Public Display of Affection in Europe and India

a young couple walking in Budapest

Public display of affection is something not seen at all in India. Actually its very strange here. The people who love each other are not supposed to show any physical intimacy in public whereas regular friends can hug each other, hold hands and sometimes kiss on cheeks. Holding hands and hugging is the most common act of physical intimacy seen in India amongst same sex person but it doesn’t mean that they are homosexuals. Its again very strange that homosexuals never want to hold hands, hug or kiss each other in public because homosexuality is very very hidden and homosexual people don’t want to express their sexuality. I have met so many Europeans and Americans who always thought that same sex people holdings hand of each other are homosexual because this is how it works in their world.

a middle aged couple in Vienna

Usually friends do such things and there is no idea making love behind it. If people see a couple kissing or hugging they want to watch it. Holding hands is kind of becoming common and is not kind of issue anymore in big Indian cities. Anyways, I have also grown up in the same culture where I never saw any act of physical intimacy in public. My city gets a lot of western people from all over the world who some time kiss and hug in public so at least people in my city have an idea about it. Every once in a while we see some crazy drunk westerner making love on the street. Making love doesn’t mean having sex but finding a westerner kissing or hugging is not something unknown to the people of Varanasi. Doesn’t matter whether they have seen it or not but they are very well aware of this culture.

an old couple in Vienna

I think that having sex or watching people having sex has always been one of the biggest attractions amongst us humans in our whole history. But the world has changed a lot within past a few decades. There are several countries and cultures where sex is discussed, is opened (doesn’t mean in public: in fact there are places where people can go in groups and have sex but is usually a group activity rather than a public activity), people have a choice and it is seen in a very different way than the it is seen in my culture and country. This idea of watching people making love or just seeing them in their undergarments is very exciting for Indians because we just don’t see such thing happening. And whenever we see someone in such condition, most of the time they are western people.

an old couple in Vienna

I am very well aware that a lot of people go to places like Goa in India just to watch western woman in bikinis. In fact, when I went to Goa first time in my life it was also to watch western girls in bikinis and find cheap alcohol. To be honest most of the woman I saw in Goa were old with ugly bodies:) Still when I see someone kissing on the street my eyes like to stop and watch it. But I usually try to avoid it because I don’t like to disturb people but my mind still talks with me about that picture while I am trying not to watch them. I think situation should be the same with most of the Indians, even the ones who try not to watch people kissing or making love. And I don’t really mind it because we just don’t see such thing happening and foreigners should also learn about these cultural issues before coming here and try to respect and be respected. But at the same time we can’t blame foreigners either because it is very important part of their culture.

a newly married couple in Buda

Anyways, I got to travel to Europe (Hungary, Austria and Slovakia) , in fact anywhere out of India for first time in my life a few weeks ago. Everything was different than what I was used to hence everything was a shock, in fact very interesting shock. I don’t want to discuss about all those things in this post but I would like to discuss the idea of the importance of physical intimacy and public display of affection. I had started seeing couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on the lap, caressing, nestling… as soon as I crossed the immigration area at Delhi airport. The most interesting thing was that very good percentage of Indians were also involved in such act who usually never do such thing in public.

a young couple in Vienna

It seemed like they had planned to do it as soon as they leave India but could not wait for the flight to land:) haha. Maybe they had not planned it together with their partners but they had planned it with themselves for sure. Experience make us feel comfortable and I could easily see that Indians were not comfortable doing what they wanted to and looked completely inexperienced. hahaha. I am sure that they did not want to do sex in public but they just did not know what they were doing. They didn’t seem comfortable even in touching each other but they were trying their best. I am not making fun of those people I saw at the airport but It was really funny and interesting both for a person like me to see them. Because I just don’t see such thing happening in my society by the locals and they had changed their as soon as they crossed immigration area at the airport.

even statues were making love

When I arrived in Europe I saw people kissing and hugging just everywhere even inside a church. They were very comfortable with it and it seemed like it was just not an issue at all. I saw people kissing in the train, at the crossings, shopping malls, restaurants, zoo…just everywhere. It seems like kissing is as important as meat to Europeans. I saw all aged people, literally as young as 14 years old kissing in public. Kissing seems very important to Europeans. Once I saw a young shop keeper smooching her boyfriend in front of the customer and the customer waiting for them to finish.

couples at Szimplakart pub in Budapest

I was very well aware about this culture in Europe years before I went there but I was still surprised when I saw it first and my first few days were shocking for me in terms of seeing people making love on the street. I think I had stopped noticing or watching it after a week or so but it was something which won’t go out of my mind soon. In fact once I was discussing this issue with my host Attila and told him about how I saw Indians involved in physical intimation in public at Delhi airport or in Hungary or other European countries I visited and Attila was so surprised and he asked me why Indians don’t do such things in India also if they like to do it.

men and women dancing together at a cultural event in Kesthai, Budapest

Attila had already spent more than an year and half living in India and he was very well aware of what I was talking about. I did not know how to make him understand but his question was very genuine that why don’t we do it if we like to do it? I knew the answer but it was hard for an European mind to understand. Sex is very very hidden in India, even talking about it with parents and unknown people is something which just doesn’t happen. Everyone does sex but they don’t want to talk about it. I have met so many people, to be honest all of the people all I meet, who find such sexual acts like cunnilingus and several other sex positions very exciting but they never want to admit that they do it with their partners and always relate with something coming from the western world which is very dirty, disgusting and unnatural. haha

temple art in Khajuraho, India

I am sure that everyone does it but they just don’t admit, even when they are talking with their friends. It is again very interesting for me to see why people relate such sexual acts with western world when all of them are mentioned in Kamasutra or if they are present on the temples of Khajuraho and several others all over India. I think we were practicing all of those acts way before western people started talking about it, at least it was very open part of the society thousands of years before the first sex museum was opened in the world or anyone ever tried to document sex in this whole world. Anyways, my issue is about present India so I should about present.

