Rani Tripathi and her family gave items worth Rs 6 lakh in dowry but she then put her foot down and wondered what might follow if they continued meeting greedy demands.
Rani Tripathi, 32, Mumbai
In May 2010, I saw my father crying. When I got to know it was due to dowry demands from my prospective husband's family, I decided I didn't want to go ahead with the marriage that was scheduled for June 19, 2010. Only days before the wedding, their demands for money and goodies just would not stop.
I told my older brother I didn't want to do it. He said even the cards had been printed, so we couldn't call the marriage off. But I told him then I would have to suffer my whole life at the hands of a greedy family.
It all started in December 2009, when a match was fixed between a man in Airoli and me. A priest put us in touch with the man and his family.
Now Mumbai-based, we are originally from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and they too were from the same state. Our families met and decided to take the talks forward.
When they spoke to us on the phone in the initial days there was no mention of any demands. They said it in so many words: "We don't want dowry."
I was working with a BPO at the time and had taken leave ahead of the wedding to prepare myself for my new life.
Then suddenly it started. Each time there was a pre-nuptial ritual, they would demand something or the other.
They first took Rs 1.5 lakh, then jewellery, then household items. We ended up giving them items worth more than Rs 6 lakh.
They still kept asking for more including a new car and furniture, and we gave in to many of their demands. It was not any one person - every member of the man's family kept asking for something or the other at various times.
This is the point when my family and I started getting tense. We were wondering what to do; we had already spent a lot of money. The point is, if a girl breaks the match, there are always questions. People wonder why. They question your character.
Then my prospective in-laws demanded a Swift car and said they won't go ahead with the wedding until we promised to provide it. I was thinking, what about later? What about my parents?
Then I realised they will keep asking for more. I will have to suffer all my life.
So my father and brothers decided to go and speak to the man's family and try and make them see reason.
We had also decided, by then, that we needed to get them on camera, have proof of them making dowry demands.
One of my brothers took along a pen-sized video camera to their house. They made the same demands. My brothers and father came back with the footage of them asking for various things.
Soon after, we went to the Mulund police station. At first, the police were a little reluctant.
Then we showed the policemen the camera footage. They watched it and immediately registered an FIR against the prospective groom and his parents. They were arrested soon after.
But I was scared after backing out of the arrangement and doing the hidden camera operation. What if it backfired and people responded negatively to my decision? Luckily, that was not the case. People came out openly in my support.
After people started talking about me, I started getting marriage proposals. More than 40 people came forward, saying they wanted to marry me.
I decided to marry Pavan, a music composer. He didn't ask me anything, he just came forward without even knowing me.
We got married on the same day that my wedding with the man in Airoli had been scheduled.
Now I am 32 years old and have two children: Kuber is two-and-a-half years old and Shree is just two months.
I am lucky. Should I have waited for the harassment to worsen by marrying into a family that made continued demands? If I were driven to suicide, what evidence could be given for mental torture?
I no longer think about the bad phase. I'm not working right now, but a lot of women approach me for help on such issues. I try and support them as much as I can. I tell them to take action and be strong.
We were able to recover from the Airoli family some of the things they had taken from us.
Though the case was registered immediately, law moves at a slow pace since lakhs of cases are pending in the local court. But I know I am strong, and I will fight this legal battle to the end.
(As told to Bhavya Dore)