Drought drying up wedding hopes in rural Maharashtra
With girls unwilling to marry into the waterless district of Jalna witnessing the worst dry spell since 1972 villagers are being forced to call off or put off weddings, or go for no-frills ceremonies
The only water villagers in western Maharashtra have seen of late is the cold water thrown on their wedding plans. With many rural parts of the state reeling under what is said to be the worst drought since 1972, villagers in their prime are finding it difficult to find a bride.
No girl wants to get hitched into a region where she’d have to walk miles in the dry heat before finding a well that has water, and lug it all the way back for her family. Other than suffer the ensuing miseries of poverty and hunger. The bachelorhood has begun to bother Rafiq Bagwan (23) of Bhakarwadi village of Jalna. “Who would want to marry off their daughter to a person who stays in a village where she would have to walk in the sun for no less than two kilometres to get water, or draw it out of a dreadfully deep well.”
Bagwan said he had wanted to get married by May this year but his hopes have been scorched. “The drought has affected our lives badly,” he said. Bagwan is not the only one finding it hard to find a match. Villagers claim this is the case throughout the district which wryly is called Jalna. Here, more than 80 per cent of scheduled marriages have been put off or called off altogether, locals claim.
Those lucky enough to find someone ready to start a family in these parched times must keep it simple, almost Spartan. Fathers send off daughters after an unadorned engagement ceremony, without the elaborate customs and feasts that are the hallmarks of an Indian wedding. Relatives seldom get the invites.
“Many are restricting themselves to the kumkum-tilak ceremony. On the day of sakhar puda (ring ceremony), the couple is anointed with tilak on the forehead, and without any further ceremony, the girl and the boy are declared married. This saves everyone the fuss of expenses. Relatives are kept to a minimum,” said Aruna Jadhav, a corporator from Jalna.
Members of the Muslim community said they were facing the same problems. So they are opting for mass marriages. Arif Bagwan from Lad Sangvi village said, “Many Muslims got married during Ijtemas, a religious gathering where mass marriages take place.”
Nivruti Kagade of Jadgaon village said he was lucky he got married two years ago. “In our village, a handful of people are going ahead with the wedding plans and that too in the barest way possible,” he said.
More than 70 percent of Jalna is suffering from the worst drought that Maharashtra has seen since 1972. Recently, BJP national president Rajnath Singh visited the district and dubbed the situation a manmade disaster, claiming that corruption in Maharashtra is responsible for the drought. He had said that the Chief Minister and Prime Minister were insensitive, as they hadn’t visited the drought-affected places yet.