A young couple in Bratislava, Slovakia

I just mean to say that sex is a very very hidden act in India which is one of the reason why we don’t see public display of affection in India. The second biggest reason behind this issue is the safety of woman in India, woman rights issues and in fact safety of couples also who dare to show physical intimacy in public. It was hard for Attila to understand why someone could be upset by watching others kissing but I understand it very well. Anyways, Attila only seemed upset and I could not satisfy him with my answers. The world knows how Shiv Sena was targeting people celebrating Valentines Day in India. If we try to learn how they were protesting against the festival then we can see that they were not actually looking for people celebrating the festival but mostly they were targeting the couples.

In fact kissing is seen as a form of greeting also in western culture. Men are kissing each other in a wedding part for greeting.

They wanted to beat the couples who were found together watching cinema, hanging around in the park or other public places. So it clearly means that they were protesting against the people and not the festival itself. And I know it very well that the all the people who were protesting against the festival either had a partner whom they went out with to celebrate festival the same day or definitely they wanted to have someone. And I personally know so many people from my own city, who were part of the Shiv Sena and were targeting people celebrating the festival, now are either married with the someone whom they loved or they have girlfriend.

a view of Rajdari waterfall from Devdari

Only after a week after I returned from Europe I went to visit a water fall 50 KMs from Varanasi called Raj Dari. This water fall is a very famous picnic spot for people living in Varanasi and nearby districts and hundreds of people visit the fall on Sundays during rainy season. I was there to find rock paintings and to watch people. The whole region of Chandauli district has several sites with ancient rock paintings and tree fossils which are said to be around 1400 million years old. While I was looking for ancient rock paintings I heard a group of people shouting which made me look at them

Couples bathing together in public is no problem in Europe

It was a group of like 15-20 men, all different aged, mostly young who were taking a bath. A young girl who was wearing Punjabi suit was also taking a bath hardly 20 meters away from them. She was with her boy friend and wearing Punjabi suit mean her whole body was covered with cloth. That group of 15 men was taunting at her. They were calling her with the name black panty. And they were doing it repeatedly in front of hundreds of other people who were there. They were taunting such things like- call us also, we are also very good…

usual scene at bathing places in Europe

The couple was doing nothing other than taking a bath, even they were not kissing or doing anything which can be considered as a sexual act. Her dress was also not different than bathing dress of woman in India. I am 100% sure that it happened with her only because she was with her boyfriend. Most probably such thing would have not happened with her if she was with her parents. It happens with woman even when they are with their families as well but it is more likely to face such situation when they are with their boyfriends. The girl was so nervous and uncomfortable with the situation that she came out of the water and walked away from there.

Even when she was walking away another group also joined and they all started taunting at her with vulgar languages. I know that such things are less likely to happen in big cities and one of the biggest reason behind why such happened is because those people were locals and there was no security at all. But the question that raised in my mind was-

  • Does a girl need security if she wants to take a bath at a water fall?
  • Are couples not allowed to be together?
  • What do such people think about the the couples who kiss or hug, do the think that the girl wants to be kissed and hugged by just anyone on the street or do they think that she is a slut?
  • What about freedom to express your feelings?
  • What about constitution of India which allows us to choose our life partner?
  • What about constitution of us human beings which allows us to live and let others live?

a couple in Bratislava, Slovakia

There are thousands of questions but its very sad that because of such practices we just don’t have any answer for them. The bitter truth is that if we try to study the mentality of such people then we find out that if they see a girl doing anything which can be considers a sexual act, even kissing or hugging, the girl is immediately thought to be a slut who is wanting such thing to be done with herself by just anyone. In small Indian cities and villages If a girl is found in relationship with anyone boy then people talk about it and now the whole neighborhood wants to try that girl out.

I don’t know what is right or wrong but it was really upsetting for me to see how that girl was being taunted and abused only because she was with her boyfriend. The radical and nationalist groups in India relate such things with something coming from the western world and we should not allow such things because it is against Indian culture. But I think we as a human have a human culture before we get into any particular country’s culture. Love, hate, emotions, feelings are natural human behavior and it just can’t be stopped. And in any case if something hurts us then we should try to control ourselves first and then think about others.

I still don’t know whether my Indian system is better than what I saw in Europe or not but one thing is very sure that woman are living in very tough condition in India. If we just look at this data it can easily tell the story about woman in India. But one thing I would like say for sure that whatever I saw in Europe looked really lovely and I saw Indians also enjoying it in Europe and missing in their own country. Jai Hind. I got a funny picture online which shows the difference I am trying to talk about-

untouchables in India

Casteism has always been a big issue in India. It was started with the idea of organizing the society and was very successful and nice but people changed this system as per their need and benefit. The real casteism worked this way: caste of a person was decided by his profession and not by the parents caste but now it is decided by what caste parents come from. In the past everybody was free to change their caste only by changing their profession but now it is just not possible at all. Once you are born Bramhin, you stay Bramhin forever.

This system was that all the castes had their work like Kshtriyas were the warriors or king, Bramhins were the learned people who studied religion and teach it to others and Vaishyas were the business class people… but this system changed completely with the first kingdom in India. Actually as per the real casteism the king was supposed to be only and only from the Kshtriya caste or the Kshatriya were the only one who could become a king.  I like this system and I don’t think there was anything bad about it but our kings and higher caste people made it really worse.

The kings were worried that if their sons would not be interested in becoming a soldier and started to learn religion then the society would not accept them as their king because if they would study religion then they would become Bramhin hence they changed the system and said that the caste of a person would be decided by their parents caste and not by their profession means son of a Kshtriys would stay Kshtriya forever which meant no threat of loosing the power for them.

I am also born Bramhin but my profession is entirely different and I should not be treated as a Bramhin in the society but people treat me as a Bramhin all the time. It doesn’t offends me, in fact I enjoy it because there are a lot of benefits of belonging to a higher caste in India. But when I think of those people who come from lower caste, it really offends me and I don’t like it at all. There are so many people who are born in a lower caste family but have changed their life completely by getting education or having a job but people still treat them as a lower caste person.

