When we asked Sairam his take on love, he stated “Pyaar Dosti Hai”. And this is a story when two best friends married each other. Yes, total “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” feels. Another interesting part, Sairam & Pooja are neighbours in the same building, Soumya Towers in Chembur. And their journey from neighbours to friends to lovers brewed from there!
For the longest time, we wanted to shoot a full-fledged tamil wedding. We have ofcourse shot many of them (Akhil – Shruti, Swati – Yash ), but majorly they were all cross culture weddings, having one essence of tamil wedding, blended with the other culture. And thats when some time in October last year, we got a call from Sairam for the coverage of his wedding. Both Sairam & Pooja are tamilians. Since both of them stay in the same building, it was easy to have a meeting with both of them, plus their families. And soon we were on-board for their wedding in January 2019.
The wedding festivities spanned for three days, starting from the mehendi. Dressed in yellow & surrounded with all happy vibes were how Sairam & Pooja started their mehendi function, and we got to document a lot of happy stories there. It was followed by a very fun sangeet function in the evening. Friends & family danced their hearts out and it was such an amazing sight to see. The next day was followed by dance and engagement. The finale day was the wedding day. Pooja started getting ready very early in the morning and we started documenting the process from her house. What followed thereafter was beautiful, colourful & striking tamil wedding.
Pooja’s choice of saree & jewellery is worth mentioning here. She looked stunning in all the sarees Credits to MUA @shruthijulta for creating magic with her looks. Also, Sairam is hands down our quirkiest groom, his expressions says it all! Photographs by : Anupam Maurya, Soumi Goswami & Pratik Mehta Here you go now with their photo-story :
One fine day, few months ago, while browsing instagram, I came across a post of a little baby who had the most prettiest eyes. From the post, I got to know her name is Norah, and it was a post regarding ‘Down Syndrome – being different is good”. And that rose my curiosity to check out more photos from @pooja_and_norah‘s instagram account. And I am really glad that I did that. It was Pooja, Norah’s mother’s instagram account, and Norah has Down Syndrome. As we speak, Norah is 23 months old and approaches her second birthday on July 2. And seeing their little baby grow through therapy and beating limitations God bestowed on her each day is how Pooja & Vivek (Norah’s father) cherish & celebrate each day. I pinged Pooja on instagram and she was kind enough to reply back. We had a little conversation about my sister & Norah.
Your child is not like others. She is different. This was first told to my mother when my sister was 4 years, by her kindergarten school teacher. Later on, we came to know that she is mild autistic. And the meaning of different changed for us. We eventually started seeing different as beautiful. My sister is now 21 years old. She is beautiful, compassionate and a very loving soul. We have celebrated “being different” with her since she was small, and we still do!
But it was not easy. All the while I grew up, I have seen society’s perception of being different. And I deduced that noone likes to be treated as different. No one wants to be labelled and segregated from society. No one wants to be discriminated for being different. No one wishes to be reduced to being considered unworthy for being different. No one wants to be different, if that comes with a stigma or being looked down upon. So it’s really easy for us to say that you need to stand out to be remembered because that’s a choice we have when we aren’t born different! The problem lies in acceptance. Accepting that being different is beautiful and good for you and then move on accordingly. When I heard Norah’s story, I could connect so much with Pooja. I really desired to meet Norah and photograph her.
We had infact longed to do a family documentary session/ A day in the life session since a very long time. Pooja instantly loved the idea of “A day in the life” as we explained her. To be frank, we were quite unsure whether Pooja would agree to let us into their lives for an entire day as the prevailing trend is to capture posed photos of babies and kids. But to our surprise, Pooja instantly understood what we were trying to do, and as we got to know more about Pooja we realised her understanding stemmed from the fact that she is a very creative person herself. Pooja left a successful career as interior designer. She was a partner at a reputed firm before she decided to be a mommy full time and currently playing an amazing role as being an Down’s Syndrome Advocate. One of the first question, Pooja had was how the idea came to us. And after little soul search, we realised it is mostly due to our strength of telling stories first as a street photographer and then as a wedding photojournalist. Photos are a powerful medium and a universal language, understood by everyone. A well put photo-essay can convey emotions across borders which words couldn’t describe easily.
