Love in the time of WhatsApp: Breaking the barriers of caste and distance in "modern" India

Subhadra
By Rahul Banerjee*
A young cousin of Subhadra Khaperde, a well-known social worker with the Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti or Society for Respect for Women and Earth, also known as MAJLIS, formed by Dalit and Adivasi women of western Madhya Pradesh, had been dating with a man living in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Kanker district of Chhattisgarh, the girl continued dating for over a year and a half on WhatsApp.
Finally they decided to marry and broke this news to their respective families. The first thing that these families, situated deep in rural areas, asked was about the caste of the partner.
All hell broke lose for the young woman. She was a Mahar, a Dalit caste, while the man was a Brahmin. The Mahars in Chhattisgarh are very endogamous and put a hefty fine on and ostracise any family from which a son or daughter marries outside the caste.
The girl's family had been trying to marry her off to prospective Mahar boys for quite some time, but since the girl was staying in Kanker town and working as a dental assistant in a private clinic, she had a mind of her own and refused to agree to the various suitors. And now the girl had dropped a bombshell that she was going to marry a Brahmin boy all the way from Banda in Uttar Pradesh.
Anyway, since there were many members in the extended family who were educated and in jobs, and also some who had married outside the caste, eventually the boy's father, brother-in-law and the boy came down to the girl's village and they met face to face for the first time.
The girl's family asked how the boy would reconcile his caste people to the fact that he was marrying a Dalit. The boy replied that they were to say that they were Saryu Brahmins if asked by anyone about caste and he would handle everything else! So a Dalit Mahar girl would take a dip in the Vedic purity of the Sarayu River and become a Brahmin!
The marriage took place a few days ago in a rented Dharmshala in Chitrakoot, which is a temple town in Madhya Pradesh. Subhadra was invited to attend the marriage because of her experience in these matters. She had blazed the trail by snaring a Bengali Brahmin (Bangali Maharaj in Chhattisgarhi) and had successfully kept him in leash for twenty five years!
The boy had persistently stonewalled all efforts by the girl's family to visit his home saying that is against the custom in Banda. Subhadra would have none of it, however, and so she hired a car and with some family members went to the boy's village in Banda to check out his credentials.
They found that the boy's family lived in a small mudhouse with roof tiles of baked clay and that contrary to his statements that he was in a flourishing business, learnt that he actually ran a tea stall! The family had some agricultural land, but these days farming in Bundelkhand is in severe crisis.
So the family was just about making ends meet. Some of the girl's family said that since the house was so small they had made a mistake in buying many things like sofa sets, fridges and the like and they should sell them back again!
Subhadra, however, said that the family looked to be good at heart even if it did not have much wealth and since the girl was a skilled girl and was in love with the boy who were they to intervene.She said that when she had married then she and her husband were also penniless!
After they came back from their investigations, the boy phoned the girl to say that if the family had seen his house before then the marriage would not have taken place. The girl then asked anxiously what was the scene in Banda to which Subhadra replied -- "Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya".
This is modern India -- a poor Brahmin boy from a village in Banda gets hitched to a poor Mahar girl from Kanker breaking the barriers of caste and distance through WhatsApp!
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Source: Facebook timeline of Rahul Banerjee

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Good news. I hope this spreads and the Hindu Taliban learn something from this