Actually there is no problem with rich people who come from lower caste. If they have money then they are treated as a king. And at least nobody can say anything bad about their in front of themselves. All the problems are with poor people, all the rules are made for them. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is the best example. She is a Dalit woman and Dalits are still considered as untouchables in most part of India but no problem for her. She is one of the most powerful woman of India and many big people touch her feet. She rules India.

There are also so many misconceptions about Dalits and untouchables. In fact, nobody is untouchable all the time and everybody becomes untouchable some times by doing certain things. I have worked with so many untouchable caste people and believe me they are in terrible condition. Usually they stay together in a group and are not allowed to use common services for common people like common hand pumps, wells and ponds etc… sometimes they are not allowed even in the schools. There are so many beautiful laws to protect them and to provide them equal rights, in fact, extra rights but it is not practiced in reality and they have problems all over India.

There is a Hindu caste called Doam and their traditional job is help people cremating the dead bodies. I worked with them three years ago and learnt a lot about them. These people are seriously discriminated against in the society. It is really tough for them to get admission in the school or get mixed in the society. They are also considered untouchable. Nobody takes anything touched by them. Working with them raised a lot of questions to me and I decided to learn about it. I did some research and found that there is conecpt of unaccountability in Hindusim but it nowhere close to the concept we have now at present.

In reality anyone can become untouchable by doing certain things like by participating in a funeral and then they can become touchable again by taking a bath and that’s all. But since the Domes work at cremation place they are considered untouchable all the time which is just not right. By rule, they should be considered untouchable only during the time they work at cremation place but once they are done from their work and take a bath they become touchable again and should be treated as any other person in the society.

Whenever anyone participates in any funeral, they take a bath in the river before entering in their home. Nobody shakes hands with them or touches them because they are untouchable that time. I have also become untouchable so many times. I don’t understand why people don’t understand it or question it that how come a domes are untouchable all the time. I read an article yesterday (24/09/10) in a news paper called Amar Ujala about a dog who was declared untouchable by his owner only because he ate a Roti given by a woman who was a Dalit.

Actually what happened is that the dog owner was a Yadav means Vaishya. His dog was just outside the home when a Dalit woman offered him a roti. The owner saw this  and became angry on the woman only because she offered her roti to the dog. He declared that his dog was untouchable. A meeting was called by the Panchayat where they decided that the dog was really untouchable after eating the roti of a Dalit woman and they decided that the woman has to keep the dog from now and pay Rs. 15,000 as penalty to the dog owner.

How come this poor woman could afford Rs. 15,000 penalty, I don’t know what to say about it. This is really crazy and cruel. The most shocking thing about this issue was that this decision was given by the Panchayat which is a government body and has a lot of legal and social powers. How come they can make such decisions? These crazy people did not even think about Lord Ram’s life when he ate leftover food given by Sabri who belonged to an untouchable caste or allowed a Mallah (boat rower caste) to touch his feet.They should have thought about it if they make the decisions based on religious rules.

Finally the woman went to the police station and instead of taking any action against the Panchayat and that crazy dog owner, the police officers asked that woman why did she feed the dog. They did not register her complaint.Then she went to the DIG and same response there also, her complaint was not registered. Finally she went to the DSP SC (schedule caste)/ST (schedule tribe) and only then her complain was registered and I have heard that investigation is going on now. I am cent percent sure that they would not take any action either against the dog owner or the Panchayat.

Maybe they would just end this matter by creating pressure on the woman or by doing something. And I know that they will even these small steps only because media is involved now otherwise they would have just kicked this woman out of the DIG office as well. Such incidents always questions me if I am part of the same 21st century India we proudly talk about? Is it the same India which is becoming one of the super powers of world? Is it the same India which is the fastest growing economy of the world? Is the same India of the Lord Rama who ate leftover food of Sabri?

Times of India also reported this news.

Scanned article of Amar Ujala Hindi newspaper. 24/09/10

Menstrual cycle

I recently learnt something really interesting- the religious idea behind women having their menstrual cycle. I tried to learn about it because I often hear about women considered as impure during their menstrual cycle and a lot of crazy ideas associated with it. The religious reasons I found behind women considered impure during their menstrual cycle has a very interesting story associated it and I just don’t know if I would ever believe in this reason but I thought to share it with the world through my blog.

Within a past weeks two things happened with me that made me think about it. Actually there was an old Neem tree in my neighborhood that died a few weeks ago and I was seriously sad about it as it was the only tree in my whole neighborhood.  I was talking about it with my friends and one of them told me that there was a girl from my neighborhood whose menstrual cycle was going on and she touched the tree and this touch killed the tree. I asked him how this could be possible and he said that since women are very very impure during their menstrual cycle, if they touch any plant, the plant dies of this touch.

The second incident that happened with me was I was working with a girl and we went to an ashram where there were only women living there. We went there to schedule the appointment for interviews in coming days. They asked us to come on the next day but when we were leaving the ashram, one of the women came and asked the girl with me if it was her menstrual cycle going on that day and incidentally it was her menstrual cycle days those days so she said yes. And right after hearing this this women asked her to not come to the ashram until her menstrual cycle days are over.

She became kind of angry and started telling me that now she would have to take a bath because she talked with this girl and touched her whose menstrual cycle was going on. I did not know what to tell her but her view was really strange for me. Anyways, I talked about it with a very educated woman who has very good knowledge of Hindu religion and she told me a really nice story. She said that once Lord Indra , the king of Gods, had to kill two Bramhins because of some reasons which were a very big sin and because of this sin Indra lost all of his supernatural power and his powers.

He wanted to hide himself and went to a river and hid himself under the water. His guru Brihaspati wanted to see him and could not find him. Finally he reached to the river where Indra was hiding. He met Indra and asked him the reason behind him hiding himself in the river and Indra explained to him the reason. Indra requested his guru Brihaspati to help him in getting rid of this sin and Brihaspati suggested to him that he find people who would share his sin with him. He said that this was the only way for him to get rid of the sin. Indra came out of the river and started looking for people who would agree to share this with him.