We felt just one day in the day of the life of Norah wasn’t enough, so we visited them twice and thought it would be a good idea if we share the photos of both the days (Day 1 & Day 2). Thanks to Pooja & Vivek, who were so welcoming to let us into their space & lives. We are grateful to them for giving us this opportunity to spent two beautiful days with them and Norah. They are surely an inspiration and give us parenting goals. Norah means shining light, & she exactly lives to her name by bringing extra sunshine wherever she goes and whomever she meets. Norah has also been featured in Official Humans Of Bombay, Kidsstoppress, Firstmomsclub, Yoocan, Ketto.
Scroll the gallery below that would take you through the “Day in the Life of Norah” in her own words. Do tap on the image to read the caption 🙂
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NORAH : DAY 1
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NORAH : DAY 2
As we got started with the project ” A Day in the life of Norah”, we had some imminent questions regarding Down’s Syndrome. There is a lack of awareness which is very much prevalent in our society, which is why we got Pooja to answer a few questions, and she opened up heart for us. We are sure most of us would find this helpful 🙂
1: What are the limitations a child faces with Down Syndrome. When a child is born with Down Syndrome he/she comes with a label. This label has a lot of negativity around it, so already the child has to fight the label to show its worth to the parents to begin with as opposed to a typical child being born and being welcomed with open arms and big dreams.The biggest limitation that a child with Down Syndrome faces is the limited perception of the parents for their child,giving the label more importance than the child. Due to low muscle tone and if they have congenital issues, their physical milestones get delayed but that is not a Limitation. Their intellect may vary but that is still not a limitation because each child comes with limitations. Our biggest limitation is our own thinking for people around us who are different. They aren’t the ones limited, we are!
2: How do you think therapy plays a role in the development of a child with Down Syndrome?
Early intervention plays a very vital role in the physical and cognitive development of a child with Down Syndrome.Physical Therapy helps them strengthen their muscles,improve their motor skills, gives them good postural alignment. Occupational Therapy also helps with fine motor skills so that they are able to perform their daily tasks. Speech therapy helps them with speech and language development so that they are able to communicate with everyone and be understood. Some individuals also need behavioural therapy to help them with the emotional difficulties that may come with Down Syndrome.
3. How has Norah changed your lives?
Norah has been a life saver. Where I drew my happiness from mostly everything external, where I put success charts based on my achievements, where I believed I knew what unconditional love was, she changed all of that. She made me realise, that life could be simple and being happy was my choice. Projecting my successes and failures on external factors wasn’t really the best way of seeing my self-worth.
She saved me from the rat race of life that I was living. She helped me calm down and enjoy life for how I wish to see it.There are always 2 sides of a coin. Norah helped me realise that, all I had to do was flip my coin and see the bright side. She helped me change my perspective on life. She made me more able than I was before her. She continues to help me rediscover myself and try to live life to the fullest and own my differences like she owns hers!! The biggest thing she taught me was Unconditional Love!! We always say, I love you no matter what.. but do we really know what that truly means.She taught me the “no matter what” in unconditional love!
4. What role parents can play in shaping the lives of the children with Down Syndrome?
If only someone could show me a glimpse into my life now I would’ve never been so shattered and I would’ve figured that everything would be ok and actually better than I would ever imagine my life could be. Even though I couldn’t get a glimpse into my own life, I did get a glimpse into many other happy lives of families who had children with Down Syndrome. These adults are thriving and doing great things in life,breaking stereotypes and living their life to the fullest. What was common among all these successful people?— Their support system-Their parents treated their kids with love. They did not limit their kids to anything. They believed their kids were worthy. They did not give them any special treatment. They were treated equally and were given equal opportunities right from home. They were taught to be proud of who they are. Their parents may have struggled to show the worth of their kids to the world but they taught their kids to raise the bar inspite of their differences.They never saw the label, they saw their children for who they were.
So that’s what we all need to learn from parents who have come before us and have raised their kids with Down Syndrome with love and pride.Drop the label,don’t focus on the limitations and teach them to love who they are and be proud of themselves and own their differences!! Educate people around you because you also walked into this life without knowledge. So be kind to others who may not get you as parents and some who maynot understand your kids worth.. it’s ok!! That doesn’t define your child or you as parents!! When we know better we do better!!
6: Lot of parents worry about the future of their child. What according to you can the society do in order to make it easier for children with special needs and their future.
Every parent worries about their child’s future because we all want the best for our kids.I try not to think of the distant future and live in the present. I try to work towards short term goals with Norah so we are able to see the positive side of things where she is working hard at being able everyday.
