//If you don't have a sister, you don't get a bride

If you don't have a sister, you don't get a bride

Sunday April 2 2006 00:00 IST

JHUNJHUNU: The dwindling number of girls in the desert belt of Rajasthan has given rise to a new matrimonial trend. Fathers of eligible brides are refusing to marry off their daughters unless a girl from the groom’s family simultaneously ties the knot with their bachelor son.

The girl-for-a-girl system, known locally as `Aata-Saata’ or the `double jodi’ plan, has become a common practice in the drought-prone Shekhawati belt that spans three districts-Jhunjhunu, Churu and Sikar.

“Around 30 per cent of the marriages in the past one year in villages in Shekhawati were fixed under this swap system,” says four-time Churu MLA and cabinet minister Rajendra Rathore.

The sex ratio in these districts is on the decline, touching 922 in the last census. In some of the villages, the situation is worse with the ratio plummeting to less than 500. As a result, hundreds of boys are finding it difficult to get married. Since brides are at a premium, it has pioneered a new order that gives families with girls an edge in the society and the power to dictate terms.

For almost five years, Amra Ram of Bhorki village, nearly 30 km from Jhunjhunu, searched for suitable girls for his two sons. He could strike an alliance in the adjoining Dhamora village only after he agreed to marry off his two daughters in return with the brothers of the brides.

Such alliances have become a necessity, says Bhorki sarpanch Prahlad Singh Gill. “Ladkiya nahin hai. Jiske ghar me hai, woh baap raja hai, kuch bhi maang sakta hai (There are no girls. If there is one in a house, the father is like a king, he can demand anything).” Gill says in his 3,000-strong village, around 30 families did ‘Aata Saata’ marriage during the past two years.

The system has its own dynamics.

*An educated and beautiful girl is considered equal to two. So, this winter when Dharampal Chaudhary of Raghunathpura got his college-going daughter married to a family in the adjoining Indrapura, he got the two illiterate sisters of the groom in return as êibahusêr for his sons.

*Age is no bar. It does not matter if the girl is older than the boy, such choices are a luxury.

*A girl’s father who has a minor son postpones the daughter’s marriage till he can do an `Aata Saata’ for the siblings.

*Dowry is out. The grateful father of the groom usually offers to bear the entire expenditure on the marriage.

All-boys families-once among the most sought-after-are bearing the brunt of the social upheaval. Daulat Ram of Sheethal Village has three sons. This year the youngest of them turned 30-plus, but he or her brothers have hopes of getting married.

The reason: (not difficult to guess) there is no girl in the family.