He asked so many characters but nobody agreed to help Indra; but finally four characters agreed to help by sharing his sin: mountain, tree, river and women. Since all of these four characters shared the sin, all of them were cursed that they would become impure for a certain number of days every year or every month. She said that sometimes the whole mountain or a certain part of the mountain’s appearance change every year when they turn a little bit red and it is a sign of their menstrual cycle. There are a few trees which release glue or kind of a sticky thing which is sign of their cycle. This glue is used widely in India in pregnant women’s food.

She said that the river’s cycle is for two months every year and this is the time when rivers foam a lot and their current is very high; this is the sign of their cycle. And because of this cycle it is prohibited in Hinduism to take a bath in the rivers for two months every year. Only Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers are all time pure rivers so there is no prohibition of taking bath anytime of the year, even when their cycle is going on. And we all know about women’s menstrual cycle. And since this cycle is the result of the sin of killing two Bramhins, they are considered impure and are prohibited from many activities.

In most parts of India, most of the women follow certain rules during their cycles like they do not enter the kitchen, do not touch their elders, they sleep on the ground whereas their husbands sleep on the bed, they do not take a bath for the first three days… Marwaris are more strict about it. They keep their women in a separate room and I have heard that more strict families do not allow women to come out of their room. Nobody enters their room and goes to talk with them. Only food is served in their room. They come out of their room on the fourth day and take a bath.

The pots they use to take their food is purified by lighting up a small fire in the pots or by just moving them around the fire and only then these pots are brought back in the kitchen. Fire is used to purify the pots because fire is considered to be the purest thing and it is believed that fire can purify anything, just anything. The women whom I talked with said women should respect the rules for monthly cycle and should not go out and should not do any hard physical labor. She said that all the companies selling napkin pads say in their advertisement that now women can out and do whatever they want even during their periods which is very bad, and they should not do it.

I asked her what if a woman has a job and can not get a leave of three-four days each month. She thought for a while and said that we have to think about when these rules were made. She said that these rules were made thousands of years ago when there were no napkin pads available in the market and so it was not good for women to work during their periods but since a lot of women work now and obviously can not get a leave every month, they should not stop themselves from working but they should make sure they are not doing anything which is hard physical labor for them like weight lifting, jumping or playing…

She said that even science also says the same thing. She said that women should see their periods as God gifted vacations of three days every month and should enjoy this. But I was wondering how they can enjoy their vacations if they are not even allowed to come out of their rooms or talk with others. She said that if women do not respect the rules, they may be punished with sickness or diseases in the future. I don’t really know much about human body but I love to hear about human body science and always want to learn about it and this story was very interesting for me.

I am really surprised to see such writings present in our sacred texts which were written thousands of years ago. I am seriously in love of those people who wrote these things, just don’t have any idea whether these stories are true or not but one thing is very sure that the writer was super smart. His imagination power would have been just awesome. Hats off to you my dear Hindu sacred text writers!!

Widows in Vrindavan

I worked again with Irene who was doing her M.A. from Ca’Foscari University of Venice and her research topic was Hindu widows. I had already worked with her in October 2009 in Benares but this time she wanted to visit Vrindavan because she had heard a lot about Bengali widows living in Vrindavan and how important this city is for Hindu widows. I contacted my friend Yashu who lives in Vrindavan and asked him to help as I also did not know much about Vrindavan. He promised to help me and in fact he arranged everything- hotel, food and many interviews also.

Irene had already heard about Bhajan Ashrams (ashrams where chantings are organized) working in Vrindavan and she wanted to visit them and see if it was possible to interview women there. I had also heard about widows working at Bhajan Ashrams before but I had no about idea of how big and how many Bhajan Ashrams were there in Vrindavan. I think there was at least one ashram in each alley and few of them were really huge, having three-four thousand widows under the same roof.

These bhajan ashrams are run by rich religious people. They give Rs. 2 and a little bit of rice and a little bit of lentils to each widow chanting for three hours. They have two to three shifts of work. The first shift start around 8 o’clock in the morning whereas the last shift of work ends around 6 o’clock in the evening. Not just any widow can enter in any bhajan ashram and start chanting and then get some money. They have to get registered with the ashram first and then their timing is decided and only then they can work.

There are thousands of widows living in Vrindavan and most of them, over 90% come from Bengal and do not speak any Hindi. Some of them live in a government widow ashram, some of them stay at private ashrams, some of them have rented a room and  some just sleep somewhere on the road or along the river Yamuna. Over 95% of the widows living in Vrindavan make their living from working at bhajan ashrams and begging. All of these women go to bhajan ashrams in the day time and then beg in evening and morning time when there are more pilgrims going to the temples.

Vrindavan is also called city of temples, there are around 5,000 temples in Vrindavan and this city is considered as a holy place amongst Hindus so hundreds of thousands of people visit the city every year. And since people visit the city for religious purpose, people donate a lot of things which makes Vrindavan a good place for begging. It was very sad to see the number of beggers in Vrindavan. I think most of the widows living in Vrindavan are involved in begging.

We asked them why did they chose Vrindavan only and why not some other place like Varanasi or Haridwar as they are also sacred cities for Hindus. Most of them said that since Vrindavan is very popular amongst Bengalis, most of the Bengali widows come to Vrindavan. We asked them why Vrindavan is popular and most of them did not know the reason behind it but one lady who was not a widow told us a very interesting story about why Vrindavan is popular amongst Bengali people.

She told us a story of two brothers who used to work as a cashier at some king’s palace. Once they were working at the king’s palace and while working they ordered a glass of water with sugar but by mistake the servant mixed salt instead of sugar and gave the drink to those two brothers. They drank it and did not realize that there was salt instead of sugar because they were too busy with their work. But later when the servant realized that he had made this mistake by giving salty drink instead of sugar, he went to those two brothers to say sorry.

He told those two brothers that they he had mixed salt instead of sugar in their water but those two brothers did not believe it. The servant told them again the same thing and then these brothers asked the servant that if he had mixed salt instead of sugar then how come they did not feel it while drinking it. And the servant answered that since they were too much busy in their work, they did not realize whether there was sugar or salt in the water. Both brothers were shocked to hear this and this feeling changed their whole lives.

