Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 49, Tuesday, May 18, 2004




RAPUNZEL was a mighty planner trapped in a tall tower. She cultivated and nourished her hair till it grew long enough to reach the ground out from the window. Her wait was a sweet one as a prince came by on his steel horse. He tied a cell phone to her long tresses and she pulled it up. You can say she went to great lengths to meet a guy.

They spent many hours, risking cell phone induced radiation to carry out loving conversations till the evil parents found out and all hell broke loose. That's when the young couple decided to run away. The story becomes a little garbled here, when one wonders how she ran with her long, long hair.

In the West, people walk out of their houses and get married. Here, we run out stealthily stealing family valuables, and then marry. It's called elopement. It's an act that requires a lot more work than one can imagine. First of all there is the actual plan that sometimes requires more dramatic scene creations than a fluctuating Hindi soap opera. People have gone to greater lengths than Rapunzel, staging elaborate kidnappings or preparing excuses of going off for important trainings, seminars and other educational whatnot.

Take the case of Rapunzel and the Prince. They had a tough time at home because they wanted to get married, but parents kept objecting because of reasons more numerous than the ones George Bush had for bombing Iraq. Sometimes the reasons are valid and sometimes they are as banal as Bush's. In most cases the objection is about the boy who is still a boy. This equates to no jobs and no money for food. Rapunzels prince was just a prince and not a king so her parents objected. Unfortunately kids are usually chips off the old block. They can be as stubborn and pig headed as their parents can be. So saying no will only strengthen their resolve. Why not just agree to wait and let the kids break up on their own? After all, in this day of commercial love where everything is dictated by TV ads, love generally won't last.

So on the way out Rapunzel tripped all the way over her long hair. She only planned for the escape but not the subsequent moments. The furthest she and Prince thought of was to go and hide out at a friends place. If the friend turned out to be a good one s/he would kick them out. They figured that eventually the parents would accept. If not they would live out in the jungle eating berries off the trees and live in a cottage made of logs and branches and wall to wall Persian carpeting. When asked, all freshly runaway couples say they do not miss anything because they have each other. It's only after a while that they miss the flat screen TV at home.

Eloping takes a lot of courage or foolhardiness. Probably both go hand in hand. Love in its proper form is stronger than any other emotions. It makes people believe that they can do anything and become like Rocky. At times it makes people do foolish things but as the saying goes there is no greater fool than a fool in love.

So how long do they plan to stay out? Young jobless people will have a grand time selling off the family jewelry that they have removed on the way out. Somehow, when reality bites, it ends up using teeth much sharper than one would expect. If employed, well, then they have it made. In most cases people wait for the families to eventually accept. In most cases the families do. In some cases the girls' family presses kidnapping charges against the boy and takes him to jail. This is where girls get to marry twice just like men.

So what is the fatalistic attraction of elopement? People in love want to be together forever and ever. Unfortunately nothing lasts forever except for diamonds and parental sermons.

So do Rapunzel and Prince live happily ever after? Well, fairy tales never talk of that because there is a lot of work involved that could not be covered in the few pages available per book. The ones who really profit out of this are the 'kazis' from the 'Kazi Office' and eventually the diaper manufacturers. One dump from the baby and that's about a hundred taka down the drain.

Some couples make it through while many do not. In the end it seems the ever lasting parental sermons were not so bad after all. The point is, is it really worth starting a new life by running away?

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

gloomy side of elopement

WHEN cupid's arrow hits two people right on the spot, everything existing in the world seems so bright and colourful, more beautiful than ever. The world starts to jingle and along with it the couple's hearts jingle. The only thing they desire is to be with each other. It makes them feel complete. Thus they unite in a hasty courtship. Most of the time, love bewilders people. The seven shades of the rainbow blindfold the eye and occasionally overpower the natural functions of the brain. Frequently a hasty marriage misguides the lovebirds to leave out some very important legal matters. We will get on to it later.

What might seem like an ultimate solution does not always work out perfectly. When the itch of love is over the darker side shows up. The most precious person in one's life begins to seem like the devil in disguise and people try to get away from the ones they once needed so badly. When the romance ends, the important matters that were initially left out slowly begin to surface.

