They could not believe their stroke of fortune. Hyderabad-based Sameena Begum 23, and Nazia Begum 20, thought that their "young and wealthy" Arab husbands would open up the world for them.
And the long-distance nikah conducted over telephone by a "rapacious" marriage broker in the old city of Hyderabad was like a dream walk to bliss. Barely three months later, life was an agonising grind of "assault and torture" at the hands of their aged and epileptic Arab husbands.
A Muscat sharia court on Saturday annulled their marriage with the ailing Omani twins - but ordered each girl to pay 300 Omani riyals to their "husbands". The amount was calculated on the basis of the claim by the two Omanis that they had spent 300 riyals on mehr (dowry), air tickets for the girls from Hyderabad to Muscat and for sundry other expenses.
The Omanis have retained the girls' passports, which will be returned only after they receive the money. There is no way that the girls can go back home now. Money is a problem. The girls, who have been stripped of their belongings and are living on embassy dole cannot get 300 riyals (nearly Rs 34,000) to secure their freedom.
While Nazia is an orphan, Sameena's father is a daily wage-worker, who struggles to make ends meet. "Where would I get that kind of money? Had I had that kind of money, you think I would have married my daughter to a local boy instead of sending her to hell in Oman," asked Syed Mustafa, Sameena's father.
The family is pinning its hope on social organisations and patrons for funds. The two girls had reached Oman on September 28 to be with their husbands. But after a week, they made frantic calls to relatives in Hyderabad complaining of torture.
On the plea of family members, Indian embassy got into the act and rescued the girls.
The Wakf Board has decided to launch an awareness campaign involving the Qazis to check such illegal marriages.
Email Ashok Das: firstname.lastname@example.org