Sudden request for dowry

It is one of my relative’s wedding in the last week of May. The bride is a graduate student and the groom works for a CA (charted accountant) in Lucknow. The bride’s father has a small saree business so not much money. The marriage was arranged by some relative of the bride. This marriage is very traditional and everything is being done according to Hindu religion. The groom and his family seemed so nice to me when I first met them because when the bride’s father asked about dowry, the groom’s father said that it was not an issue for them.

I really liked that decision. But right before a few days right before tilak (the day when the bride’s family goes to the groom’s family and some rituals are done), the groom’s family started asking for dowry. They wanted Rs. 51,000 cash, a motorbike, jeweleries, clothes, refrigerator, TV, bed and a lot of other things. I knew that the bride’s parents did not have enough money to give that much dowry but did not say that they could not afford it. They promised to give this much dowry but I knew that it would be hard for the bride’s family to arrange it.

I was talking with the bride and she told me that she talked about it with the groom and groom said that he did not want anything at all, no demand. All these demands were made by his father and he could not do anything to reduce this dowry. The bride seemed so sad when talking about dowry and I also did not like this at all. I  see the bride’s father somehow trying to arrange everything but I know that it would be very hard for him to arrange everything.

After a few days of the tilak, the groom’s father called the bride’s father and said that the groom had already bought a motorbike so there was no need to give a motorbike but they wanted cash instead of the motorbike. The bride’s father said that if the groom already had a motorbike then why were they asking for cash but the groom’s father said that they wanted either a motorbike or cash instead of it. After paying all of this dowry, the bride’s family has to arrange a party which will cost at least Rs. 1,50,000. So the total cost of this wedding will be close to Rs. 3,00,000 which is kind of impossible for the bride’s family.

There are so many cases where brides were burnt alive a few months right after the marriage only because their parents could not give enough of the dowry which was asked by the groom’s family. I have heard of many cases where the groom’s family tortured the bride even though their demand was fulfilled and finally the bride was burnt alive or killed in some way. Many times the bride’s themselves commit suicide because of the torture. Many times even after facing all the tortures, some brides do not inform other people about it or do not go to the police because they think that if they go to the police and if the police take any legal action against the groom’s family, it would look very bad for them in society.

I never understand if such marriages are marriages or they just like a business settlement where one party always loses everything. It would make sense to me if the dowry was given by the groom’s family but bride’s family, why? They give their daughter who will take care of the groom’s family for her whole life; is it not enough? Is it cheaper than a motorbike or Rs. 51,000 cash? So many questions and it is painful to see how this system is getting stronger and stronger. Now people want more and more dowry. I know many people do not want to have a daughter because they are afraid of dowry. I don’t know when such things will change or if they will ever change or not, but it must change if we want to see real happy and developed world.

Shivratri 2010

Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Parvati

It was Shivratri on the 12th and I was super excited for it. Shivratri is the biggest festival of Benares. Actually it is celebrated because it is wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva. There are more than six thousand temples in Varanasi but 11 out of them organize a wedding parade of Lord Shiva. The parade starts from different temples and end near Vishwanath temple (golden temple). The most popular and biggest parade starts with Mahamrityunjay temple and is the last parade of the day. I also went to see the parade with my friends and it was just awesome.

a character sitting on a horse

a character sitting on a horse

Since Bhang is associated with Lord Shiva and is part of Benares culture, most of the people of Benares consume a little bit of Bhang for the festival as blessing of Lord Shiva. They take a bath in the river Ganges, do some rituals at Shiva temples, offer bhang and later consume it as blessing of the temple. The whole city is decorated with lights, free bhang drinks are served everywhere, people come out…its so fun. I love this festival. It is said that all kinds of characters had participated in Lord Shiva’s wedding like Gods, Goddesses, ghosts, demons, devils, headless, crazy, lepers, one legged, one eyed, animals… so the wedding parade also had all kinds of characters.

