Lok Samiti organized a group wedding of 30 poor couples in Varanasi. The motive of this group wedding was to give secure future to the brides and promote dowry-free weddings. All the couples were so poor that they could not get married on their own. Usually groom side demands for dowry but nobody was allowed to ask for any dowry in this wedding. There were lots of gifts for both groom and bride but everything was arranged by Lok Samiti and other people who wanted to donate something.
I was also invited by Nandlal Master and was asked to donate something. I thought it could be a good start for my NGO work because about 10,000 people were supposed to come there. I and Lane discussed about it and decided that we would also give some gifts and take survey of villagers about awareness of AIDS. Giving clocks as a gift seemed a good idea to me because it stays for long time and people see them often. Lane was not sure about giving clocks as a gift because of research ethics issues but finally we came up with the same decision to give clocks.
Lane paid for everything- clocks, pamphlets, survey sheet, traveling expenses etc…� I bought 30 clocks and got Sanjeevni Booti’s name printed under glass of it. We packed it and put one pamphlet also in every packet. I asked Raju and Sonu, my friends and member of Sanjeevni Booti, to help me but Raju was busy with his job so I offered him his one day’s pay to come with me and he got agreed with this offer. I still wanted some girls to help taking the survey of other girls during wedding but I could not find one.
It was wedding’s day today and I reached there with Raju and Sonu. I saw Lok Samiti members decorating stage, arranging chairs, working with flowers etc….. They had food arrangement also for over 10,000 people. Lok Samiti had been preparing for this event since past one months. There were more than 10 chefs preparing sweets since past one week. I saw a lot of political leaders, social workers and other general people who wanted to donate something. Wife of Mehndiganj block’s representative had brought 30 Benaresi sarees to give to the brides.
Lok Samiti members invited to all the grooms and brides on the stage. There were thirty couples supposed to get married but two of them could not come because of some reasons, so only twenty eight got married . They all made garlands wear to each other and� this way formality of getting married was done. After this Nandlal Master came on stage with a paper where all the brides and grooms had to sign, actually most of them were uneducated so they just put their thumb on paper. Nandlal read the document first on mike, and then grooms and brides signed it.
Grooms and brides had to swear on mike that they would never fight to each other, they would always live together, grooms will never ever ask for any dowry and if they do any of those things then Lok Samiti would go through legal channel against them. After this all the grooms and brides moved to a nearby Shiva temple. They had music and family was dancing all the way from wedding place to the temple. In Hindu weddings bride and groom take round of fire seven times. It is said that Lord Fire becomes evidence of the wedding, but here there was no fire, they took round of Shiva temple and Shiva became evidence of the marriage.
After this wedding part was over and now it was people’s turn to give the gifts to the couples. I had brought clocks so I gave it to the them. I went on stage with Raju, Sonu and my driver and we all distributed� the clocks together to the couples. Few people gave sarees, watches, pots and other gift items. Lok Samiti gave one sewing machine to every bride and one bicycle to every groom. They say that bicycles and sewing machines will help brides and grooms to make some money on their own in the future. I liked this idea. Amanda, my American friend, also gave a sewing machine and two boxes of refined oil.
It was fun to see 30 couples getting married at same time, on the same stage. One thing was interesting to
me that I saw three brides sleeping on stage, it seemed like they were excited for their marriage. Nandlal Master told me that they will continue organizing this kind of gruop weddings in future also. They are planning to get 51 couples married next year. I liked the way Lok Samiti got those couples married. Since everything was done on paper, I think groom side will not ask for any dowry or disturb brides in the future.