When French-Canadian doctor Frank Grégoire sat down at a piano to tickle the ivories with a Hindi love song, he was envisioning the tune as a wedding day moment that would stun his wife.
Little did he know, that video would garner more than 4.1 million views when posted online, making its way to India, where it has been lauded for cracking the centuries-old glass walls that have made inter-faith marriages taboo.
In a Sikh-Christian ceremony, Grégoire, a 36-year-old doctor from Sherbrooke, Que., wed Simran Malhotra, 27, also a doctor, but from Toronto. The June 27 nuptials took place in Baltimore, Maryland, not far from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the pair work.
They met there about three years ago when Grégoire was working as a critical care physician and Malhotra was starting her medical residency. Malhotra quickly learned that Grégoire was a singer and piano player from a musically inclined family.
Though Malhotra had heard Grégoire sing at family get-togethers, their wedding was the first time he had belted out a Hindi tune — scoring points with the in-laws.
“Tum Hi Ho”, the track he settled on, was from a 2013 Bollywood movie, Aashiqui 2. It is sprinkled with lines about loyalty and devotion to a lover.
“It took four weeks to learn just the words and the hard part was that Simran is around all the time,” Grégoire told the Star. “I couldn’t practice, so in the shower or driving to work, that’s what I did.”
The song, he said, had been suggested by Malhotra’s mother after he approached her looking for a Hindi poem to recite for his wife. (Simran, who calls herself “the cheesiest person in the world,” had joked that their wedding gifts to one another should be something “with some meaning or thought behind it” because Gregoire was known to give her jewelry.)
At the ceremony, attended by 130 family members and friends, Grégoire took his place behind the piano after professing his love for Malhotra.
“When he started singing in Hindi, I didn’t know what to think or say or do,” Malhotra recalled, noting that she broke down in tears. “It was unreal.”
By the end of it, there were few dry eyes in the room, so it was a hardly a tough decision to post the song online.
Since then, it has become a social media sensation being shared by plenty across the globe and viewed by millions.
“Her grandfather who couldn’t make it (to the wedding) for health reasons saw us on TV,” Grégoire said.
“We are two nerdy people who are always at the hospital, and here we are all over YouTube,” Malhotra added.
The video has reunited them with grade-school friends who had fallen out of touch and also become an object of discussion in India.
“There are people out there who would have wanted to marry someone from a different culture or faith, and they haven’t been able to,” Grégoire said. “If that opens the door for some people to be with the people they like, we feel that is amazing.”
To carry on spreading the love, Malhotra said she and Grégoire are encouraging others to film and post acts of generosity and compassion with the hashtag #ShowYourLove on social media.
“A lot of times we deal with families that didn’t get that last chance to say what they wanted to say and so having Frank done this beautiful thing for me, it motivated me,” Malhotra said. “Even if 100 people tell someone that they love their loved ones, I think it will be really special for us.”