By Ananya Bhatnagar and Mohammad Suaib Khan
New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) 'The Big Fat Indian Weddings' in India have lost much of the pomp and pageantry usually associated with them in the past, as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the festivities associated with the ostentatious weddings -- that brought immense joy and celebrations in the families -- have gone for a toss and turned these social occasions into a tame affair.
Gone are the days -- at least for several more months -- when hundreds of guests thronged weddings. Now restrictions on gatherings, including weddings, in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus has led to thin attendance at the celebratory events.
And one thing indicating this downturn in celebrations is the drastic dip in demand for invitation cards.
A visit to Chandni Chowk -- one of the biggest markets that caters to the need of those looking to shop for invitation cards for weddings -- is enough to tell one about the downturn in demand after the pandemic.
Customers for wedding invitation cards are few and far between and most shopkeepers can't help but gaze at their shops' doors while looking for the elusive customers.
"Our businesses remained shut for months but have since resumed. But there isn't any increase in demand as many restrictions on social gatherings like weddings are still in force," Krishna Murari Gupta, President of Delhi Wedding Cards Association, told IANS.
"Many people have postponed weddings in their families while other have turned them into closed family affairs with very limited number of attendees, directly affecting not only our wedding cards business but also other businesses connected to weddings," he said, adding that virtual market too had greatly impacted their business as people were now shifting to e-cards and WhatsApp invitations.
Vijay Kumar, who is into wedding cards business for over 30 years, said: "My business was shut for over seven months. However, after we resumed it, there has been no improvement in the dull sale. Before the pandemic, if a customer normally ordered for over 200-300 cards, now the demand is limited to only 30-40 cards."
"WhatsApp has also gravely affected our sales -- people now make WhatsApp e-cards and sent these to family members and others. Another category of customers get very few wedding invitation cards printed, click their pictures and share them online with scores of relatives and friends they intend to invite, which is hugely affecting our business," Kumar added.
A wholesaler, Ashwani Mehta, told IANS that though the wedding season was on there was no spike in his business due to restrictions imposed by the government.
"This has not only affected our wedding cards business but all activities connected to weddings, like catering or putting up of tents or 'pandals' and flower decorations," Mehta remarked, adding that the wedding industry business had dipped by around 70-80 per cent.
Bengaluru, Nov 25 (IANS) South Western Railway's (SWR) Divisional Railway Manager, Ashok Kumar Verma, on Tuesday flagged off the first export-bound New Modified Goods (NMG) rake from the Hosur railway station to neighbouring Bangladesh.
This is the first NMG rake dispatched by the South Western Railway to Bangladesh.
Speaking to reporters, Verma said the rake consisting of 25 wagons loaded with 100 light commercial vehicles (LCVs) is called "Dost" and has been manufactured by Ashok Leyland. It left for Benapole railway station in Bangladesh.
He said that transportation of automobiles by train is safer and faster compared to transportation by road. "Nont only it is safe and cheaper, but it is also easy to monitor the movement of the consignment in trains with real-time check in practice," he said.
The SWR in a statement claimed that earlier, the Bengaluru division had dispatched two export-bound NMG rakes to Nautanwa (Nepal) from the Penukonda railway station. "Overall, the division has loaded 128 NMG rakes during the current financial year," the statement added.
Verma said the Bengaluru division, which was mainly transporting raw materials and essential commodities, took to loading of automobiles for the first time when it transported 175 tractors from the Doddaballapur railway station to Phuleria in Rajasthan on April 29 this year.
Upbeat about change in the recent policies such as two points unloading of NMG rakes and exemption of terminal charges for automobiles, Verma said that these policy changes have certainly boosted the loading of automobiles by India in Railways.
"In 2020-21, five NMG rakes have been loaded from Hosur. Apart from the rake that left for Bangladesh today, 5,528 two-wheelers have been sent in four rakes to Mandideep in Madhya Pradesh," the Verma said.
The SWR statement added that during the current year, 65 rakes of automobiles manufactured by TAFE, mainly tractors, have been transported by train from the Doddaballapur railway station near Bengaluru.
Till date, a total of 5,600 cars have been transported to Farukh Nagar in Haryana and Nautanwa in Uttar Pradesh from Penukonda in 55 rakes.