They thought if they would have worked with the same honesty to find the God, the way they had been working for the king, they could have found God. This was the moment when they decided to leave the materialistic life and devote themselves completely to the God. They left their job and came to Vrindavan, which used to be a jungle those days, to meditate and devote themselves completely to the God. They became so popular amongst people that the king of India decided to meet them. When the king came to see these brothers, they were sitting on a ghat along Yamuna river and meditating.

The king told to one of the brothers that he was so happy with their devotion to the God that he wanted to do something for them. He offered any kind of help or money they wanted. These brothers asked the king to get the broken stones repaired at the ghat. The king started laughing and went to see the ghat. But when he arrived there he found that this whole ghat was made of precious stones. These stones were so expensive that they were not available even in the palace of the king. At that moment he realized the supernatural powers of those brothers and immediately went back to them and said that he had realized his mistake of offering just anything.

He said that he was unable to give them what they already had but he still wanted to give something to them. He said to those brothers to that he would donate them all the land he could see from his eyes at once. One of the brothers stood up and looked around and finally all the land they could see from eyes by standing at one place was donated to them and this land is what we call Vrindavan now. So the people meant to say that the city Vrindavan was established by Bengalis and this is why it is so popular amongst Bengalis, very interesting story.

We could interview only ten women in a city where there were thousands of widows because most of these widows did not know any Hindi and I did not know their language. Anyways, we visited a government widow ashram also. There were two government run widow ashrams- one run by the central government and other one was run by the state government of UP. The ashram run by the central government seemed more organized than the state government one. It was new building with at least 500-600 rooms. There were about 2700 widows living in the same building.

We met a government employee there who was working as a helper. We asked for permission to take interviews and he seemed fine with it. He said that all the widows staying in the building come to him everyday in the morning time to get free grains which are provided to them by the government. He said that we could interview them when they come. We were just sitting there and I noticed a lady watching us from another building. She called me and started asking me why we were there and when I told her about Irene’s research she said that it was not allowed.  She asked us to go to the district magistrate and get permission from him.

It seemed really strange but we could not do anything. We did not understand why she was stopping us. Then we went to the biggest Bhajan ashram of Vrindavan but the same thing happened there as well; they did not allow us to talk with the widows there. Finally we reached to the state government run widow ashram and met the security guard of that building and explained the project to him. He was a really nice guy. He said that the officers were not at the ashram now and told us to complete the interview before she comes back.

I asked him why he was telling us to complete the interview before the officer arrives and he said that officers do not allow anyone to talk with widows living there. I asked why they don’t allow and he answered that since both of the officers working at the ashram were completely corrupt and eat the pension money which comes for the widows, they do not want others to know about it. I was really sad to hear this. He said that the government provides a monthly pension to the widows but these officers keep half of it for their enrichment and give only half to the widows.

He said that first of all they ask for Rs. 300 to all the widows just to get them their pension registration card and then they say that it takes about a year for pension to start when in fact registration is free and the pension is started within only a few days. He meant to say that the officers keep all of the first year pension money for themselves and then start pension from the second year and they give only half of it. We asked him how many widows were living at that ashram and he said about 300 which means these government officers steal Rs. 90,000 per month.

He said that they give a small percentage to other government officers also like the district magistrate and other people but most of the money goes to them. I was seriously shocked to hear all of these stories. I just could not believe how someone could take money of those poor women who work for only Rs. 2 and a little bit of grains everyday? Anyways, now I knew the reason why that other government officer at central government run widow ashram did not want us to interview women living there. It was very sad but this was the truth.

We realized that it was very difficult to interview the women living at ashrams so we decided to interview the women who live independently. We started visiting widows at their homes and started talking with women on the road or living in small ashrams. All of them had seriously sad stories. Most of them were married at a very early age and their husbands also died soon after the marriage. They were not allowed to study and finally they decided to leave  home and come to Vrindavan. Some of them left home because their children did not care about them.

We interview to a few Bengali women who said that they stay for about 11 months in Vrindavan, save some money and grains and then go back to visit their family and give all of their savings to their children. We noticed something really interesting- that idea of the reason of their widowhood is sin in their past life was not so popular amongst Bengalis whereas widows from North India had this strong belief that the reason of their widowhood in the present life is because of the sin they had done in their past lives.

Most of the North Indian people believe that the biggest discrimination with widows happens in the Bengal region but the Bengali woman whom we talked with said that they never felt discriminated. It was really strange to hear them saying this. I think that they do not see the discrimination; as a discrimination, they think that this is the way it should be. Anyways, we all know that widows are discriminated all over India, but the biggest discrimination is there in Bengal region.

We got to interview a few Hindi speaking non-Bengali women also. We asked them why did they choose Vrindavan and they said that since Vrindavan has a lot of Bhajan ashrams where at least Rs.2 with some grains is provided, it was a good option for them come to Vrindavan instead of dying at their place. It was a very interesting answer but I do not know to what extent it was true. We interviewed a few widow women who said that it is much better to stay at home and find a job rather than going to an ashram and living like a beggar. I liked this idea better.

We asked all the widows about the remarriage of widows and we noticed something really interesting that most of the widows who were close to 70 years old said that remarriages should happen but all the widows who were close to 40 or 50 said that remarriage of a widow a big sin. They believe that the God has given them punishment in the form of their widowhood life and they should respect it because if they do not respect it then they will go to hell and will become a widow again in their next life so it is much better to live like a widow in one life rather going to hell and becoming a widow again in the next life.

I think the reason behind older women believing in the idea of remarriages was they had already seen their whole lives and now they were alone and helpless so they they think that it is much better to remarry and have a family whereas young widows can take care of themselves hence they believe in living alone. Anyways, it is only my idea; I still do not understand what could be the reason behind it. After coming back from Vrindavan we decided to contact some religious person to ask him questions about what is there in Hindu sacred texts for widows.

