I am proud to say that I coined the word “Groomnapped” as the title for my short story which I later on developed into a novella by the same name.
Groomnapped revolves around groom kidnapping that’s kind of common in Bihar, India and probably a few other neighbouring states.
Even parents of rich young men demand for hefty dowries in this part of the country. And rarely are the parents of middle-class young women able to afford it. That’s when someone came up with the idea of kidnapping would-be grooms and forcing them to marry their daughter at gunpoint, sometimes in the middle of the night. I was amazed/shocked/astounded when I heard it for the first time from a colleague from Web18 (the internet arm of Network18), when I worked with them between 2007-2009. On searching Google, I found out that these instances were not all that rare. And I simply had to weave a story around the same.
Thus, Groomnapped was born—the story of the feisty Surekha from the wrong side of the tracks and the handsome and smart Ameya, son of a millionaire farmer-cum-builder.
An excerpt from the book:
GROOM FORCED TO WED BRIDE AT GUNPOINT
He had heard vague stories about such incidences, but this was the first time it had made it to the headlines of a mainstream newspaper.
“Ameya ki amma, come here fast,” he called out to his wife Daksha.
Daksha came rushing out from the direction of the kitchen, as fast as she could move, considering her bulky frame. “Kaa hua Ameya ke bapu? Kyon chilla rahe ho?”
“Just see what the newspaper has to say. They…”
“Tch. As if I can read the newspaper. So, why don’t you tell me what’s written there?” Daksha sat down on an adjacent sofa, sipping her tea from a stainless-steel tumbler that reflected her plump face on its surface.
“This man wanted to get a rich bridegroom for his ugly daughter.” Jagjivan looked up from the paper to check if his wife was listening to him. After confirming that, he turned to read the details even as he explained the article to his wife in Bhojpuri. “The girl is short and dark. No one was ready to wed her as her father had only a small dowry to offer for her.” He paused before adding his own commentary. “But then, which honour-bound family will agree to accept such a girl for their daughter-in-law, that too if her father can’t afford to give a large dowry? Don’t really know what the world is coming to nowadays.”
Daksha nodded her head vigorously in agreement.
Jagjivan turned his attention back to the news article as he continued, “The girl had met this rich boy at one of the weddings and liked him on sight.” He looked again at his wife, pulling his reading glasses down his hawk-like nose, saying, “And why wouldn’t she like him? See this picture,” he showed her the picture of a handsome-looking boy that the newspaper had published.
“Haanji. The boy is very good-looking indeed. Are there more pictures?” Daksha was curious to know.
“No, nothing of the girl anyway. But then why would they want to publish ugly pictures?” Jagjivan asked rhetorically before getting back to the article. “The girl’s parents had approached the boy’s parents to ask for his hand in marriage. The boy’s parents asked for a hundred tola of gold, a Volkswagen Vento car, fifty lakh rupees cash, along with a grand marriage ceremony and reception at a 5-star hotel.” He lifted his head to add his comment, “But that’s only right, isn’t it? The boy is educated and good-looking. They could have asked for more actually.”
Daksha couldn’t help but agree. “You are right. Take our own Ameya. He’s so handsome and is also educated.” A wide smile broke out on her face as she thought of their son who was in his final year of studies at Delhi University, completing his degree in farming. “We would want a huge dowry too, even if the girl is as beautiful as an apsara.”
It was Jagjivan’s turn to nod his head. “You are absolutely correct, Ameya ki amma.”
“So, what happened to the girl and boy? What are the newspaper people saying?” Daksha wanted to know how the story had ended.
“The girl’s father toh bahut kamina nikhala. You know what the rogue has done? He hired some goons and had the groom kidnapped and brought to their home in the middle of the night. Then, at gunpoint, he forced the boy to marry his daughter. Can you imagine that?” It felt good to note the shocked expression on his wife’s face as the news he had shared had made her speechless with horror. “He even managed to get a panditji to his house at that time of the night. There are no ethics left in this world anymore,” he cribbed.
Obviously, Jagjivan Verma didn’t believe it was unethical to ask for a huge dowry for his son or any other boy in the world. And his wife couldn’t help but agree with him absolutely.
“What will they do now? Have they arrested the girl’s father?” asked Daksha, anxious to know the whole story. She was steadily growing impatient with her husband who was dragging the whole thing out.
“How can they do that? The man has become the rich boy’s father-in-law. After all, we are tied up by our religious rituals. They have taken the saat phere, even if it was at gun point, with the panditji chanting all the right mantras. It would be a shame to the groom’s family too if the bride’s father went to jail.” Jagjivan’s sigh was frustrated as he became angry with all those families with daughters. “They should not be arrested but put in front of a firing squad,” he burst out suddenly. What if someone trapped his son in a similar manner? He got quite worried.
“You are right, Ameya ke bapu. Imagine if someone does this to our Ameya.” Daksha shuddered, her thoughts echoing exactly those of her husband’s.
“I think we should warn Ameya not to fall into some such trap. Or better yet, let’s get him married as soon as he gets back home.” Jagjivan declared.
Neither parent was aware how their morbid fascination with the groom kidnappings prevalent in Bihar was going to actually impact their lives.
Well, Surekha is the eldest of three girls, her sisters being Radhika and Vaishali. Now, after telling Surekha’s story, how can I not tell the stories of her sisters?
So, Groomnapped became the first book in The Groom Series.
Book #2 will be Gobsmacked, the story of Radhika, fierier and even more focussed than her elder sister; and Amit, a journalist from Mumbai.
Book #3 will revolve around Vaishali and is called Grounded. The meaning I have picked up for this title is ‘prohibited’. Watch out for these two books in 2019-2020.