Kandivali fire: Gutted Damu Nagar turns wedding venue

Two weeks after a fire wiped out 2,000 homes in Damu Nagar, the locals found cause to cheer as 18-year-old Amrapali Pakhre tied the knot there yesterday

Standing in the ashes of what was once home to thousands of them, the residents of Damu Nagar found a reason to smile as they celebrated the wedding of 18-year-old Amrapali Pakhre — the first happy event to take place there after the December 7 inferno that had rendered 2,000 families homeless. Many of those who turned up to bless the bride and groom, had lost everything but the clothes on their backs, including Amrapali’s family, but relatives ensured that the wedding was held as planned.

Many of Amrapali’s neighbours joined her in the celebrations that took place in the ashes of their burned-down homes. Pics/Shadab Khan
Many of Amrapali’s neighbours joined her in the celebrations that took place in the ashes of their burned-down homes. Pics/Shadab Khan

On the day of the fire, Amrapali and her younger brother were the only ones at the Pakhre home; her parents and older brother were out for work. Thanks to the early warning about the fire, Amrapali and her brother escaped into the nearby jungle in time. But the family was devastated to see their home and all their belongings destroyed.

The newly-wed couple offers prayers at Buddha Vihar, the community hall at the base of the hillock where the Damu Nagar slum was located
The newly-wed couple offers prayers at Buddha Vihar, the community hall at the base of the hillock where the Damu Nagar slum was located

Her brother-in-law, Sidhharth Waghmare, who was overlooking the wedding arrangements, said they had lost around Rs 3 lakh in cash and another Rs 1 lakh in jewellery, as well as clothes and gifts worth Rs 40,000 they had bought for Amrapali’s in-laws. It had all been burnt to ashes.

The December 7 fire had razed 2,000 homes to the ground in the Damu Nagar slums. File pic
The December 7 fire had razed 2,000 homes to the ground in the Damu Nagar slums. File pic

“They had only one daughter and their entire life, her father worked as a painter, and her mother as a housemaid, so they could save money for her wedding. Everything disappeared within moments. We thought the politicians would help, but they only made empty promises,” said Waghmare.

It was Amrapali’s relatives who came to the rescue. Many of them, like her aunt Sunita Salvi, had also lost everything in the Damu Nagar fire, but they gathered enough money to make sure that the wedding took place on the date it had been scheduled — December 20. The relatives helped the family financially and in every other way to ensure that that the celebrations take place smoothly. The groom’s family also came through and extended help to Amrapali’s family.

“She had gotten engaged in June, and we all were excited for the wedding. But after this unfortunate incident took place, we all helped the family to make sure that the wedding could take place as scheduled. We even invited all the Damu Nagar residents to be a part of the occasion and give their blessings to the bride and groom,” said her aunt, Salvi.

Amrapali’s family had lost all their clothes in the fire, but fortunately, her wedding saree was saved, as it was still with the tailor. She wore the pristine white saree as she tied the knot at Buddha Vihar, the community hall at the base of the Damu Nagar hillock, and later, as her neighbours gathered in the ruins of the slums to giver her their blessings and congratulations.

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