Who actually gets married? A motorbike dowry story.

This question that has always been in my mind is who actually gets married- the bride and groom or their family? It is so common to hear people getting married but then there are few stories associated with these weddings that makes me confused about who actually got married- the bride and groom or the family. It was my cousin’s wedding few days ago and I also went to attend it. Everything seemed fine to me, actually I liked it because I got to see a village wedding which is obviously more traditional than weddings taking place in Indian cities nowadays.

But I heard some things about the wedding that shocked me completely. I am very much interested in this crazy concept of dowry so I asked my cousins about it like what dowry did the bride family have to give and one cousin told me a crazy story about the motorbike the bride’s family had to give as dowry. He said that when the bride’s family asked the groom about what motorbike would he like to take, the groom asked for the Bajaj motorbike called Platina because he liked it and the bride’s family bought this motorbike about two months before the wedding.

After buying the motorbike, the bride’s family informed my cousin’s family that they had bought a Bajaj Platina but my uncle did not like this bike. He liked a Hero Honda bike so he asked the bride’s family to return the Bajaj bike and buy a Hero Honda one. Since the bride’s family had already bought Bajaj Platina and had paid for it, it was hard for them to return this bike and get their cash back. So they said that they had already asked the groom what bike would he like to have and the groom had asked for a Bajaj Platina and that was the reason they bought it.

But my uncle said that they should have asked him instead of the groom. Actually the groom works in a city called Korbain M.P. which is like 30 hours of train ride from my village and my uncle said that since the groom lives far away and doesn’t need a bike for his work, he would not drive the bike, the bike would be used by my uncle. It was a big problem for the bride’s family to return the bike so they involved the bride in this matter. They asked the bride to talk with the brothers and sisters of the groom and tell them that she liked Bajaj better than Honda and that is why she had asked her father to buy Bajaj bike.

She talked with the brothers and sisters of the groom and told them about her choice and asked them to convey her message to her father-in-law but again my uncle did not entertain the bride. He said that this bike would not be used by the groom, it would be used by he himself so he wanted a bike of his choice. Finally the bride’s family paid some penalty and returned the Bajaj bike and bought a new Hero Honda one, which was of course neither the groom’s nor the bride’s choice; it was choice of my uncle.

The bride’s family lost something like Rs. 10,000. It was crazy to see that the groom and bride had no control over their wedding. What was the need to ask for a bike if it was not going to be used by either the groom or bride??? Who actually was getting married- the bride and groom or my uncle??? I saw my uncle driving the bike the very next day after the wedding. I don’t know when the bride will ride the bike her father had bought. After attending the wedding I came back to Varanasi, but again heard something that was just unbelievable.

The bride came to groom’s house after the wedding and then she was supposed to live with the groom. After ten days of wedding the groom went back to his work in Korba but the bride was still living at the groom’s village house with her in-laws. I asked my cousin about it and he said that it is village tradition for the bride to stay at her in-laws house for at least two years after the wedding. So now the groom is in Korba and the bride is living with her in-laws.

I am sure that the bride would have loved going to Korba with her husband and she could not because of this crazy culture. She just cooks the food, looks after her in-laws, cleans the dishes, clean the house… that’s all. She is still 19 year old and she needs to go to school and I am sure that she would have loved to continue her studies but… It would be easy for her to keep her studies continued if she was living with her husband in Korba because she would have fewer responsibilities there. But… I don’t know when these things will changeand women will have equal rights in India, but hope is always there…

Coca-Cola research for book


broken pipe of rainwater harvesting system

broken pipe of rainwater harvesting system

I worked with the American writer Mr. Michael Blanding for two days (14th and 15th of June) in Mehndiganj as his translator and local assistant. He is writing a book on the Coca-Cola issue. This book is called Coke Machine and will be published under Penguin Publications, USA. (update – purchase here) I met him on the 14th at Lok Samiti’s office in Mehndiganj. Michael has already written a few articles about the Coke issue in Columbia but this time’s article is going to focus on Indian, Columbian and Mexican issues. One of his most popular articles is “Coke: The New Nike?”

another broken pipe

another broken pipe

I already knew about the Indian and Columbian issues but I did not know that Mexico was also affected. Michael told me that Mexico is the biggest market of Coke products and now they have a huge problem of obesity and other health-related problems. Obesity was not a problem in Mexico a few years ago but since Coke’s sale has increased in Mexico, obesity has also increased with it. He told me that Coke and Pepsi both are going to introduce Nariyal Paani (Coconut water) in India, which sounded crazy. What is the need to do it? I am sure that they will never ever be able to provide the natural drink, after all it will be mixed with chemicals.