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva

There were people wearing masks of ghosts, someone was dressed as a God, someone was a Goddess, there were snake charmers, hijras, cows, bulls, goats, dogs, horses, elephants, people were smoking ganja…it was crazy. There was one guy dressed as Lord Shiva and was leading the parade. He was too high in bhang, actually he was almost sleeping while walking. I had seen the same guy at last year wedding parade also and I think they intentionally make him consume a lot of bhang because he was sleeping last year also. He was not able to walk, would get fainted sometimes. He either walking so slowly with his closed eyes, or was dancing or would get fainted. I am sure Lord Shiva did not get fainted when he was going to marry, but Benares makes people fainted by its bhang:)

Lord Shiva fainted

Lord Shiva fainted

He was carrying a trident and a Damru and was wearing a Dhatura garland. He would do Tandav dance for like a minute or a few seconds and then get fainted. People would start shouting Har Har Mahadev (chant of Lord Shiva) and Jago Baba (wake up baba, baba is another name of Lord Shiva in Benares) as he would get fainted or would fell asleep and again this guy would wake up and would start dancing. There were thousands of people shouting Har Har Mahadev, it was so loud and I was just loving it. I don’t really know he can someone be alive after consuming that much of bhang as he had consumed.

Bhang Thandai

Bhang Thandai

There was loud music, people were playing drums but the I loved the Nagada drum most. Nagada is also very Benares intrument and is used for wedding and cremation parade both. We are the champions of Nagada. Josh wanted to consume bhang and he did not ask me before buying it. He just went to a shop and bought a glass of bhang lassi and drank it. He thought that it would make him high immediately as alcohol does but in fact bhang takes sometime to react. After a while he asked me again to drink more bhang lassi and I took him to a good shop but I did not know that he already had consumed bhang before.

ghost

ghost

After finishing more than half glass of bhang lassi he said that bhang doesn’t make him high and I said that it would take some time. He asked me how much time and I said that at least 2 hours and then he told me that he had already drank a glass of bhang lassi about an hour ago. I told him not to drink his second glass but he said he could deal with it. I knew that two glasses of bhag was too much but he thought it would be okay for him. It has been more than 48 hours since he drank his second glass and he is still in his room sleeping. I asked him if he would like to drink another glass of bhang and he said never in his life again.

elephants were also there

elephants were also there

Many people have made several documentaries about Benares and its festivals but nobody has ever made any documentary about this festival. I was planning to film the festival but could not because I was busy with Josh’s project and I could not collect enough resources but now Josh wants to help me in making a documentary about this festival and I am really looking forward to it. I will try my best to make a movie about this festival and I know it will be super fun. The festival is over now and now I am excited for next year one. Har Har Mahadev.

Shivratri video

Nagada video

Music in Islam

I made a lot of new friends while living in Gwalior for the tour guide training and two of them were Muslims. Actually I shared an apartment with one them. He is a doctoral student from JNU. Basically he is from a very small village in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district. He did his schooling from a village school in Sitamarhi and then moved to Aligarh Muslim University for his B.A. and now finally he is in JNU doing his PhD. He works as an Spanish escort so makes very good money also. He is in love with music. A good amount of his computer hard-disk is full of music.

He would play music most of the time. I saw a big music system at his hostel room in JNU. Now he is going to get married in the coming December. His brother also lives in JNU and once I saw them discussing how they will arrange the music for the wedding. They want to have a band party for the wedding parade and music for the wedding party but Islam doesn’t allow it and his family and neighbors are very strict Islam followers. He said that nobody can even listen to the radio, not even news on the radio.

If somebody is found playing any kind of music in his village, the other people living in the village yell at him and stop the music immediately. He said that if he is found playing music then people would say that even after being educated and doing PhD, he is doing such a bad thing. Music is really a serious issue in his village. I heard him and his brother discussing about this issue for at least an hour and finally they could not find any way to have music at the wedding. I told him that change always takes place sometime in the society and maybe this is the time for him to bring a change but he said that it is kind of impossible to bring this change in his society.

I have never been to any Muslim wedding but I have seen a few from the outside and I saw music going on in those weddings so I told him about it and he said that rules are made by big people and if they break it, then nobody cares. If the same rules are broken by general people, then it always creates problems. He said that everything is allowed among the rich Muslim community, they can play music, they can have dances and they can enjoy alcohol but it is not possible for the general Muslims. I asked him what the general people think of rich Muslims enjoying music and he said that general people think that big people are out of their community.