We met a woman who had done her Ph.D. in Sanskrit and works as a katha speaker at several temples and ashrams in and out of Varanasi. We asked what could be the reason behind a woman becoming widow and she told us several interesting things about what is written about widows in Hindu sacred texts. She said according to Hindu texts if you try to disturb a couple or make them marry with someone else forcibly, this could also cause you lose your life partner in your next life. I asked her what if a man does it and she said that the rules are the same for men and women both so men can also be punished in the same way.

The second reason could be if you are married but you have relations with other people. There are two kinds of punishment for this sin- one is that when you go to the hell, you have to make relations with a burning iron body and the other is you could lose your life partner in your next life. She said that making relations while in the menstrual cycle could also be a reason of widowhood in next life. All of these reasons seemed genuine to me and made one thing clear that love marriages were accepted in Hinduism and there is a very hard punishment for not accepting it. I think the parents who do not want their children to marry with their girlfriend or boyfriend should think about it now, otherwise they could become a widow in their next life:)

After studying Hindu widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi, I have developed this impression that the widows who decided to stay with their family and find a job, even small, are much more happier than those widows who decide to stay at Ashrams or go begging. I do understand where did this idea of staying at ashrams and discriminating against widows came from, but the situation is very sad and corrupt government officers make the situation more sad. Again I see only one solution of this problem- education, education to women. I believe that if women are educated and have working skills, they can at least try to find a good job and live a better and happy life. But lets see when the government of India will become serious about education for women.

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.

Widows in Varanasi

I worked with a student named Irine from University of Venice who wanted to study widows in Varanasi. She was more interested in prostitution of widows at widow ashrams in Varanasi. I asked her how she decided to chose this subject and she said that she watched the movie Water and got interested in this subject. I also liked the subject very much but I was not sure if I would find some widow to ask them questions about prostitution. But this subject was very interesting to me so I agreed to work with her. I did some research and found that there was a government widow ashram near my home.

We went there and found that there were about 18 widows living at that ashram. The ashram did not look in a good condition. There was a garden and free space but the building was not maintained well. It looked like a building built in early 1900. Somebody at the office told me that there was a rich pilgrim from Kolkata visiting Varanasi who met a widow somewhere at some Ghat and heard her stories which made him think about building a widow ashram in Varanasi. He built this building and gave it to the government and now the building is looked after by the department of women welfare for the government of Uttar Pradesh.

This is the only government widow ashram in whole Uttar Pradesh. There was a woman in-charge of the office. I explained her about Irine’s project and she allowed us to interview widows there. The Ashram was divided into two parts- one for the women who could take care of themselves and one part of the ashram was for the women who were not physically fit. The widows have to cook food for themselves. They get only Rs. 550 (US$ 12) per month by the government.

All the widows and the office in-charge told us that government did not send any money for the past three months so widows did not have any money at all. The office in-charge told me that there are few local people who are regular donors to the ashram and their donation and government money together keeps the widows alive otherwise only government money is not enough and I also believe it. Rs. 550 for one month, how can someone survive with that much money for a month?

The widows who are fit enough to take care of themselves live on the ground floor of the building and other woman who are too old and not physically fit live on the first floor. Government has provided a small gas stove to all the widows and each widow cook food for herself on her own. Ashram has a kitchen also where food is cooked for the women who can not cook food and cooking is done by a office staff. There is a washing machine to clean the laundry but I am not sure who does the laundry.

The rooms are big and there are four beds in each room. Irine wanted to talk about prostitution of widows at widow ashrams but I did not know how to ask widows about prostitution. All of the widows at that ashram are over 65, few are over 80. We decided to visit the ashram again and again, become friends with widows and office staffs and then see if something comes out. We asked about other widows ashram in Varanasi to the office staffs and they gave address of two other ashrams in Varanasi. One was very close to my place which is called Mata Anandmayi Ashram.

We went there and found that Mata Anandmayi Ashram is basically a school for girls to study religion. The peon at the office told me that there were over 20 widows also at the ashram but the manager of the ashram was so rude to us. He did not want to talk about anything. He just said that they do not keep widows at their ashram. I don’t know why he did not want to talk about their work but it was strange. We could meet or talk with anyone at the ashram but the rude manager and peon.

We went to one other ashram called Birla ashram at Chowk, Varanasi which was built by Birla family. There were about 20 widows living there but we could not talk with any widow the very first day. We met a crazy woman who was wife of some IAS officer. I don’t know how she had a room there, although she was not a widow. She told me that her husband had arranged a room at this ashram for her as she wanted to stay in Varanasi for religious reasons. She also did not want us to talk with widows at the ashram.

She asked me to come after few days because she wanted to talk with someone at the office back in Kolkata first. We talked with her for a while and then decided to leave for now and come back again. We went there after a few days and fortunately this crazy lady was not there this time. We met a widow but she was busy that day. She told me that most of the widows who live at Birla ashram work as cook at different houses. She told us that the Ashram doesn’t provide anything but a room to the widows.

I am not sure if the Benares office eats everything and doesn’t provide anything but rooms or this is how they work but it sounded strange to me because there were a few women who just could not do anything. When widows die, they inform the family and if nobody comes, they just cremate the body sometimes in traditional way and sometimes at electric burner. All of the women whom we met were over 60 which was a clear indication of change in the society.

The life stories of widows was really sad and interesting. Different widows had different stories behind leaving their homes and staying at the ashrams.Some of them were kicked out of their home by their own children, somebody was kicked out by their daughter in laws, somebody just did not want to stay with the family as they felt like they were an extra burden to the family. But there was something common in most of the women that they were married at a very young age. It was crazy to hear that some of them were married only when they were 6 or 7 years old.

If I remember correctly, I met over 5 women who were married at the age of 6 or 7 and their husband died when they were only 10. They just never lived with their husbands. We interviewed a woman from Chennai who was the smartest woman amongst all we women we met at both ashrams. When Irene met her first time, her first question to Irene was- who is the prime minister of Italy nowadays. She was married at the age of seven and then lived with her parents for four years because her Gauna had not happened. Gauna is a part of Hindu weddings which is about the bride living with her parents for few days or sometimes few years, depending on the family, even after getting married.

