Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
A poverty-stricken woman in Bihar had to marry a dead man last week to save her four children from the stigma of illegitimacy. The incident occurred in Banka district.
Chudki Hembrom and Mahalal Marandi, residents of Rosaiya village under Katoria block had been living together under their community’s customs which allow young adults to live together till they understand each other well enough to get married.
But Chudki and Mahalal couldn't decide about entering into formal wedlock since they were too poor to afford the cost of the wedding feast they were required to arrange. In the meantime, four children were born to the couple.
Even as they were trying hard to accumulate money for their wedding rituals, disaster struck when Mahalal died due to hunger and disease.
The tragedy left the woman on the horns of a dilemma. Everyone feared she would have to live a life of ignominy with her children not having the name of their father.
Community leaders decided the couple should be married before Mahalal was consigned to the flames.
In the macabre ritual, the lifeless finger of the dead man was used to put vermilion mark on the hair parting of Chudki, who was dressed in bridal attire. In minutes the vermilion mark was washed off and the woman was declared a widow.
Chudki was shell-shocked, but she was still relieved: the opprobrium of “illegitimacy” had been erased from her children’s names.
“I agreed to it for the sake of my children. Now they can at least use their father’s family name,” said Chudki.
As is its wont, officialdom stepped in after the tragedy. “We are giving an Indira Awas (housing) unit and money under social security scheme to the family,” the District Magistrate of Banka, Mr Deepak Anand said.
He, however, strongly denied poverty had caused the tragedy.
Block Development Officer Rajkumar Sharma said the man was suffering from some ailments and poverty, adding that the administration had granted the family money for the last rites under Kabir Antayesi Yojana.
The level of poverty is appalling in Bihar; as per an official report, 1.40 crore families live below the poverty line in the state, which, if the average family size is assumed to be five people, would come to something like 70 per cent of Bihar’s total population of a little over 10 crore.