For 11 months, Sharafunnisa Chakkulagara's engagement was stalled because her family did not have money for a wedding. On Sunday, in a Muslim ceremony, Ms Chakkulagara, 23, married Ali Thekkeavachil, 29, who works as a cook at a hotel. "We are from a very poor family background," said Ms Chakkulagara, who has three brothers at home and an ailing father. "And it is very difficult for us to meet the expenses of a marriage.
"The system in Kerala to conduct a marriage is beyond the limit of an economically below-average family. We are financially very weak and there is no regular income." Although the family was able to marry off her elder sister a few years ago, there was not sufficient money for her own wedding. Her brothers work at odd jobs around the town of Changaramkulam. "There is just enough to meet our daily living expenses," said Ms Chakkulagara. "We normally can't have any savings from our income, and conducting a marriage is always a dream for us."
She described her current home, which she shares with three family members, as one "with limited space". "Since the house is not well-built, we are finding difficulties during the monsoon season." But since her wedding plans have been revived by the organisation, she said, she was looking forward to married life. "I like him," she said of Mr Thekkaeavachil. "We have met before fixing the marriage and exchanged our views and thoughts about our future together. We were completely satisfied with each other, and the marriage was fixed with our permission. "He seems very thankful to the organisation that we can finally wed. Actually, we don't have words to express our sincere thanks to them for fulfilling our dream, which we always thought of as an impossible event in our life."
Ms Chakkulagara dropped out of school at 16 because the family needed to finance the travel of one of her brothers to the UAE, where he works. So she became a seamstress and would like to pursue a vocational course after marriage. "We will set up something together for me, maybe a small business," she said. Her husband "will help." Like the other brides who were married on Sunday, Ms Chakkulagara was to travel to her husband's house, a 15-minute walk and a new life away.