By Quaid Najmi
MANMAD, Maharashtra–Traditional Buddhist-Maharashtrian wedding preparations are under way at a small household in Manmad, a bustling city around 200 km north of Mumbai. In the wintry chill, the Alinje family here is preparing to warmly welcome Cecilie Vedel Pedersen, a former Danish football international who has turned out for the national women’s team, as the wife of their eldest son, Dr. Rahul Alinje.
Scheduled for Sunday (December 20), the wedding excitement and the thrill of having a “star foreign bahu” in their midst have gone viral in the entire Gaekwad Nagar neighbourhood of this city and in entire Nashik district.
“We are a Buddhist family, but we love the Maharashtrian traditions and so we shall get married in Buddhist ceremonies, with Cecilie sporting a Marathi ‘nav-wari sari’ (a nine-yard sari, unique to this state),” a somewhat diffident Rahul told IANS in the midst of the last-minute wedding preparations.
The duo met in Denmark when he was pursuing his doctoral studies and research at Roskilde University, in Trekroner, in 2011.
“Simultaneously, I was teaching yoga to the locals there. I was introduced to Cecilie by a common friend and she even attended my classes. We got to know each other well since then,” Rahul, 34, added.
A few years ago, Cecilie, 32, was injured while playing football and stopped playing the game. A forward, she had represented Denmark at the international level and in the 2007 women’s World Cup.
Incidentally, after completing his BA from a college affiliated to Pune’s Savitribai Phule University, Rahul pursued his higher education in Denmark since several years and learnt Yoga on his own there.
Acclaimed as a “yoga guru”, along with the Indian embassy, he took the lead in celebrating the first International Yoga Day in Copenhagen on January 21 with a large number of Danes participating.
Through long walks and discussions on yoga, their friendship soon blossomed into love and one fine day in Denmark, when Rahul finally proposed to her, Cecilie shyly responded with a “Ja” (Yes)!
Well, the goal was set for the yoga-loving duo and they decided to marry and settle down in life.
For Rahul’s parents, father Walmik, a fitter in the railways, and mother Suman, who did odd jobs to support the family, the news surprised and pleased them.
“We are followers of Buddhism which teaches us to accept everybody into our fold. My family very happily agreed to our desire to get married,” Rahul said.
Though Cecilie had visited Rahul’s home in the past as a friend and even tried her hand at making ‘chapatis’, a few days ago she was welcomed as the demure, prospective bride and subjected to royal treatment, pampering and love that any Indian bride gets.
Unable to communicate in Marathi, Cecilie makes up with sign language with the Alinjes, including Rahul’s sister, Sharda, and cousin Nitin Pagare and is rewarded with helpful tips on Indian culture, customs and cuisine from them.
This week, the pre-wedding ceremonies are under way full-scale and she has been seen sporting traditional Marathi attire, jewellery and dutifully attending all the ceremonies.
The family is besieged with scores of curious visitors daily, besides the paparazzi, to catch a glimpse of the Danish celebrity who will soon be Manmad’s “bahu”.
Cecilie’s parents – her father is a Hollywood director – have come to attend the wedding in Manmad, though her sister could not come due to other commitments.
However, Rahul and Cecilie have not yet made up their mind on whether to settle after marriage in Manmad or in Denmark.
“That we shall decide later. I am in the process of getting a job as a professor in a university in Denmark. Cecilie also plans to become a teacher and we shall both also impart yoga training,” Rahul mused.
If his parents agree to shift to Denmark then the couple will settle there, “though we are both agreeable to settling down even in Manmad, if required”.