Music has always been respected amongst most of the societies of the world. In Hinduism there is a goddess Saraswati for music and people do rituals of their music instruments. It is really hard for me to believe that there could be any wedding without music. Hindu weddings are so fun and this is what I am used to. There is always a lot of music and people dancing in the wedding. I have heard that Christian weddings are also very boring but I am sure they must have music. Music is fun and even scientific researches have shown that there are certain kinds of music which are good even for our health.

I respect people’s feeling but this issue is something which is hard for me to understand. Most of the Mughal emperors were fond of music. Akbar is a very good example. Tansen was among the nine Jewels at his court. I have noticed that in all the religions there are certain rules and regulations that are people made; it is not written anywhere in any religious books but people still follow it and even if it is written, there is wrong interpretation and people follow the wrong idea. After listening to this issue, which is definitely not an issue for me, I still don’t understand if music is really that bad…

Behavior of ghosts in villages

I have always been interested in the people who feel like they are affected by bhoots (ghosts) and destroy their lives going to some baba or exorcists to get rid of the ghosts. I have always wanted to hear more about ghosts by people who say that they are somehow affected by ghosts or have seen the ghosts or whatever and finally I got the opportunity of meeting few people who feel that they have ghosts inside their bodies and destroying their life. I was in my village a few days ago to attend my cousin’s wedding. I used to talk to him and my other cousin about stories of ghosts in his village and they had told me several things which were very interesting to me.

They had told me about a place where people, who think that they have ghosts in their body, go to get rid of the ghosts. After attending the wedding I asked my cousin to take me to this place which was about 5 Kms from my village. We headed there, crossed a lot of narrow paths, saw beautiful village life and finally we were at this place where people go to get rid of their ghosts. It was a tomb of some Muslim Baba who had died several years ago but people believe that this Baba had some super-natural power to fight with ghosts and he can still help even after his death.

There were two tombs- a small one and a big one. We went to the small one first. I was told that Thursday is a special day for that place and more people come that day; I don’t know why Thursday but it has something to do with the baba’s life. It was Friday that day so I was hoping to not see many people there. But after reaching there I was shocked to see that about 30 families had built a temporary house there to stay for long time. I looked through all those houses and saw that there was no stove or a bed or anything that I use in daily life. They cook food outside and sleep under the sky.

They needed that temporary house only in case of rain or something. I walked around that tomb and a few things seemed like a disaster to me. I saw three people locked up with a chain and this chain was locked to a tree. I just went near one person who was locked up and sat near him. There was one other guy sitting over there and he asked me to come to him and he invited �me to sit with him. I did not know how to ask him what was going on but fortunately he started explaining what I wanted to know.

His first statement was that he was in a lot of trouble because of the ghosts. I asked him why he was there and he said that he had come there with his brother. I asked him who was his brother and then he indicated towards that person locked to the tree. I asked him what had happened to him and he said that he used to work in Mumbai as a tailor and that his brother used to work at a factory in Ludhiana. One day his sister-in-law called him and said that her husband had some problem. He would not come home, would do strange activities, make strange noise etc…

His condition sounded like he was suffering from ghosts to his brother and he told his sister-in-law to bring his brother to their village immediately. This person living in Mumbai left his job and came to take care of his brother at his village. I asked him how he knew that his brother had some ghosts in his body and he said that he also had some supernatural powers and had been involved in this kind of work so he knew it. After coming to the village they took this possessed person to the tomb. The possessed person did not want to stay there and would always try to run away from there and that is why they decided to lock him to a tree.

He said that his brother had several different kinds of ghosts. One of them was the ghost of an Aghori, one of them was a Chamar, and one of them was some other caste ghost. I asked him how he knew this and he said that he already had some idea because of the activities the possessed person used to do like he used drink his own urine it which seemed like an Aghori’s doings, he used to spit in his own food and tear-off his clothes which seemed like a Chamar’s actions to him. This was the first indication to him that he should believe that his brother had several different kinds of ghosts.

But the thing that confirmed it to him about it was his talk with the baba whose tomb was there. At this time I was walking away from that affected person and we were about 20 meters away from the tomb when he said that the baba had told him that his brother was possessed by ghosts. I really did not understand which baba was he talking about because I knew that Baba had died several years ago. I asked him again whom did he talk with and he indicated towards that tomb and I thought that he was talking about one of the few people who were sitting there.

