When Shardul Kadam said that he would wear a mangalsutra on his wedding day, his decision to turn an old ritual on its head raised many eyebrows. The mangalsutra is a sacred thread which is traditionally tied by the groom around the bride’s neck on their wedding day. “After the pheras when Tanuja and I tied the mangalsutra around each other’s neck, I was so happy,” recalls Shardul, about why he chose to wear a mangalsutra and how that one decision made the couple a target of Internet trolls.
Shardul and Tanuja met in college, although their love story began four years after they graduated. “We reconnected in the most unexpected way. She’d shared a Himesh Reshammiya song on Instagram and captioned it as ‘torture’-I replied back saying ‘maha torture’…that’s how we started talking,” says Shardul.
When they met for tea after a few weeks and started talking about feminism, Shardul declared himself to be a “hardcore feminist”.
“She looked at me as if she hadn’t expected me to say that!” he says.
Shardul and Tanuja dated for a year before they informed their parents, who were thrilled. In September 2020, as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic subsided, they started planning their wedding.
“That’s when I told Tanuja, ‘Why is it that only a girl has to wear a mangalsutra? It makes no sense!’ We were both equals, so I announced, ‘Even I’ll wear a mangalsutra on our wedding day!'” Shardul tells Humans of Bombay.
His parents were surprised and relatives questioned his decision, but Shardul refused to budge, saying that wearing a mangalsutra to him represented equality.
“For some reason, the girl’s family is ‘supposed’ to bear the cost of the wedding, but I went to Tanuja’s parents and told them that we’d split all costs,” he said further.
The day before their wedding, Tanuja asked him if he would wear the mangalsutra after the wedding as well – and Shardul said he would. Their wedding went off smoothly. “Even though a few male relatives weren’t happy about it, they didn’t say anything to us,” says Shardul, referring to the exchange of mangalsutras.
However, the next day, the newlyweds woke up to “terrible backlash” on social media. “A newspaper had picked up our story,” says Shardul.
“People started commenting- ‘Now wear a saree also’, ‘Do you bleed once a month?’ Even liberals started trolling me, ‘This is not the way to support gender equality,’ they said.”
Shardul says he expected some trolling to come his way, but the extent of it surprised him. “At first, Tanuja was affected by it, but it’s been 4 months now and we’re just done with the trolls,” he says.
“Because Tanuja and I can define our relationship better than anyone else; we support each other’s work, believe in each other’s dreams, and are in this journey together. So, who cares what the world thinks?” Shardul concludes.
Shardul and Tanuja’s story has struck a chord with the Internet, racking up more than 82,000 ‘likes’ on Instagram and thousands more on Facebook.
“Proud of your decision and God bless you both with lots of strength and happiness,” wrote one Facebook user.
“I respect groom’s feelings. I don’t think he has done anything wrong. He has worn mangalsutra as a symbol of equality and portrayed his thinking,” said another.
In 2019, another wedding with a difference had gone viral on social media. At that wedding, the bride’s father refused to do kanyadaan or give away the bride, saying that his daughter is “not property to give away”.