Happy ending for tsunami bride and groom

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The Independent Online

Amid the ruins and despair of the tsunami, a small story of hope has emerged. On India's ravaged Andaman Islands, one of the overcrowded refugee camps was decked out in holiday finery over the weekend. Children played excitedly on drums as a traditional ceremony marked the wedding of two survivors.

Amid the ruins and despair of the tsunami, a small story of hope has emerged. On India's ravaged Andaman Islands, one of the overcrowded refugee camps was decked out in holiday finery over the weekend. Children played excitedly on drums as a traditional ceremony marked the wedding of two survivors.

The 18-year-old bride, Kalpana Mondal, was dressed in a red sari edged with gold, a garland of flowers around her neck.

The venue was a refugee camp, for the ceremony could not be held, as is traditional, at her home, because it, and her entire village, in Campbell Bay on Great Nicobar island, was washed away by the wave.

Her now-husband, Sanjay Mistri, was on another island when the tsunami struck and, when he heard the scale of the destruction on Great Nicobar, he had no hope of finding her alive.

"I met her in Campbell Bay a year ago and we had decided to marry," he told Indian reporters. "But the tsunami came and her family lost everything to it."

Mr Mistri, 26, was working as a carpenter on Cachal island, alongside his bride's father, Karthik Mondal. After the tsunami struck, the two men were rescued and brought to Port Blair, the administrative capital of the Andamans.

They believed the rest of Mr Mondal's family was dead. Meanwhile, the rest of the family were convinced that Mr Mondal and Mr Mistri had died in the tsunami.

The two men searched together through the relief camps packed with survivors, but without success. Then finally they heard Miss Mondal and the others were at a relief camp set up in an empty school.

Survivors on Great Nicobar had to trek for days through the jungle interior to reach help, jumping channels infested with crocodiles. Many lived on nothing but coconuts. It was on Great Nicobar that survivors kidnapped the most senior Indian government official on the island to demand food.

The two lovers were reunited, but had no idea how they could get married. The Mondals had lost their home and all their possessions: they were in no position to host the traditional ceremony.

That was when a local group, the Islanders' Youth Club, stepped in. It put up some money and organised the wedding. Local volunteers got involved, donating a new sari and jewellery for the bride, and the traditional clothes for the groom. They even put together a small dowry of 2,000 rupees (£25) for her.

Miss Mondal dressed for her wedding in a classroom at the former school that is now the refugee camp. But she was not at all disappointed in the modified ceremony.

She told reporters she was happy that it had brought a few hours of happiness and celebration to the other tsunami survivors in the camp.

The couple are not, however, planning on staying in the Andamans. Mrs Mistri and her new husband are set on moving to his family home on the Indian mainland, near Calcutta.

"My only wish now is that after I move away with my husband ... [that] my parents and four siblings get to see better days away from this relief camp," she said.

As for the Islanders' Youth Club, it considered its money and time well spent on the wedding.

"We have brought smiles to their lips," said the club's general secretary, Srinivas Reddy. "What more could one ask for in such times of collective grief?"

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