For me Khushboo is the woman of 2015
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany has been named as the ‘Woman of 2015’ by the Time magazine for her leadership during a time when the world had started wondering whether ‘Europe would continue to exist’,according to the editor of the magazine, Nancy Gibbs.
This was the screaming headlines of a newspaper I subscribe to. But on the inside pages of the same paper I noticed the story of Khushboo, a young bride of village Gularipur in Uttar Pradesh, who refused to marry a man who could not count beyond nine.
I don’t know why this story was tucked into the inside pages even though it deserved a front page display. But the pertinent issue is that what this chit of a girl,who is educated only till class 8 from an unknown village of the county, did, was a much more difficult task even though it affects only her life or at most her family.
According to the news, even while the marriage ceremony was on, a friend of hers noticed that the groom Omveer was unable to repeat the mantras being read out by the Pundit.
The bride decided to check things for herself because after all, as they say, it is my life. Her parents were shocked and tried to stop her from taking such a drastic step at a time when when the marriage was at the final stage.
But Khushboo, who is determined to become a teacher one day, started taking Omveeer’s class, before the entire gathering. She gave him some simple, elementary tests and after handing over some coins she asked him to count them.
Omveer reportedly could not proceed beyond nine. If that was not enough, he was unable to distinguish between 69 and 79 but what was the decider was the cardinal sin- he could not dial her mobile number.
This was enough for Khushboo to declare the man as ‘mentally unfit’ for her and despite the issue reaching the panchayat she refused to get married to the illiterate man.
This is not as easy as it seems, in India, even today, in much more socially advanced families where marriages are doomed at the time they are solemnized because the bride and some times the groom is unable to say ‘ No’ knowing in their heart of hearts that this was going to be a mismatch.
Angela Merkel is a political leader who has scores of advisers and knowledge at her finger tips to help her take a decision. What she does with that knowledge is what separates her from the other leaders in her position.
The story of Khushboo, incidentally is not unique in this country. More that a decade ago while I was posted in Kanpur there was a similar incident where a 17 year old bride refused to marry a 45 year-old groom fixed by her parents and the baraat had to be sent back. I truly marvel at the guts of girls like Khushnoo and the one in Kanpur and also their parents who stand by them at the most crucial moment of their life because in India you only marry once.
I distinctly remember when the young girl of Kanpur turned the baraat back the local newspapers, instead of lauding her for standing up for her rights, were criticising her for letting her parents down after they had arranged loans to pay her dowry.
The achievements of such unknown girls in the rural countryside, mostly without access to Internet and other sources of Information Technology ,because there is no electricity, to stand up for their cause is truly remarkable because it is so tough to fight so many pressures and emerge winners.
Hats off of them on the Human Rights Day.
By Amitabh Srivastava