We need to change the way we look at our kids before we reach out to our society.If we don’t believe they will be ABLE enough to live independently when they grow up and we don’t believe that they can have a good life, we can’t reach out to the society and preach that.So by giving our kids equal opportunities from home and not giving them any special treatment we are building an environment for them where they will learn to thrive. By creativity a positive and healthy environment at home and giving them the tools that they need to be Able, will help them develop into good human beings who will live independent lives.
We as a society need to learn about different abilities. We are still taught archaic theories on Down Syndrome and the archaic stigma attached to it continues to scare new parents, where as Down Syndrome is nothing like it was decades ago.With the scientific progress life expectancy has increased and the quality of life has improved drastically.We as a society need to learn to be kind and not judge people based just on their intellectual capabilities. We as a society need to start creating a diverse and inclusive environment in our own communities and give individuals with different abilities equal opportunities so they can also be contributing members of our society and live independent lives.
7: Do you think meetups of kids with Down syndrome and their parents can help, and if yes, in what ways.
Our community is small and we all need each other to not feel like we are in this alone. So meet ups where there is a sense of positivity would help all of us immensely. Meet ups will also give a chance to welcome new parents where they can see the true life of an individual and parents of individuals with Down Syndrome. Meet ups would immensely help parents who have younger kids to get direction as to how they could help their kids reach their highest potential.
The sense of belonging comes from a community where everyone feels welcomed and no one feels judged! Where all thoughts good,bad and ugly have a place without any judgments and that in turn can be very therapeutic for the parents too.
Meet ups can also include a lot of activities for kids so it’s fun for them to hang out together and learn from each other!!
The main aim of meet ups is recognise the bond we all share because of our kids and to take pride in their achievements and their hard work. To value our kids,because of whom we can have a community who will be there with us with open arms without wallowing in self pity and darkness!!
They say Special Needs Parents are 200% more likely to consider suicide. I know this may not be because of the Disability but it could be because the parents themselves have had no time to take care of themselves and have burnt themselves out for their kids without addressing their own physical and mental health. So meet ups will definitely help in addressing needs of the parents which is most important.
Pankaj & Priyanshi got married at ITC Grand Maratha, Mumbai, and it was one of the most beautiful weddings we covered this year. #shigotpunked is all about two amazing fun loving souls in love!
We met Pankaj & Priyanshi over a cup of coffee at Starbucks and as they went about discussing their schedule, we knew that this is going to be a great one. Pankaj & Priyanshi knew each other since very long. Though there was a certain point of time, they lost in touch with each other due to distance & the ache that comes along with it. But destiny had bigger plans for them. When Pankaj came back to India after his studies, they found love again. And then everyone knew where it would lead eventually.
What started with their amazing pre wedding shoot in Nashik, ended with fun festivities spread out for five days. And it was so much fun to document each chapter of their wedding. The pre wedding functions happened at Pankaj & Priyanshi’s houses respectively, the mehendi ceremony at Hiton, Mumbai, and the sangeet & wedding at ITC Grand Maratha. There are so many reasons to remember this wedding – the happiness & the joys of the families, the amount of fun these two had & lastly shooting the bride who had her own baraat. Thank you guys for letting us document your special days. Let us take you through their wedding story in photographs below
Sanket & Monika got married at Ajanta Ambassador, Aurangabad and it was such a beautiful & vibrant wedding filled with colours, emotions, love & warmth. It was maharashtrian wedding, but very different from the usual ones 🙂
What started as an arranged marriage match for them, ended in finding the truest love. Sanket did his part of surprising her several times in their courtship period, and thus wooing her eventually. A dreamy proposal sealed their deal. They were staying in two different cities, Sanket in Pune & Monika in Aurangabad. This is their story in Sanket’s words – We were introduced by our parents as it’s was an arranged marriage. The initial stage was confusing and our parents were gracious to provide both of us with enough time to take a decision on each other. We were glad and equally happy for us that we moved ahead together. Out of the 3 months of our courtship period, It took us almost 2 months to have our first picture clicked as both of us were of shy nature and took our own time as we also didn’t get to spend as much time as we wished. However the next month, we bonded and fell in love. I was the one who started falling for this relationship first so that meant I had to be the one taking more efforts. She planned to watch a movie with me for that I would travel all the way to her city Aurangabad , if we had a fight although because of me, again I had to travel to the city to make it up to her. It was 26th December 2018, when I proposed her. So the plan started 2 months ago and in that time period I had a rough idea of what I was thinking to do for that special day. I wanted it to be done on a lake with lanterns and on a boat with fireworks. I made sure that she wears the clothes that I bought for her on that day so I had to buy 4 set of clothes to let her have options and choose. I planned to travel 1100 kms in 21 hours thanks to my car so that I could pick her up from home and take her to the place where I planned to propose her. And I was totally thrilled when she said yes. That was the month where she and I got to know each other on a different level. On 3rd January 2019, we got engaged. And now both of us feel like that yes we can’t wait and to get married, so don’t know if it’s an arranged or love marriage.😅
They were looking for best candid wedding photographers to capture their wedding and that’s how they approached us. We were privileged enough to spend a day with them before their wedding, for their pre-wedding shoot at Dapoli. Together with them, we explored the amazing beaches, ran with the windy breeze, played with splashy waters & danced along. And of course, took some pictures. They wanted to re-create their proposal story. The set-up with the curtains, lights, ballons, candles, wine, chocolates, cushion pillows & “name it & they had it all” possible goodies made way in creating the most beautiful proposal we had seen. Monika said yes once again to Sanket. The fact that we bonded so well made us look really forward to the wedding, by the end of the shoot.
