(IANS): Left without a roof over their heads for marrying against their families' wishes, a couple in Jharkhand took shelter under a tree 25 years ago. It was to be their nest for the rest of their life.
Mangra Mahali and his wife Balkhi, both tribals in their early 50s, have been living under a tree near the Tatisilve railway station, about 30 km from here.
The couple lived in the same village and fell in love. But their families opposed their union and they were thrown out of their homes.
The couple then went to the village temple to take shelter. The priest, fearing a backlash from the parents and villagers, refused to provide them shelter. Left with no option, the couple spent the night under the tree, locally known as the dudhiya pakhar which resembles the banyan tree.
"When we got up in the morning, we had nowhere to go. We decided to convert the tree into our abode. Since then we have been staying here," Mangra told IANS.
For a roof, the couple has covered the branches of the tree with plastic sheets, which protects them from the scorching sun and rain.
In the name of household articles, they possess some utensils, blankets, a few bags and a makeshift oven.
Balkhi even gave birth to her two sons in this makeshift house under the tree. The eldest son, who got married two years ago, has now built his own home. But the couple, who sell bamboo sticks used as toothbrushes at the Tatisilve railway station, refused to move to the new house.
"We have spent 25 years under this tree. When no one provided us shelter it was this tree that helped us. How can we leave this place? Our good and bad memories are associated with this tree," said Mangra.
Their two sons, Soriha and Ajay Mahali, who are daily wage earners, feel proud of their parents.
"They fought bad times with firmness and stayed here instead of running away. My parents are role models for all couples in love to stay united even in bad times," said Ajay.
The priest at the temple said: "We salute the Mahali couple. Out of social compulsion, I had refused shelter to them at the temple. The couple never took help from anyone. With their hard labour they sustained themselves and raised their children."
Said Mangra: "Life was tough for us after marriage. But we supported each other emotionally and fought back to lead a humble life. We feel satisfied after 25 years of our marriage."