An orphan, she had hand-to-mouth existence for 18 years, but last weekend her mehndi budget touched a cool couple of thousands. If a lavish marriage function — the guest list swelled over 5,000 — was the cake, the twin toppings were Garhwa deputy commissioner and superintendent of police who did her kanyadaan.
So, was it a windfall? Or the magic wand of the fairy godmother that got Garhwa's very own Cinderella her prince charming? Not exactly. Rita Kumari has a group of local journalists — playing big brothers in the real sense — to thank for a wedding she possibly never dreamt of.
Born and brought up to grapple with poverty in a nondescript, two-roomed thatched house in Jarhi village of Dandai block of the district, the teen lost all hope when her 10-year-old brother, Durgesh, fell ill a fortnight ago. To meet medical expenses, she began selling bits and pieces — roof tiles, bamboo poles — of her lone shelter. The telling picture of destitution brought a group of scoop-happy journalists to Jarhi.
They faced a hostile village. "We were warned against publishing her pictures. Villagers said all we journalists do is mock and sell poverty for our own benefit. That was a turning point," said Dhananjay Tiwari, a scribe with a Hindi daily, who along with nine like-minded journalists formed Samarth Bharat.
The group played cupid for Rita, fixing her match with Umesh Ram, a 22-year-old farmer of Korkoma village in Meral block. The couple tied the knot on Sunday in the presence of who's who of Garhwa, including DC Vijay Kumar Singh and SP Saket Singh.
"I had never seen such a marriage. It was unique and being part of it made me feel proud," said Vijay Kumar, who played the father of the bride along with the SP.
The wedding of Rita and Umesh continues to be the talk of the town even two days later. Samarth Bharat spent more than Rs 50,000 on the wedding that saw over 5,000 guests. The menu was simple, but relished by all who wished the couple and her journalist "brothers" well.
Tiwari, also the secretary of Samarth Bharat, said it was a call of duty. "We are glad to see that they are happy. Umesh has agreed to take care of Rita's brother, too," he said.
All's well that ends well? Not quite the end. Samarth Bharat says it is just the beginning of a mission. The band of "brothers" is now hunting for a match for two other orphan girls of Jarhi.
Telegraph / May 20, 2009
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