Marriages used to be made in heaven—now they are made in cyber space. However, an interesting piece of news that came up was a unique partnering custom that exists in Rajasthan India makes you wonder whether marriage is all that it is made out to be.
Excluding the three forward communities of Brahmins, Rajputs and Jains, other communities, especially the Gujjars have a custom where there are no formal marriage vows. Both women and men are empowered to change their partners by paying off the ex. This custom is called Nata Pratha.
Nata Pratha is a traditional practice whereby a man or woman can come out of their present marriage and can seek another partner by paying a specified monetary price for him or her. So in the days where gigolos and toy boys are becoming popular, and wife swapping part of the games that people play, this custom has been practiced over centuries and without actually needing any valid reasons to be given for the swap!
The panchayat or the five village leaders can be approached if there are any issues like bargaining, the insufficient sum or kids custody. Generally the woman is given custody of kids and yet children are automatically empowered to inherit the father’s wealth. This practice can be misused and a woman left with no succour whatsoever; and they are also commodified and sold off to the biggest bidder.
Nat Pratha has become a good business model and matchmakers and brokers are raking in the commissions—30%–in many cases. Often the woman is completely unknowing of the fact that they have been dumped/exchanged and are expected to meekly walk into the bedroom of a stranger. This threat is also used by men to keep woman in control.
Given the feisty nature of Rajasthani women, nowadays they are taking the initiative to change partners. In a society where child marriage still flourishes and widowhood is a given, this practice ensures that women find partners. Sarju Devi, 46 has changed her partners 5 times…not up to the record of Lizzie Taylor, but nearly there. She was widowed at 12, was not happy with partner number, 2, 3, 4 and has now settled down with husband No 5 who is ten years younger. Her only visit outside her village is one trip to Mumbai.
Living in relationships have assumed a different perspective altogether. Woman can trade husbands at will—dump a partner at will. If you fall in love with somebody other than your current partner, you just pay a sum and walk off into the sunset with the new guy. A great incentive for women to earn a living, isn’t it?