5-11 June 2015 #761

Love in the time of quakes

Devaki Bista

Kumar Rai and Jamuna Neupane had met in Kathmandu three years ago. He worked in a hardware store in Boudha and she was a student in Dharan visiting her sister. The two fell in love and developed a long-distance relationship.

Kumar Rai and Jamuna Neupane on their wedding day. Photos: JANA AŠENBRENNEROVÁ

On 25 April, Jamuna and Kumar were in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck and escaped unhurt. Jamuna and her sister immediately went back to Dharan for safety, and Kumar went to see if his family in Sipaghat in Sindhupalchok were all right – the Rai family house is the only one standing on the street.

Kumar's house is the only one standing on the street.

While in Dharan, Jamuna’s Brahmin parents found out that she was in a relationship with a person from another ethnic group. They locked her up in the house and started preparations to get her married off to someone from her own caste.

Jamuna had saved her SIM card and called Kumar, who rushed to Dharan on a rescue mission and managed to sneak her out of her house and back to Kathmandu and Sipaghat. Fearing that the Neupanes would come to Sindhupalchok to get their daughter and marry her off, the two 21-year-olds decided to get married – earthquake or no earthquake.

Preparations for the wedding were underway when the 12 May aftershock hit Sindhupalchok with the force of another fullscale earthquake. It added a sense of urgency to their marriage plans.

“We were afraid, there were earthquakes all day, but I knew I was safe as long as I was with him,” Jamuna told us, “if we died, at least we would die together.”

Kumar said he was forced to bring forward the wedding date despite the earthquakes because he was afraid that Jamuna would get married to someone else. He said: “I can make her happy, and if they want to see their daughter happy why should they be worried?”

Kumar said the wedding was an act of love, and it was symbolic to have it amidst the ruins of the village. “It gave a sign of hope while the country and community was suffering, that it is necessary to rise up and look to the future,” he said.

Jamuna, meanwhile is looking to completing her studies so that she can be with Kumar and live happily ever after.

“You marry whoever you love, there is no caste, or ethnicity, or religion in love,” she said. “Love can overcome prejudice and crisis.”

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