She said that she went to live with her husband after six years of her marriage at the age of eleven but she was again separated from her husband for an year because of some family tradition of her husband’s family. She was not allowed to sleep or even talk with her husband for one year, even they were living in the same house. She used to cook the food for her husband but would sleep with her sister in laws. She lived in the same house where her husband was living but she could not even talk to him and after an year her husband died.

She said that she just knew that her husband had died but she did not know what husband mean. Her parents brought her back to their house and she led her whole life living with their parents and sister. She said that after few years when she came to know that her husband was already dead and she would not be able to marry again, it brought her vairagya and decided to study and work. She could not go school for long time but she studied at home and started giving classes to students. She used to teach maths and science to the students of up to class 10th.

After her parents died, she went to live with her sister and stayed there for several years. But few months ago she felt like she was an extra burden to the family and decided to leave Chennai. She came to Benares to commit suicide. She jumped in the Ganga but was saved by a boat rower. The boat rower informed the police about it and police sent her to widow ashram. Now she prays everyday to die. Her story was really heart-touching but she was really a brave woman. She was just awesome.

She explained us south Indian tradition for widows which sounded a bit different than north Indian tradition. She said that once the husband dies, the widow is brought somewhere near the river and her hairs are shaved. She said that widows are made sit seperately and family and neighbours bring sarees and throw at widows face from distance. They don’t even come close to the widow and give the saree. Something seemed different in south than north which was widows in south India are allowed to wear either white or red saree whereas in North India widows are allowed to wear only white and I have not heard of people throwing saress on widow’s face but when I think of widow’s condtion, I feel like this could be possible in north as well.

We asked all the woman a common question which was why somebody becomes a widow because Irine had read that Hindu widows believe that they are widow because of some sin of their past life and each and every widow were agree with this idea. We asked if they think that a widower is also a widower because of some sin they did in their past life but here answer was different. Widows said that men have different life, they can be fine even if they are a widower so definitely they must have done some sin but their sin is not as big as a widow’s sin.

There is a very strong idea amongst widows that they must follow all the rules made for widows which are like not eating tasty food, not talking with any male, not going out, not wearing colored clothes, not getting involved in any kind of celebration etc. which means anything that makes a person happy. We asked all the widows about it also and everyone but that Chennai woman said that all the widows must follow these rules because this is the way they can fix their sins and if their sins are not fixed then will have to live in hell after they die.

We asked if widows should marry again and a few, hardly 3 or 4, of them said that they should but most of them said that a lot of widows marry nowadays which is really bad. They must follow the traditional widow life. Some of them seemed angry talking about how widows marry nowadays or how they dress in colorful clothes or how they go out. It was strange. But I noticed one thing that none of the widows were educated except one Chennai and one Benares woman and all of them were married at very young age.

One of the widows at government ashram who was from Bengal told me that widow life in Benares is crazy. They are discriminated everywhere. They are not allowed to participate in any wedding. Nobody likes to see them. If somebody sees them while getting out of their home, they get back into home again and rest for a while and then come out again. Because it is considered a bad luck to see the face of a widow. She said that widows are never ever invited to any wedding as it is believed that shade of a widow can make the bride widow.

All of the widows at the ashram were living there because of religious choice but it is hard for me to believe that it is real Hindu practice. I am sure that real Hindu religion doesn’t discriminate between men and women and gives extreme importance to women so I think that the ideas that widows at ashrams are following are also given by crazy Bramhins and Khstriyas of middle age. It was hard for me to believe how the widows are punishing themselves.

I have learnt a lot while working with students but one of the most important things I have learnt is that Brmhins, Khatriyas, English, Muslims or anyone who ruled India did serious damage and condition of women in India now is terrible, only and only because of them. I think only education can solve this problem but the way Indian government is providing education, it seems like it will take ages for women to get equal rights and come out of these crazy ideas such as following strict widow life and punishing themselves.

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…

Dowry – How much do you cost?

My cousin is going to get married soon, maybe in December this year. My relative who has a permanent job in a bank is too much interested in getting people married. He knows several families who want to get their daughters and sons married. He asked my uncle to get his son married with one of his relative’s daughters. This girl is doing a masters from the Sanskrit University and my cousin works for a travel agency in Delhi. My cousin is crazy about getting married. He has always wanted to get married and now it seems like his dream is going to come true.

Neither of bride nor groom have talked to each other ever in their lives. It is all arranged by the family. They were presented in front of each other a few days ago when my cousin was in Varanasi and that’s all. He saw the bride and liked her and decided that she was the girl for him. It was his engagement yesterday. He called me a few days ago and he was telling me that the girl will not be good for Delhi because she has completed her studies in Varanasi through the Sanskrit board but he will still marry her because she has only one other sister.

He said that after her father dies, he and the husband of the other sister will get all the assets. He was most happy about having their own house in Varanasi. He asked me how much that kind of house would cost and when I said that it would cost something like five hundred thousand rupees, he became more happy, started laughing and said that his bride is worth at least two hundred fifty thousand rupees at present and her value will increase with time. He asked how long will her father be alive; five years? ten years? fifteen years; and after his death he will get half of the property.

His engagement was something different because neither the bride nor the groom will be present during the engagement. Only families will meet and do some formalities. The bride’s father gave Rs. 10,000 ($200), a few fruits, some sweets and a suit for the groom. The wedding will be held on 12th of December at which time rest of the things will be given. I heard that the bride’s father will give Rs. 50,000 in cash, a gold chain for the groom, five kinds of gold jewelleries and clothes for bride, and other household stuffs like a bed, refrigerator, wardrobe, TV, music system etc… all these things will be given on the wedding day.

Since they have already given Rs. 10,000, they have to give only Rs. 40,000 more on the wedding day.Groom has asked for cash instead of household stuffs because his wedding will be held in Varanasi but he lives in Delhi, and he has already bought a few household furnishings like a TV and a bed in Delhi for him. The groom has planned to spend the money given by the bride’s side to prepare for his wedding which means he will not have to spend anything from his own pocket but bride’s family will have to spend a lot.