jammed pipe

jammed pipe

We interviewed about ten people, visited Coke’s rain water-harvesting sites�at different places and saw Coke’s waste-water discharge system. I was hoping to see something better this time but the situation is still the same. We went to Coke’s two rain water harvesting sites, one of them was on the roof-top of the Agriculture Research Center, Kallipur village and another one was at the roof-top of the Mijramurad Police station. We saw that none of the water harvesting sites were in working condition and most of the pipes were either broken or jammed.

rainwater harvesting at the roof top of Mijramurad police station

rainwater harvesting at the roof top of Mijramurad police station

We talked to people working at the Agriculture Research Center and all�of them said that Coke had started the site about two years ago just to show off. It stopped working within the next few months and no one from Coke ever came to repair it. Even though they informed the Coke officials about it but they did not entertain villagers. People said that now the roof-top over-flows and their rain-water harvesting site doesn’t work at all. We saw the well also which was supposed to hold all the rain water and then recharge the ground water, and we found it was completely dry. People said that they never saw any water in the well because the pipes connected with the wells are jammed.

We went to see other rain water harvesting sites at the roof top of the Mirjamurad police station and the situation was the same there as well. Most of those pipes were either broken or jammed. We talked to a journalist who lived near the police station and few police officers and all of them had the same opinion as the Agriculture Research Institute employees. They also said that the site was started about two years ago and then it stopped working within the next two-three months and no one from Coke ever came to see it.

We talked to people living near the plant, and all of them said that they were suffering with water problems and all of them blamed Coke for this problem. They said that they had never felt any water shortage before Coke had arrived in Mehndiganj. Many people showed us their wells which were completely dry and they showed us their hand pumps which do not work any more. Farmers told us that they buy the water to irrigate the land because their bore wells do not work any more. There are a few rich people who have submersible pumps to get water and they sell the water to poor farmers.

We visited two of the ponds dug by the village committee. They showed us how their ponds are different from Coke’s ponds or rain water harvesting sites. They told us that they have chosen the land that has lime in the soil which filters the water very well. The village committee has connected nearby villages to the pond through pipes and this way all the rainwater will run towards the pond and will recharge the groundwater. It did not seem to me that Coke had done anything like this with their ponds. It seemed that the village committee is doing a great job.

Nandlal Master, President of Lok Samiti, said that Coke had conducted a groundwater testing through an agency called TERI (TATA Environmental Research Institute) and they have also advised that Coke leave Mehndiganj. I also think that Coke should leave Mehndiganj as soon as possible because I have been visiting Mehndiganj for the past three years and I see situation getting worse and worse every time I go there. I am so excited for Michael’s book to be published. I hope that he will also support the struggle of Mehndiganj’s people.

The God got sick :)

Yesterday it was an important day for the God Jagannath’s temple. Many people all over India go to the Jagannath temple and make the God bathe with water. This happens for the whole day and in the evening time it is said that the God gets sick because of this all-day-long bathing. Usually people offer sweets in the temples but after the God gets sick, people offer parwal (a vegetable) and basil soup, and then this soup is distributed amongst people as blessing. After this offering, temples are closed for the next fifteen days.

Parwal and basil soup is an Ayurvedic medicine and is prescribed to people suffering with cold and cough. So the idea is that the God will also feel better after taking this Ayurvedic medicine. The temple gate is kept closed for the fifteen days. The priest opens the gate once everyday to offer basil and parwal soup. It is said that the God will be okay after fifteen days and then people take the statue out of the temple on a chariot and bring it to the Lord Jagganath’s Sasural temple near Rathyatra. This is done to give some good time to the God after the sickness of the fifteen days:)

In Benares, the God is brought to his Sasural temple but in Puri, people bring the statue to Lord Jagganath’s aunt’s temple. The statue is kept for the next two days in these temples and then a huge fair is organized. In Benares, the statue is brought on a chariot and is kept for three days on the main road near Rathyatra Crossing and after three days of fair, the statue is brought back again to the temple. These are the only three days in a year when the God Jagganath’s temple is out of any statue. This festival is called Rathyatra.

The Benares fair is not big, but not small either but the Puri festival is literally huge. Over ten million people had atteneded the Puri fair last year.