I was keen to know who that person was who had confirmed this for him and asked him again and he again indicated towards that tomb. I again thought that he was talking about someone else and then my cousin told me that he was talking about the baba whose tomb was there. I asked him how did he talk to the baba and he said that once you come here and pray to the baba, the baba talks to you. I just did not understand what was he talking about but I wanted to hear him more. So I asked him if the baba appeared in front of him and he said that the baba never appears in front of anyone.

The baba enters in the body of the people and talks to them through their tongues, it was crazy. He meant to say that the person asks the questions and then he himself answers it but the answer is given by baba who is sitting inside the person’s body. It was sad to see how strong their belief is about ghosts but I did not find myself brave enough to tell him that he himself had some mental problem. Well, I wanted to hear him so I kept asking him few more questions. I asked him about if he was not attacked by the ghosts because he was also involved in this fight against them and at this time he told it so loudly that ghosts have been continuously trying to attack him but since he also had some supernatural power, they could not do anything.

He said that once he was driving his bicycle, and some ghosts hit him and he fell down on the ground and broke his head. I asked him if he saw that ghost and obviously he said ‘No’. Then I asked him how can he say that it was a ghost who had hit him and his answer was that the kinds of feeling he was having was not like an accident, it was something different, it seemed like a ghost’s activity to him. After this we returned to his brother and I sat there for some more time. Now affected person’s wife came with his six month old child and started asking her husband about who had given him this ghost.

I clearly heard affected person telling someone’s name but his wife was not agree with this name. She said that the person he was talking about is not a bad person and he didn’t know how to give ghosts to others. Then affected person said that he had taken help of someone else but she was still not satisfied with this answer. She said that they will keep him locked up until he gives the right answer. It seemed to me that they had some name in their mind and they wanted to hear it through affected person’s tongue. The affected person’s brother told me that the ghost was making him tell a lie.

I asked affected person’s brother if his brother feels a bit better since he was brought here and he was so confident saying that baba had helped them a lot a now his brother feels a lot better after spending two months sitting in front of that tomb and being locked up. It was crazy, a 26-27 year old person locked up for two months. What could be worse than this? Now he started talking to me about the money and time he lost because of the ghost who had attacked his brother. He said that he left his job about two months ago and now he had no money at all, not enough even to go back to Mumbai but he still wanted to stay there and fight with ghost.

I was shocked to see the way he destroyed his, his brother’s and others’ lives. I was feeling so sad to see that six-month-old baby. Oh my God. I wanted him to feel that he must go to a doctor also and asked him if he never felt that his brother had some mental problem and he told it so proudly that he would have loved seeing a doctor if his brother had any mental problem but in fact there was no mental problem at all and his brother was attacked by ghosts. I asked him how did he know that it was not a mental problem and doctors could not help him and again the answer was same that he knew because baba had told him.

I understand what he meant to say but it was hard to believe that 21st century world is like this. I saw something that was more sad than this and it was number of children present there. I was numerous children there who had come with their families and had been living there for past few months. I was wondering how this time of their life will affect them in future, definitely they would also go to exorcists and would come to the tomb to get rid of their problems in future. The thing people see in their childhood time becomes part of their lives and these kids have been seeing their parents thinking that they have ghosts, what will happen to them in future?

After talking to this guy I wanted to talk to some other people and started walking around. I saw two other people also who were tied up to trees. I wanted to talk to their families but at that time there was no one with them, there were only few kids playing there. I saw many other people who were there to get rid of their ghosts. All of them were making strange sounds. I am sure they were telling something in Hindi but I was not able to understand it. I understood few things when they were talking about the person who had given them the ghost or about the ghost itself.

Few people people were talking about the baba. They were telling something like they had come here to take help from the baba and they knew that baba would help them. Some of them were drawing strange features on the ground, some of them were laying down on the ground and were talking to the trees, some of them were talking to the walls of the tomb, some of them were just rubbing their body on the ground and screaming loudly… It was really sad to see those mentally retired people wasting their time for nothing. I feel so sorry for the kids whom I saw there, very sad.

