Text by Asad Ali and Bala Sundaresan
It was turmeric that made 12-year-old Suman realise that she was getting married. Ten-year-old Jaggi, from the same village, got married six months ago, but in her case it was vermilion, which made it sink in that she was finally bound by nuptial vows.
Turmeric and vermilion, or 'haldi' and 'sindhoor', though insignificant in themselves are immensely symbolic. Applying the former on the body before marriage and the later on the forehead afterwards are deep-rooted customs of the Indian Hindu society.
This is Shravasti district in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous and among the least literate states of the world’s fastest growing big economy.
Just to be sure marriage of girls below 18 and boys below 21 years is illegal in India but the practice continues unabated.
In the absence of childhood, dreams and desire they are left to face the realities and repercussions of premature marriage, and in many cases premature parenthood too.