature everywhere I ended up using the abbreviated one on the main certificate. I realised it the moment I did it but I was too scared of Chetak’s dad, who was standing beside me, to say anything. Yes, Chetak lost his top when I told him later – when nothing could be done about it.
The implications. UK home office could have rejected my application on the grounds that there was a mismatch of signatures. The photo on this certificate was so lame that that would never have served as proof of my identity. It could mean Chetak married some other Richa Bhardwaj. Paranoia levels were crossing the maximum limit for both of us. And the solution was just more unwanted paperwork.
So on my next and final trip to Delhi, I went straight to the passport office to get my signature updated (along with other changes such as marital status). It was another long days of drama. I unwillingly realised that several government processes are managed at whim. But it wasn’t the day to complain. My work got done with limited hassle. I had the right spouse name and the right signature – ready to move to visa paperwork – within a week. Yes, I was officially my Mr’s Mrs. However, I was still one step short of becoming Mrs. Gandhi. The paperwork and government’s whim won that one.