Now I decided to visit that other tomb which was about 2 Kms away from the first one. We went there and I saw the same situation there as well. But this place seemed more organized. There were few convenience stores near the tomb. I saw something really interesting that a guy who was doing strange activities and seemed like was affected from ghosts got fainted and his family made him lay down on the ground, brought a bottle of Coca-Cola and made him drink it. After drinking Coca-Cola, that person was happy again and started doing same activities again. It seems like ghosts also like Coca-Cola:)

Now I was getting late because I had to return to Varanasi the same day so I had to leave that place. I was sad and shocked about whatever I saw. After coming back to Benares I talked several people about it and most of them seemed like they also believe in ghosts. Some of them told me that there are 8.4 million different kinds of lives like trees, animals, insects …a person goes through, and being a ghost is also one of them. So they meant to say that each and every person becomes ghost some time. My one friend told me that ghosts are also like humans, some of them are bad and some of them are good.

Good ones do not disturb humans and bad one always try to do something crazy. They said that the people who are affected from ghosts have bad ghosts in their body. These ghosts enters in the body, take over the mind and make people do strange things. Sometimes ghosts don’t enter in the body, they just do strange things. My one other friend told me a story about his village where there are lots of ghosts everywhere in his village. He told me a story about one of his friends who was also affected from ghosts.

He told me that his friend lives alone in his house. He cooks only one time in the morning and eat the same food in the night as well. But every now and then ghosts piss or shit on the food he keeps for the night time so when he comes back, he has to cooks again. And when he goes to sleep, all the ghosts stick to the walls of his room, and make strange noises, abuse him, and don’t let him sleep. He told me that if you are afraid of the ghosts, then they can kill you but since his friend is not afraid, ghosts can not do anything bad for him. Ghosts abuse him and he abuses the ghosts, and everything is settled, cool.

He told me about on another story about a ghosts who smokes beedi. This ghost is in a room which has been locked for several years. This ghost start knocking the door from inside when his beedi is finished, and when people hear this knock, then bring a big packet of beedi, open the door, and put the packet inside. People say that whenever they open the door, they always find half burnt beedi thrown everywhere on the ground and it seemed like somebody has smoke those beedis. People say that since the room is always locked and there is no human inside and it means there must be some ghost who smokes all those beedis.

I read an article about ghosts in the local newspaper which talked about a English ghost living somewhere in Bihar. This ghost is of some British soldier and always wanders around his cemetery. People offer him toast with butter, coffee in a cup and plate and few cigarettes (English style, because the ghost is English) every morning and evening and if they forget about it then ghost start beating people passing over there. People say that they have seen this ghost. He looks like a British soldier who has a sword and wanders around with his horse.

They also tell the same thing that they leave the toast, coffee and other things in the morning time and when they return in the evening time, it seems to them that somebody has eaten it. Well, who would like to miss this beautiful English style breakfast, no one for sure. But it is a strong belief amongst the people that the British is eating everything. A lot of people say that a person becomes ghost if he dies unnaturally like if he commits suicide or dies in an accident etc…

Few people say that if the death sacrament is not done properly then dead person becomes ghost which doesn’t sound fair to me. Why this much dependency on others? If I die and my children do not perform death sacrament for me, then I become a ghost, not fair. I talked to Aghoris about ghosts and they told me that there could be something called ghost but usually the ghosts do not bother others. If others bother them, then they bother others. I like this idea better than being afraid of them.

I often think about ghosts because I often hear about them in my society. But to be honest I try to not be afraid of them. A lot of people are scared of going alone in the nights because they think that some ghost could appear in front of them and kill them. But I am more scared of dogs on the road who go wild in the night time or I am scared of the police who sometime do strange behavior with the people going out in the night time.

My few friends told me about flash back and I really liked this idea. But it is hard to make people believe that the ghosts that they see are not ghosts but it is all affect of flashback. I heard that sometimes something appears in front of eyes but in fact there is nothing or sometime we listen some noise but in fact there is no real noise and it is called flash back. It happens with me also sometimes. If it starts happening again and again then people should see a doctor, there is a treatment for it. But many people think that it is affect of a ghost and they go to exorcists or go to babas and destroy their own life.

I do not know how to help those people whom I saw in my village but I want to do something for them. I am thinking of making a video of the people who used to think that they had ghosts in their body and they destroyed their life by going to exorcists and got nothing. Finally they went to some doctor and got rid of their problem and show this video to the people who think that they have ghosts in their body. Maybe this could help them, or maybe make them think once about seeing a doctor, or maybe no positive result. I seriously do not know if this idea will work, but I would definitely like to do it if my resources allow me to do it.

