| Pampa and Uttam. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Nandigram, Nov. 19: The lives of Uttam Roy, 21, and Pampa, 19, changed for ever deep inside Nandigram’s trouble zone between the March 14 firing and the November recapture.
They met, fell in love and today got married at the centuries-old Janakinath Mandir, yards from Nandigram High School where hundreds of homeless are huddled for safety.
Every now and then, a wail or two rose above Nishi Kanta Patra’s intonation of the wedding mantras but the old priest didn’t mind.
It was the first marriage since the Durga Puja at the temple, which is to Nandigram town what the Kalighat shrine is to Calcutta.
“So it was a pleasant surprise when they turned up just after noon and said they wanted to get married before the idols of Ram, Sita and Hanuman. The girl’s relatives asked me to avoid costly rituals,” Patra said.
“We met at a time of tragedy — just after the March 14 firing. It happened at a common friend’s home in Gokulnagar where she lives,” said Uttam, who comes from a family of farmers living in No. 7 Jalpai village.
Nandigram was simmering and Uttam’s family, staunch Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporters, was preparing with fellow villagers to “fight back”. For the next eight months, Uttam played an active part in the land movement — which meant that when the recapture happened, the whole family had to flee home.
“But I decided to return early,” Uttam said. “I didn’t want to delay the marriage. My friends asked me to wait and said this wasn’t the right time, but I went ahead.”
His elder brother Gobindo hinted that the family had struck a little “understanding” with the local CPM to be able to stay in their village.
At the temple, Uttam and Pampa made offerings to the deities and exchanged garlands. The groom wore a cream silk kurta and white pyjamas, the bride a red sari.
“The wedding took an hour,” Patra said. “Before leaving, they bent down and sought my blessings. After they had climbed down to the courtyard, they tucked sweets into each other’s mouths.”
Outside the temple, Gobindo’s wife Purnima said: “Maybe we will throw a small party for close relatives at home.”
Their “rickshaw van” vanished down the winding asphalt road towards Tekhali bridge, the site of a fierce gun battle a fortnight ago.