The Wedding festivities started with the haldi. They had kept a “south indian” themed haldi. It started with a ceremonial bathing of the bride and groom in the open amidst cloudy skies. Thereafter, rains visited as a surprise, all of us had to rush indoors. The next ceremony of haldi was supposed to happen outdoors, and all of us including the couple, family & friends waited anxiously for the rains to stop. Every cloud has a silver lining, they say. Its very true indeed! The rains stopped and they had a beautiful haldi ceremony with so much fun scenes happening. Like literally, even the photographers weren’t spared by the bride. It was followed by a few rounds of grand flower shower on the couple. Looked surreal, gorgeous & stunning as we freezed the moments in our cameras.
The Sangeet started with a grand entry of the couple in a chariot. That magical evening saw a lot of performances from the closed family, friends and relatives. Monika enthralled the audience with her performance. We had gotten to believe by then that Sanket & surprises go hand in hand. And, he pulled off a surprise dance performance for Monika. It was a very emotional moment for her, and we loved seeing her reactions as he nailed his performance. What followed next was a beautiful couple dance performance and then the families got together on stage, the happy scene being lit with fireworks. The last day before their big day, and we saw everyone overwhelmed with emotions.
The wedding day started with the bride and groom getting ready in their respective rooms. Soon thereafter, the wedding vidhis started. There were smiling glances and happiness throughout the wedding. It was followed by the baraat & antarpat. And thus, vows for lifetime togetherness was sealed. The wedding ended with a surprise music performance by Gilbert Gauci (Sanket’s friend from Scotland who is an amazing singer)
The grand reception in the evening was a perfect culmination of all the events put together. And we loved the way Monika & Sanket made an entry amidst the pyro fireworks & thai dancers. There are some special people who continuously worked to make sure that bride & groom aren’t stressed & deserve a mention – Meenal, Kaushal, Shrikant, Aditya, Rohit. Thank you guys, you all were super amazing and super supportive. Thank you Sanket & Monika for letting us be a part of your big day, you both are adorable.
The Wedding Venue, Ajanta Ambassador is one of the heritage properties in the country and shares a lot of history that is reflected in its interiors with antiques and designs. With that heritage set-up, a new story with timeless photographs got written. One more unique part of this wedding was that all the events happened in the open. With stunning decor for all the events, your pinterest board will get loaded from this wedding!
In our third outing with Saas Bahu & Betiyan on AAJ Tak along with celebrity make-up artist Neha Adhvik Mahajan we got to shoot Television actor Jigyasa Singh popular for her role of Thapki in the TV serial Thapki Pyaar Ki. Jigyasa was dolled up in two contemporary looks for brides – one in a mehendi green bridal lehenga and another peppy powdered blue coloured lehenga for the reception look. Her ensemble and jewelry were carefully put together from different parts of India by Neha.
We were really excited to shoot with Jigyasa who effused a lot of energy. She is super fun and anyone is bound to have a great time with her around. Honestly, shooting actors is way easier than shooting real brides. Their years of experience to pose makes it a cake-walk, and Jigyasa was no different. We feel humbled to be able to work with such kind souls.