Neetu in Pain

Neetu is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives with one of my relatives in Mau district. She was thrown out in the garbage right near Mau railway station after she came on our planet. She was in the garbage and just kept weeping and weeping. A lot of people were there but they were just watching her crying and not doing anything. Nobody picked her up from the garbage. One of my relatives saw Neetu crying and then he could not stop himself picking her up from the garbage. He picked her up and brought her to his place.

He showed Neetu to his wife and his wife started yelling at him. She was angry at her husband because they had already seven kids, two daughters and five sons. She did not want to keep Neetu but her husband told her that Neetu was in the garbage and if he puts her again in garbage, maybe some animal would kill her. They still did not know that Neetu was a female. They were thinking that Neetu was a male baby. Finally aunt took Neetu inside her house and gave her a bath. While giving the bath she realized that Neetu was a female baby.

She started crying thinking that how will she manage Neetu because she had already two more daughters. She was concerned about the dowry for Neetu’s wedding. Aunt again told uncle to take Neetu out of the house. But uncle did not want to do it. Finally they agreed on keeping Neetu in the house. Now Neetu is sixteen years old and has passed 10th class with good marks. My aunt died a few years ago and now my uncle lives with Neetu. My uncle’s other children do not take care of him. My uncle is now old and retired from his job and his children don’t want to see him anymore. They live somewhere away from his place and not take care of him.

Now my uncle is completely dependent on Neetu and is very proud of his decision of making Neetu part of his family. But he is concerned about Neetu’s wedding. He wants Neetu to get married as soon as possible and has been looking for a groom for Neetu. But the problem is that when people hear that she was found in garbage, nobody wants to marry her. Neetu wants to live with my uncle but he wants her to get married because he is not sure what will happen with Neetu after his death.

Neetu lives in Mau district which is kind of undeveloped district even on Indian standard therefore the society is very very male dominating. None of uncle’s son want to help Neetu and it is also one of the biggest concerns of uncle. I have heard of people rejecting girls if they think that girl is not beautiful or is not educated or is not fare or whatever strange reasons but this is first time when I heard people rejecting a girl because she was found on garbage. She is being punished for the reason she is not responsible for.

I think Neetu needs to get married and it will be better for her to get married before uncle dies because there will no one for her after uncle’s death but I don’t know if it possible. The way uncle has been looking for the groom for past two years and every time people rejected Neetu, it seems like it will be very hard for uncle to find a groom for Neetu. Uncle wanted to get Neetu married in the same caste but now he has changed his decision and is agree to accept even a inter-caste groom but still no hope for Neetu. People hear that she was found in garbage and reject her right away.

I don’t know how to help Neetu but I hope that someday she will get her dream boy. I don’t know when people will stop discriminating between girls and boys. I see this problem because in Indian society boys are given more importance than girls. A lot of people get aborted if they have a female baby because sometimes they are concerned about the dowry, and sometime they just don’t like the females. The people who have only girls have hard time in our society. People criticize you in different ways if you have only daughters.

Sometimes they say that there will be no one to give you shoulder (carry your body) when you die. The thing to be noticed is that only males are allowed to give shoulder to a dead body. I don’t think it is a problem if females give you shoulder. And now it is happening. I heard of lot of cases where somebody died and he had only daughters and these daughters gave shoulder to their father and cremated the body. It sounded strange to a lot of people but I don’t see it as any problem. Hinduism has give very high place to girls but I don’t know when and where the problem came from. But I still have a hope that someday there will be no discrimination between boys and girls and girls like Neetu will not be thrown out in the garbage again.

Condom

I think condoms are one the biggest inventions of science, one of the biggest gift of science to usbut still a lot of people don’t use it and the thing that made me write this post is the people who are shy buying condoms. I never understand why people are shy to buy it. They don’t want to pronounce this word, why? They go to the shops thinking that they will buy condoms but buy candies. It is kind of hard work for them to say that they want to buy condoms.

One of my very close friends got married last year. I had gifted him a big packet of condoms. After few days of his marriage he called me and said that he wanted to meet me immediately but I was far away from home but he was keep telling me that it was some important work and he wanted to meet me. I told him to meet me after one hour and I immediately left my work and got back to him. He was still standing at the place where he had called me from and just waiting for me.

