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Saturday, October 24, 2020

At Assam-Bengal border, a ‘jugaad’ lockdown wedding

With permission granted, the wedding was to take place in the bride’s house in Dhubri district of Assam, 175 km across the border from the groom’s house.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati | Updated: May 26, 2020 11:42:26 pm
The authorities then said there was only one way out: that the wedding happen at the border checkpost itself.

“Jugaad” — that is how 29-year-old Om Prakash Sha described his wedding, which took place at a check post on the Assam-Bengal border four days ago. “It was total jugaad,” he said, “We actually set up a space so that we could get married by the side of the road.”

In November 2019, when the 29-year-old resident of West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district got engaged to Kajol Sah from Assam, this was not the wedding their parents had planned. Yet, when the pandemic hit and a nationwide lockdown was announced, the families took it in their stride and sought permission for a pared down wedding celebration on May 23.

With permission granted, the wedding was to take place in the bride’s house in Dhubri district of Assam, 175 km across the border from the groom’s house. However, on Saturday morning, when the groom and his family members arrived at the inter-state border in Assam’s Sagolia checkpost, they were not allowed to go further. Kajol’s house was about 50 km away.

“As per the Standard Operating Procedure, any person entering the state has to undergo mandatory quarantine,” said Nirmal Baishya, 2 I/C 9th APBN, Bahrampur, Nagaon, currently deputed at the Sagolia entry checkpost, “Perhaps some details [the fact that the groom was from another state] were overlooked when they were initially granted permission.”

The bride and her family arrived around 5.30 pm, along with the priests for a ceremony that was about two hours long.

“We waited for nearly seven hours thinking they would let us through,” said Om Prakash, describing those hours as extremely stressful.

The authorities then said there was only one way out: that the wedding happen at the border checkpost itself.

“We agreed. Majboori tha,” said Mahesh Sah, the bride’s father, who had set up a small pandal at his home in preparation. The next auspicious date for the marriage was a year later in February 2021.

At the checkpost, an area was cleared, sanitised and barricaded. “We arranged a tent, spread out bedsheets, arranged food etc,” said Baishya, who, along with his team, has been screening nearly 2,000 people who are returning to the state every day. Once screened, they are sent to their respective districts to be quarantined. There are two check posts on the Assam-Bengal border: Srirampur (Kokrajhar district) and Sagolia (Dhubri district). “It’s been a busy time — but never did we imagine that we would have to plan a wedding too,” said Baishya.

Post the wedding, the newlyweds walked back across the border, got into their car and drove off to their village in West Bengal, where they are now under home quarantine for 14 days.

The bride and her family arrived around 5.30 pm, along with the priests for a ceremony that was about two hours long.

“It was strange and I was nervous,” said Kajal, the 20-year-old bride, on the phone from West Bengal. “I was not getting married at home but at the border. Secondly, the media got to know and even they were present, with their cameras.” The pictures of the wedding have gone viral since.

Even Ashwini Ray Sarkar, the MLA of Dhubri district’s Golakganj attended to bless the couple. “Now, my friends are saying that I have become famous,” said Kajal, laughing.

Her husband, too, has been getting calls from friends saying he is famous because he is ‘all over Facebook’. “That makes me feel good,” said Om Prakash, who is a shopkeeper at an apparel store in his village.

Post the wedding, the newlyweds walked back across the border, got into their car and drove off to their village in West Bengal, where they are now under home quarantine for 14 days.

“We could have postponed it had we not got the permission. Since we had got the permission and things were already ready, it did not feel right to cancel the wedding on the same day,” said Kajal, adding that the weather was good too. “It has been raining in Assam all these days but on the day of the marriage, it did not,” she said, “Kismet acha tha.

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