Most of the time, love marriages where the couple has planned to elope are performed as court marriages. What most of the people fail to apprehend is that the court marriage is only a declaration. It is not considered as a legal marriage by the law of this country. Usually in a court marriage, a Notary Public (authorised by the Ministry of Law) or a magistrate issues a declaration, which says, "Two adult persons who love each other wishes to live together as husband and wife". It is done on a tk150 stamp, also called an affidavit. The highest charge for such a marriage is around tk500.

The problem created afterwards when the marriage is no longer working is that the groom can easily reject the bride as his legal wife. If the bride wishes to obtain the denmohor she was promised, it becomes almost impossible. Without any papers as proof, she can barely establish her marriage. Filing for divorce becomes a problem in the first place, as affidavit marriage has no record anywhere other than the issued declaration. As mentioned earlier, it is not considered as a proof of marriage by the existing legal system, so the same thing happens in the case of getting alimony. If a child is born through the marriage, who gets the custody also becomes a matter of concern. In the cases of dowry, or dowry-related violence, the same problem arises. No proof of marriage means no justice for physical assault of any kind. It also becomes complicated if any side wishes to file a case of 'Restitution of Conjugal Life'.

The solution to all these problems lies in the registry marriage under the Family Law Ordinance (1961) and a Kabinnamah provided by such marriage. The legal experts of this country always advise that a marriage should be done in accordance with this 1961 ordinance. The 'Nikah Register' widely known as Kazi provides Kabinnamah, considered as the actual proof of marriage. In the Kazi office there is a book called 'Baalaam boi'. It records the names of the persons getting married, their signatures, amount of denmohor, time and date of marriage, names of the person's witness to marriage and other important facts. Both bride and grooms are provided with a transcript (Kabinnamah) from the 'Nikah Register'. All these information is submitted yearly in the central office of the 'Nikah Registers'.

Fee of the registration depends on the amount of denmohor. For tk1 to tk5000 denmohor, the registration fee is tk50. For every 1000 taka added to this sum of denmohor the charge is tk10, but of course in a marriage resulting from elopement the sum of denmohor is always very low, as love is the only thing that rules at that time. There is also a charge for the Kazi excluding all the bakshish of course.

Often, after an elopement, parents of the bride file cases of kidnapping or forced marriage against the groom. It is possible to harass the groom by filing such cases. If there is no Kabinnamah and the bride's testimony goes in favour of the parent then the groom might face severe consequences. Sometimes even after elopement the bride might give a testimony saying that she was kidnapped. It usually results from pressure and emotional blackmail from the ones close to her. In this case as well, a Kabinnamah is very important. It might save the accused from a great deal of pain.

Kazi offices are mushrooming in every alley of this country. Not all of them should be trusted though. Precautions should be taken here as well. During the marriage, make sure all the informations are included properly in the 'Baalaam boi'. Avoid all the sub-kazis and beware of the fake kazis. Always make sure that the Kazi has legal papers to perform a marriage. If the 'Nikah Register' makes a mistake or intentionally restrain from registering the informations one can sue. Highest punishment for such cases if proven is three months jail with rigorous labour sometimes with tk1000 fine.

We strongly suggest to all the lovebirds and to those who believe arranged marriage is a present from heaven that they look after these matters seriously while they exchange vows or else the gloomy side might ruin it all for them afterwards.

By Shahnaz Parveen

against all odds…

(Note: All names have been changed to protect privacy)

REZA was charming, popular young man born into a well-to-do family. Shaheena was a distant relative, coming from a modest background. She arrived from outside Dhaka and boarded with his family while she pursued higher studies in the capital city. Predictably enough, the two fell in love. Their romance blossomed over the college years, until Reza's parents found out about it. In true filmi style, the grown-ups intervened, and forbade the two to meet. Shaheena was forced to find another lodging, and Reza was swiftly betrothed to the daughter of a wealthy businessman. While plans for the engagement ceremony were underway, a couple of Shaheena's friends gave her a killer makeover and packed her off to attend the festivities. Reza was about to place the ring on his future fiancée's finger, when he happened to look up and see Shaheena standing there in all her glory. That was all he needed to see. He stepped down from the dais, took Shaheena's hand, and the two walked out to begin a new life together.