I was thinking that something wrong happened and he wanted my help so I was a little bit tense but when I met him and asked why he wanted to meet me. He took me to a corner and said that he wanted me to buy condoms for him. I thought he was joking but no, he was serious. He was waiting for me for an hour because he did not want to buy condoms. I asked why he did not buy it by his own and he said that since all the shopkeepers in his neighborhood knew him personally he was feeling shy to ask for condoms.

I told him that all the shopkeepers knew that he was newly married and they knew that he will have sex so why to shy. But still he was not comfortable buying. I asked him where did he get the condoms from for the last few days, obviously my gift was not ever-lasting, and he said that he went to some other neighborhood to shop. I wanted him to buy condoms and I was keep telling him to go and buy but he did not want to do it. Finally I took him to a shop and told him to just stand there but the funny thing was that he ran away before I reached at the shop.

He always talks me about how to get rid of condoms. I suggest him different ideas but he doesn’t want to adopt any. I told him to rap it and put it in dust bin but he doesn’t want to do it because he thinks that his family members would come to know that he uses condoms. I tell him to throw it in the neighborhood dust bin and then he thinks that his neighbors would come to know that he uses condoms. I tell him to throw it in the commode and then again he is concerned about his family.

I met him few days ago and asked if he has started buying condoms on his own and he said that he doesn’t buy uses condoms anymore because it was difficult for him to buy it and then get rid of it. I want him to use condoms and still think about some way to make him comfortable buying and getting rid off it. But I don’t think he would ever like to use it again or just hear me. He likes listening about it and but it is hard work for him to buy and get rid off.

The second story is also about my one other friend who runs a convenient store. I go to his shop everyday but never knew that he also sells condoms because condoms are always hided. I saw the packet few days ago and bought few pieces. I pay him monthly so he was supposed to write it down in his register but he did not because he did not want to write that I bought condoms. I really did not understand what was the problem with him.

I have talked him more than five times about it but he always tells me that he doesn’t want to write it. He is shy that his father or other family members would see that he sells condoms also. I doesn’t make any sense but it is true. Finally he counted amount for the condoms I had taken and wrote that I had bought a coconut oil. My one friend who is consumer is shy and my other friend who is seller is also shy. I don’t know how these kind of problems will be solved but it is definitely a big problem in a country like India where there are huge number of HIV patients and the number is increasing rapidly.

Weaving Machine

Weaving Machine

Benares is the biggest consumer of condoms in Uttar Pradesh but here the condoms are not used for birth control or to prevent STDs, they are used for weaving. About 6,00,000 condoms are sold in Varanasi everyday but most of them are used only for weaving. They rub the condoms on loom’s shuttle to make the weaving process faster (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3934275.stm.)I am sure condoms help weavers a lot.

More than 90% of weavers in Benares are Muslims. If the same guys who use the condoms for weaving start using it to control birth, our India would change rapidly. The way condoms make weaving process faster, it will help us develop faster. The way condom is helping weavers, it can help the whole India but we just need to learn how to utilize it.

Negotiation of dowry

It was the first time in my life when I heard a family planning about son’s marriage. My neighbor, whose son lives in Delhi after completing the 12th class of study, wants to get him married soon. They had come to my family to ask if there is any girl in our relations. It was the groom’s mother and grandmother who came to my house. They talked to my mother about his marriage. My mother knew a few people who wanted to get their daughter married.

The groom is still a student, only 26 years old, and doing some computer degree. They wanted Rs. 10,00,000 (US$25,000) cash and other home accessories like a refrigerator, washing machine, TV, music system, and a bike as dowry. Their wording with my mother was “we deserve to get what we have spent on our child’s education”. It was shocking for me to hear a family talking this way. It did not seem like a marriage proposal, it seemed more like business where they wanted all their investment back with some profit. My mother decided that she would not ask any of her relatives to allow their daughter in this family.

Rs. 10,00,000 is a huge amount for a middle class Indian family. Most people can not save this much money in their whole lives. It is still not sure that after paying this much money the groom side will not ask for something else. Usually these kind of greedy people always tell brides to bring more and more money from their family, even after getting married. I often hear about people killing brides for dowry, and its terrible. How can someone kill their own family member for money?