The bride’s father is a retired employee of Municipality of Varanasi. He worked as a temporary employee for most of his life which means he would be getting something like Rs. 2000-3000 per month; I am sure not more than that for a temporary employee. He became a permanent employee in 1999 and got his retirement in 2008 which means he made good money only for nine years. I am sure he will spend a good part of his savings on this wedding. I think my cousin should not have asked for cash instead of household stuffs if he has already bought them but…

This wedding seems more like a business setup where one party will win the game and will make good amount of money, and other party will lose everything, and even they will even have someone wishing for their death. Dowry has become a huge problem in India and is one of the biggest reasons behind decreasing rate of sex ratio. I used to think that dowry would decrease with the decrease of sex ratio but it never changed actually. Ratio of girls has been decreasing continuously and dowry is increasing. People joke sometimes saying that grooms will have to give dowry in the future because there will be fewer girls but when I look at the people like my cousin, it seems to me that this joke will be only a joke forever.

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.

Nisha in Pain

Nisha is my neighbor. She moved into my neighborhood about four years ago when she married one of my friend’s brother. She is my wife’s friend also. My wife says that her life before marriage was always painful. Her parents were so poor. One of her cousins used to help her family. He was a government employee. But he was not helping Nisha’s family because of their being his cousin’s family but because he wanted to molest Nisha. He used to make physical relations with Nisha forcibly saying that if she would resist it, he would stop helping her family.

Nisha never wanted to go with her cousin but he would come and harass her in front of her friends. She would just weep and could not do anything accept let her cousin do what he wanted. It continued for several years before her marriage, and even after marriage whenever she visited her family. Her cousin now tells her that if she doesn’t make relations with him, he will inform her husband about their relations. She still goes to her sometimes only because she is scared of her husband coming to know about her relations with her cousin.

The above story was told by my wife but I know what happened to her after marriage because she is my neighbor and my friend’s sister-in-law. Right after her marriage she was under huge pressure for dowry. Her husband would beat her nd tell her to bring some money from her family but her parents were so poor so obviously she would accept to be beaten but not ask her parents to give her husband money. Her mother-in-law would not let her husband sleep with her. They slept in different rooms until Nisha’s mother-in-law died.

She would cook the food for the whole family, clean the clothes, clean the home, and get beaten. This was her whole life. She could not even sleep with her husband. Finally she became mentally disturbed. But her husband did not take care of this family. He sent Nisha to her family. Nisha again stayed with her parents for six-seven months, until she became normal again, and during the same time she was again abused by her cousin. Finally she was okay and came back to her husband’s family but this was not end of her problems. She was beaten continuously and was told to bring some money from her parents.

Finally one of her problems ended when her mother in law died but it was beginning of another problem. Now her sister in law got involved in her life. Now she started behaving like Nisha’s mother-in-law. But she did not stop her from sleeping with her husband. Now Nisha gave birth to a male baby. I am sure it was a big help for her. If she had given birth to a female baby, it could have been a huge problem for her.

Her devil husband would have not liked having a female baby, or maybe she went under ultrasound before giving birth to check the sex of the baby. I can believe it because her family seems like they can do anything horrible. Now Nisha’s son is one year old but the problem is that her sister in law doesn’t want her baby to be with her. Her other sister in law keeps the baby busy with her so that he could forget his mother. She always keeps the baby and plays with him, feeds him etc…

Nisha wants to see her baby but she can’t even see him because her husband and sister-in-law won’t let the baby go to his mother. About seven months ago, when the baby was only five months old, Nisha’s husband sent the baby to his other sister in Delhi. The baby still used to breastfeed from his mother but when feeding was immediately stopped, it created tremendous pain in Nisha’s breasts. She was crying in pain loudly because her breasts were full of milk. She wanted her baby to feed from her, but the baby was sent to Delhi. Her husband was not at home this time. Finally neighbors heard her crying and took her to the hospital.

She was fainted by the time she reached the hospital. The Doctor told her to breast-feed immediately. The Doctor said that she would die if her baby doesn’t come and feeds from the mother. Now neighbors called her husband expecting that he would do something. But her husband started beating her in the hospital. The doctor wanted Nisha to be admitted to the hospital so that they could take the milk out of her breast but her husband did not want it. He called his sister who had the baby now.

She also started abusing Nisha. She said why don’t you tell the doctor to stop the milk forever. Nisha’s husband told the doctor to stop the milk. Finally the doctor did something and stopped the milk. Nisha was still in tremendous pain. The doctor kept telling Nisha’s husband to admit Nisha in the hospital for few days but he did not do it. He brought Nisha back home and and started beating her. She was locked up in the room for a few days. She was not even given medicines. She would just cry and cry and nothing else.

Nisha’s husband and sister in laws want the baby to forget his mother so that they can keep the baby and kick Nisha out of the family. That’s why theytortureNisha so that either she will leave the home on her own or die or whatever. But now Nisha has no hope. She can not even go to her parents. They are so poor. Neighbors want to do something against Nisha’s husband but when they ask Nisha about it, she forbids them because she thinks if neighbors take any action against her husband, she will be killed by her sister in law and other family members.

I don’t know what will happen with Nisha but definitely something needs to happen. It is all the impact of our cultural problems where males are given more importance than the females. In Hinduism females are always given more respect than males but I don’t know when it was changed. Prepubescentgirls are prayed to in some rituals. We have the concept of giving high respect to the females but I don’t know who changed it and when. People say that India is developing but what kind of development is this where females don’t have equal rights? Is only male India developing?

We have the most number of professional girls in the whole world which is a very good example for us and it is all the impact of the last twenty years since India has started developing. Our girls have the guts to climb to the top within only twenty years. Isn’t it amazing? Why not promote them? But the reality is something different. In few states like Hariyan, UP, Bihar… the female sex ratio is still decreasing. I hope to see the change but I don’t know when I will actually see it, maybe not in my lifetime.