Even tsunamis couldn’t swamp love in Port Blair relief camp

Associated Press

Port Blair, January 17:

The young bride wore a red sari with a bright gold border, and stared demurely at the relief camp’s floor.

Next to her, the nervous-looking groom twisted his handkerchief and looked away.

Women blew conch shells while children beat drums as the first marriage ceremony was performed in the crowded camp for tsunami survivors yesterday.

Kalpana Mondal,18, and

Sanjay Mistri, 26, were on separate islands in India’s Andaman and Nicobar archipelago

when the deadly December 26 tsunami battered the island chain. Kalpana was evacuated along with her mother and siblings to a relief camp in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar.

Mistri, a construction worker who worked alongside Kalpana’s father, Karthik Mondal, was picked up by ship and reached another camp

in the city. For days, Mistri helped Kalpana’s father search for his family.

“My wife and children thought I had perished while I thought they were all dead,” said the bride’s father. Then some neighbours brought Mondal news that his wife and children were in Port Blair and the family was reunited.

In the weeks that followed, Mistri helped the Mondals file a government claim for their home that was washed away by the tsunami.

As the family scrambled to get food and clothing in the relief camp, a quiet love blossomed between the young couple. “I saw the way they looked at each other, and decided to get them married. But we had lost everything, how could we do anything?” Mondal said.

That was when a Port Blair-based private group, the Islanders’ Youth Club, stepped in and promised to help the couple get married.

Volunteers contributed new clothes and jewelry for the bride and a silken tunic and sarong for the groom. And in keeping with Indian tradition, a set of cooking pots, crockery and Rs 2,000 ($45) formed the bride’s dowry.

“This marriage gives us a happy feeling. We see normalcy slowly returning to people’s lives,” said Vinod Singh, a schoolteacher in Port Blair and leader of the youth club. “It gives us new hope.”