There is another problem with competition between son in laws. If someone has two daughters then the father will have to pay the same dowry to both girls. My one friend has four brothers. The eldest one got married about 4 years ago. Then his younger brother got married about 2 years ago. The younger brother got a bike as dowry which the elder brother had not gotten. So, he started telling his wife to ask her father to give them a bike. And finally her father had to pay them cash, even after 4 years of marriage.

My cousin also wants a car for his marriage. He works in a travel agency and makes only Rs. 6000 per month, which means he will not be able to afford petrol and other maintenance charge for a car but he still wants it. There are a few NGOs who organize dowry-free marriages but they are still not popular. Dowry is the biggest reason behind our decreasing sex ratio. There are some cultural problems also but those are not as big as dowry. I want to see change but I dont know if I will be able to see in my life, I hope to.

Rinki’s good heart and her marriage

Rinki, my uncle’s daughter, is 25 years old now and her father has been looking for a groom to get her married for the past 2 years but nobody wants to marry her because she had got her heart valves operated few years ago. My uncle went to a lot of families whom he or his friends knew to look for a groom. Everything was Ok in the beginning but as the groom’s family heard that Rinki got her heart valves operated they didn’t want Rinki to come to their family.

They think that Rinki is still sick or could get sick again in the future. She got operated by one of the most popular doctors of the world, the best in India and he also says that Rinki is perfect now and could get married anytime but the groom’s family doesn’t want to hear anything about it. It has become a big problem for my uncle, he wants to get Rinki married at any cost. He is ready to even pay dowry if groom wants but nobody agrees.

My father was also looking for a groom for Rinki in Benares. My father’s friend told him about one of his relatives who has completed a Masters in Astrology and is working with his father now who is an astrologer. My father went to meet them and talked about the marriage proposal. They seemed so nice at first, didn’t believe in concept of dowry, and everything was Ok. He talked to the groom and took a photo to show to our family. Everybody liked him and now everything was dependent on Rinki’s approval.

My father informed Rinki’s father about the groom and he also came to Varanasi to meet the groom’s family. He also liked the groom and he agreed to have Rinki married to him. I was told to mail the photo of the groom to my brother because nowadays Rinki is living with him in Noida. My family wanted Rinki to see the photo of the groom and tell us about what she thinks of him. I knew Rinki would never ever tell that she didn’t like him, even if she didn’t like him, because she is very shy by nature, and because of the way people reject her.

Rinki didn’t see the photo of the groom and said that she will be happy with the guy whom her father had choosen. We also gave Rinki’s photo along with her Kundali (horoscope book) to the groom’s side. Everybody was so happy about Rinki’s wedding, they were planning to organize this wedding in February this year. My mother asked me and my brother what we would give to Rinki. Rinki’s family was also planning to come to Varanasi to start shopping for the wedding, everybody was happy.

But today the groom’s side cancelled the marriage. They said that Rinki is not as educated as the groom, which doesn’t make any sense. Groom has master’s degree in astrology and Rinki has a bachelor’s degree in arts. He went to school only two years more than Rinki. Rinki is still 25 so she could go to school again and she wants to, and she will because she also wants to have a master’s degree. I didn’t understand what happened but it made me sad, very sad. I don’t know what can I do with it.

I understand when illiterate people do these kinds of things but this groom family was educated, maybe not, otherwise why they would make this kind of excuse? Cancellation of marriages again and again will make Rinki feel guilty about herself, It will make her feel like she has become a burden for her family, It will make her think that it is her fault which it is not. I think it is fault of our male-dominant and uneducated society. I often see people violating women’s right which makes me really sad.

I think girls must have rights to talk to their life-partner before getting married and decide if they want to get married or not. But still Indian girls in small cities can’t do this because of social and family pressure. They are presented as a robot in front of grooms, they face a lot of questions, feel pressure of their father selling assets to arrange dowry for marriage, and still are not happy in their marriage life.

Sometimes the groom’s family reject girls saying that the girl is not beautiful, how can they say this to someone? A lot of people don’t want to have a girl because they are afraid of her future- obviously marriage is a part of the future. Our sex ratio in 2001 was 933 girls for 1000 boys and it is still decreasing. I don’t know what will happen in the future and when we will see girls and boys with equal rights.