>> Friday, July 30, 2010
This is not the name of a movie. This really happened.
I had known this baba for a long time. Ever since I had joined this hospital, he used to come to see me in the clinic and often used to get admitted for some kind of illness other. He was in his eighties, and had at least a dozen children, most of them women in their fifties. They were all short and obese and clad in black burkhas, and appeared like a flock of penguins marching, when they used to walk the corridors of the hospital. The baba himself was always dirty and used to wear soiled robes, which were never washed. He had a facial palsy some time back, so his face was all tilted to one side and saliva used to drool from the angle of his mouth. Only few teeth were left, and they were eaten up by caries and stained with tobacco. He was short and thin and managed to walk around with the support of a huge stick which appeared to be larger than himself.
He used to live in a separate house with his wife. I always noticed this woman who used to bring him on a wheel chair to the clinic. It was once, when she herself was sick, that I had reasons to start a conversation with her. When she lifted her veil to talk, honestly, I was surprised to see a strikingly good looking girl. I guessed she must have been not more than 20 years or so. And then, during the conversation, she told me she was from Hyderabad and had come recently to this country after getting married to this old man. During subsequent visits, she opened up her stories. It was, as if she was waiting to talk to some one. She was from a very poor family in Hyderabad and had four younger sisters to be married off as well. It was then that an agent approached her father with this opportunity of a life time to get married to an Arab Sheikh. There were lot many offers, a future for the whole family, and may be she could take her younger sisters, and above all, the father would get 20 thousand Indian rupees. Irresistible offer. The girl hadn’t even seen the baba before marriage.
She had difficult times from the beginning. There was not much of money, his daughters used to come every month and take away all the money the old man got as an allowance. Just enough to buy food. And then, the old man had an insatiable sexual appetite, and never used to let the girl sleep. Doing some kind of experiment or other, because he could not perform the act himself , he had invented some funny things to please himself. She used to feel disgusted, she said, but had no choices. She had started some resistance, and then old mans daughters threatened her with divorce. After another few months of ordeal, she managed to escape to India.
I had seen this baba with other new wives, mostly younger than the previous ones. The marriages never used to last for longer than few months. His daughter told me once, it is cheaper to have an Indian girl as wife than to hire a maid to look after the baba. The maid has to be paid 600 dirham, and the wives are free. After they are bought. Prostitutes charge at least a hundred dirham for an encounter, and so it works out profitable in all ways.
His last admission was for a fracture of his thigh bone. He had just arrived the previous night from India with a young wife. This was the youngest of all his wives I had seen. She looked energetic and active, but the old mans daughters kept her away. One of the daughters told me that this idiotic girl had pushed the baba out of his honey moon bed, when he approached her for the inaugural ceremony. The poor man fell down and broke his thigh bone, and from there started his down hill course. He was unfit for any surgery, so had to be kept on a splint on bed. He used to look at his lovely wife with pleading eyes. Poor man, he didn’t get a chance. He died after few months.
This is not an isolated story. I have seen many such young wives looking after very old and bedridden men. They end up their lives a slaves in small dungeons, looking after the old man and his sheep.
I had often thought. How unkind is this world? How can a father sell his own daughters for such meager financial gains? Arent these girls human beings too? Don’t they have their own dreams on life?
Girls as young as ten years have been sold off to prospective Arab bridegrooms in their eighties. There are agents who are on the look out for impoverished families with young girls. They lure them in to the trap, offering petty cash to the girls families. Most of these girls are brought in from India. I haven’t seen girls from other countries, because there are laws in those places which prevent these people getting married there. Any thing can be done in India, especially if you have some money to throw around.
"Arab Shiekh marries poor Indian girl"," Arab marries, and then ditches teenage Hyderabadi girl", "Arab Sheikhs marry young Indian girls and flee", "Parents marry off daughter to Arab for money"
These headlines aren't from decades old newspapers. But, before you start putting stress on your grey
cells to find out in which era such inhuman acts happened, let's make clear that this is a 'harsh present day reality'.
Yes, in today's era also Arab Shiekhs marry poor Indian girls paying a paltry sum, live with them for a
short while, and then, go back to their countries, abandoning the girls. And, in Hyderabad, also known as
the City of Nawabs, the practice has become very common, with marriage becoming a trade and woman a commodity.In a recent case that came to light, an impoverished Muslim family married off their daughter to an Arab Sheikh for a meagre amount of Rs. 5000, offered through a broker.
"He gave Rs. 5000, but it was all taken by the broker. My mother didn't get anything. I married him willfully, even though he was 50 years old," said a girl. Her dreams are all shattered as she has been abandoned by him. Looking at the story, I thought it was better for her to be left back in India with her parents, than taken to far off countries, where, no one could help her.
Earlier, Arabs used to take their brides back with them, but that stopped when the Gulf nations
restricted their citizens from bringing home a foreign bride unless they took prior permission from the
authorities. As a result, instances of Arabs flocking to Hyderabad for a young bride continue. Social activists, however, say that the socio-economic conditions of the Muslim community of Hyderabad, are
forcing poor parents to marry off their daughters to unknown Sheikhs. While bachelors of the city demand dowry from the girl's parents, adding to their plight, Arabs offer them money in return. This leaves parents with little option.
In August last year, two minor girls were married to a middle-aged Arab from the UAE in one sitting by a cleric. However, the girls escaped from his clutches. The Arab, Shaik Al Rahama Ismail Mirza Abdul Jabbar fled the country. Police had then arrested the cleric and the broker and claimed that the marriage racket had international ramifications. In September 2004, Hyderabad Police had rescued 15-year-old Praveen in Mumbai and arrested two nationals from Oman - Omer Sayeed and Nasser Hameed Mohanned, both aged 60. Praveen, daughter of a fruit vendor was married to the 53-year-old Omani national Mahather Hameed Abdullah al-Ghailani, who promised to take her to Oman. After spending four days in the city, the Omani husband took the girl to Mumbai. However, he deserted her and left for Oman, leaving her in the care of his two friends. Earlier in May, 2004, Jafar Hasan Al-Zagrani, 73 of UAE was arrested after he married 19-year-old Haseena. She had complained to the police that he ditched her after marriage. Investigations revealed that he had married another girl from Hyderabad.
Few years back,, the case of a girl child's marriage with an elderly Arab had shocked the nation. Amina, 14, was found weeping by an airhostess on a Hyderabad-Delhi flight. Her 60-year-old Arab husband was taking her to Saudi Arabia. When the airhostess alerted the police the Arab was arrested and the girl was rescued.
Why are we closing our eyes to such heinous crimes? Is it because we are afraid that religious feelings could be hurt? But is there any justifications for such acts on religious grounds? I don’t know. But isn’t it time to think about a change? Only tough rules and rigorous punishments can stop such criminal acts. If we do not value the lives of the young girls of our country, how do we expect others to do so?