The story of Chintaharan Chauhan may seem weird and even bizarre but it is true nonetheless. Fear of deaths and a superstition has forced this labourer from Jaunpur to stay dressed as a bride for 30 years.
Chauhan’s is a tale of loss, despair and helplessness. Every day since the past 30 years, Chauhan of Hauzkhas village in Jalalpur, dresses up as a bride – complete with a red sari, huge nose ring, bangles and ‘jhumkas’ — to ward off death.
“I have lost 14 members of my family in the past years and the chain of deaths stopped only after I started dressing up as a bride,” he said.
According to Chauhan, now 66, he first got married at the age of 14 years but his first wife died within a few months.
At 21, he went off to work at a brick kiln in Dinajpur in West Bengal and was entrusted the job of buying grain for the food for labourers. He became friends with the owner of the shop from where he made purchases regularly.
Four years later, Chauhan married the daughter of the Bengali shop owner. But his family raised objections to his marriage so Chauhan quietly left his Bengali wife and returned home.
The wife could not tolerate this betrayal by her husband and committed suicide. Chauhan came to know about this only when he returned to Dinajpur a year later.
Back home, his family persuaded him to marry again and the decision again brought him misery.
“A few months after my third marriage, I fell ill and one by one my family members started dying. My father Ram Jiyavan, elder brother Chotau, his wife Indravati, their two sons, younger brother Badau died in quick succession. Then my brothers’ three daughters and four sons also died,” he said.
Chauhan said that he would regularly see his Bengali wife in his dreams. “She would accuse me of betraying her and would cry loudly. One day in my dream, I begged for forgiveness and asked her to spare me and my family. She asked me to keep her with me by dressing up as a bride and I agreed. Since that day, I have been dressing up as a bride and the deaths in the family have stopped,” he said.
Chauhan said his health has also improved and his sons, Ramesh and Dinesh, are also healthy though his third wife passed away a few years ago.
“In the beginning, people laughed at me but I have done this to save my family. People now sympathise with me,” he said.