| Kalpana gets bridal make-up before her wedding. (Reuters)
Port Blair, Jan. 16: The tsunami that tore thousands of lives to shreds brought Kalpana Mandal and Sanjay Mistri closer together when the couple ' having survived the devastation of Andaman's southern islands ' got married at a relief camp today.
After the heartache, there is hope of a happily-ever-after for the newlyweds. Kalpana, who looks painfully young but is apparently 18, was with her mother and four younger siblings at Campbell Bay when the killer waves struck, destroying their home.
'We lived in an army camp for a while, before coming here on January 2,' mumbled Kalpana, getting ready for her wedding at her home for the past two weeks, the camp at Boys Senior Secondary School, Middle Point, Port Blair.
At that time, Sanjay, 26, was working with Kalpana's father Karthik at Katchal. They, too, were rescued and brought to another camp in the capital. But they had no news of each other for days. 'Kalpana would just cry and cry,' recalled mother Usharani.
Reunited, plans for a future together started afresh. The wedding has been on the cards for some time now. The bride's parents were keen on the match, and the two have been getting to know each other for a year. 'We have been friends,' smiled the blushing bride, barely lifting her face.
The wedding was put on hold as Sanjay wanted to concentrate on his work as a carpenter before taking on the responsibility of a family. But after making it through December 26 alive, he changed his mind. 'Now, I want to go back to the mainland, to Basantinagar, near Canning which is about 70 km from Calcutta, where my parents live,' he confessed, minutes before the ceremony began.
He wanted to take Kalpana with him, but the camp authorities refused to let her go with him without being married first.
So the volunteers took it upon themselves to organise a wedding any young couple would be proud of. Kalpana was in complete Bengali bride regalia. She even had a make-up crew ' girls from a local orphanage ' that worked on her pretty face for over an hour.
A priest conducted the ceremony as best he could with a plastic glass standing in for the ghat. The only pidis (flat, square pieces of wood for sitting on) available were too small. So, instead of being carried, Kalpana walked around her groom.
The wedding was followed by a feast ' chicken curry, rice, dal, gulab jamun, achar, salad and papad. The camp complains of receiving inadequate rations from the administration, so a local youth club, which has been making dinner at Middle Point everyday, stepped up to cook the steaming spread. For missing family members, a school ground full of 500 camp residents was an adequate and noisy replacement.
The ulus ' always the cause of some mirth at such events ' were first accompanied by clapping by those who couldn't master the subtle art, and later, by rather hysterical hooting, celebrating Andaman's wedding of the year.