A young Indian couple, whose post-wedding photo shoot went viral on social media and were harshly criticized, have told that they will not remove the photos because it would mean that They are obeying the bullies.
The photos show Lakshmi and Hiroshi Karthik wrapped in white blankets, laughing, hugging and chasing each other in the lush tea gardens.
They were married in a small ceremony in September, and the couple say they decided to have a photo shoot after the wedding that would make up for the shortcomings of the unfinished wedding ceremony as well as be "memorable."
"Our marriage involved both love and the consent of the family," Lakshmi said by phone from her home in Ernakulam, in the southern state of Kerala.
"Our family introduced us to each other last year, then we started meeting and we fell in love," he said.
Hiroshi works for a telecom company and Lakshmi has just completed her degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
The couple had planned a fabulous wedding in April, but then the corona virus thwarted all plans.
In late March, India imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned all gatherings to prevent the spread of the corona virus. Small-scale marriages were also allowed after the lockdown ended.
The two did not want to wait long, so Hiroshi and Lakshmi got married on September 16 at a temple in their hometown of Kollam.
"It was a great wedding but only our family and some close friends attended. The police only allowed us to invite 50 guests, there were a lot of restrictions.
To fulfill their dream, the couple decided to have a 'memorable' photo shoot. In Kerala and many other parts of India, many couples are announcing their marriage to the world with a detailed photo shoot instead of the traditional photo shoot.
Hiroshi wanted to make this post-wedding photo shoot 'romantic and very close', he saw various shoots on the internet and finally he thought of putting this concept into practice.
His photographer friend Akhil Karthikeyan, who took the pictures, told me that it took only a few hours to make Hiroshi's imaginary photo shoot possible. They borrowed blankets from the couple's hotel room in the lush tea gardens, and the tea gardens served as the backdrop.
"We had a lot of fun," says Lakshmi. We were laughing all the time. We were very excited. It was part of our honeymoon, we were newly married and we were feeling free. '
He added that he had no idea it would create so many problems for him.
The trouble started just two days later when Akhil uploaded photos on Facebook.
Trolls called the images ugly, obscene and shameful. Some said they were fit for pornography and condom commercials. Some suggested they get a room.
Lakshmi says, "We only faced intense hatred for two days. "People said we were showing nudity. They asked if we were wearing underwear. They said we were doing it to get attention and publicity."
Lakshmi says he was criticized more.
"It was a terrible experience for me," she says. They were harassing me more than ever. They were asking me to act in porn movies, my body was criticized.
"These trolls included a lot of women. They found my previous photos, in which I did not put on make-up, and began to compare how ugly I looked in those photos.
But a few days later, many people began to take the trolls in stride, as well as expressing support for the couple. Many people described the photos as amazing and beautiful and advised the couple to ignore critical comments.
One woman said she remembers a time when a married couple felt ashamed holding hands and advised the couple to ignore critics and be happy.
"We don't know who criticized us," says Lakshmi. We didn't even know the people who were speaking in our support, but we were very happy. "
Not only were these unknown social media trolls, the couple also had to deal with conservative relatives who did not like the photo shoot.
"Initially, our parents were also surprised, but we explained to them why we wanted to do it and they understood and were very helpful," says Lakshmi. But many of our relatives have accused us of adopting Western culture.
"They called us to ask what we needed to do. "Have you forgotten our culture?" He asked.
Many people asked them to remove the photos and Lakshmi and Hiroshi were removed from Family WhatsApp groups.
But the couple says they are determined not to remove the photos.
Lakshmi says, "If we do that, they will consider it our confession." That would mean we've done something wrong. But we did nothing wrong. We were also dressed downstairs. '
"In the beginning it was difficult to deal with all kinds of criticism, but now we are used to it," she said. We know that society is like that and we have learned to live with it.