That was over three decades ago. Since their dramatic elopement, the couple has been welcomed back into the family, and now lead their conjugal life as respected members of the society. The couple has two sons, one of whom is married, and they even have an adorable grandson. You could say their cup is full.

Poppy and Liakat lived in the same neighbourhood, growing up together, and their romance came as a surprise to no one. When their respective families began to show their disapproval of the match (Liakat had his roots in India, while Poppy was pure Old Dhaka), the two fled. They shacked up with a friend for two years until the collected wrath of the two enraged families abated, then went back and made peace. The couple is still happily married today, and their families have finally accepted their marriage. They have a college-bound son, a home of their own, and it is said that Poppy resembles her mother-in-law more closely in terms of mannerism and habits than any of Liakot's own sisters.

You know how the Bangla movies always show the daughter of a wealthy background falling for a poor man's son, and how the star-crossed lovers run away, with their families (usually the girl's father's hired goons) in hot pursuit? As unlikely as it seems, sometimes, it does happen that way. Shermeen's father was a very well established businessman, and hence it came as a blow to the family pride when the teen-aged girl eloped with Bozlu Mia, an auto-repair man who lived in the area. Shermeen's family sounded the alarm, and her uncle, who had contacts within the police, managed to chase them all the way to the Indian border, where they were finally caught, but by then, it was too late to bring her back into the family. Yes, she had already married Bozlu Mia. There was such a wide disparity between the social, educational and financial backgrounds of the two parties, that for them to unite was virtually unthinkable.

Determined to make the best of a youthful mistake she had made, Shermeen made her husband appear for his HSC examinations, and he managed to find a job as a factory supervisor. Shermeen herself completed her education, and found herself a job. The couple has two children, both of whom are studying in private English-medium schools. Their families have reached an uneasy truce, so the fighting and backstabbing are over. Does Shermeen have any regrets? Perhaps. She certainly has no complaints, however, and comes across as a capable young woman with a lot of self-respect, and pride in how far she has come from the wide-eyed, wet-eared girl who had followed her heart.

Not all elopements end on a happy note, however. While conducting this survey, we heard a story that broke our hearts. Nandita and Himel were a serious item, when Nandita's parents suddenly got her engaged to someone else. She was locked up at home and forbidden to meet or even speak to Himel. Desperation leads to inspiration, and somehow, the lovers managed to contact each other, and Himel helped Nandita escape, and they got married. Nandita's family sent out an enormous search party and a warrant for Himel's arrest was even placed, but they weren't able to find the pair. At one point, Nandita's mother was even heard threatening to have Himel killed if she ever found him. Two years passed, and Nandita suddenly received word that her mother was ailing. Unable to stop herself, she rushed back home. There she got thoroughly brainwashed by her parents about how wrong she was to have married Himel, and pressured her to apply for a divorce. To date, the divorce procedure is underway. Still emotionally attached to one another, the two sneak out on clandestine dates and converse through the phone on the sly. Himel is still madly in love with Nandita, but fears her parents will force her to go through with the divorce. As for Nandita, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, she still loves Himel and doesn't want to lose him, and on the other, she doesn't want to lose her family. After two years of estrangement from her relatives, she doesn't want to go through that again. So the two are left counting days till the end, and we are left wondering whether there's any justice on this planet.

An elopement invariably involves many trials and tribulations, for all parties concerned. To achieve a single end of spending their lives together, a couple has to put up with disapproval, not only from their families, but from society as a whole. There's no security in such a bold step either…
even the most stubborn runaways sometimes are forced to part ways. The question that comes to mind then is: why do people elope?

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that love is truly blind. It doesn't see the disparity in age or social/financial background between the two parties, which incurs the disapproval of the families of the lovers, forcing them to flee if they are determined to let their relationship continue. Another part of the reason why elopements occur is because, although love marriages are becoming more common, arranged marriages still preside in our society, and parents still prefer to decide who their children will marry, thus opposing any choice that the children make for themselves.

Whatever the reason, and whatever the outcome, as long as there is true, determined love, and parental disapproval, there will always be elopements in the society.

Sabrina F Ahmad



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