Lovers in the state capital use ATMs for purposes more imaginative than withdrawing cash. ‘Any Time Meet’ points, as they’ve come to be known, are the canoodling hotspots for many romancing youngsters.
For the fear of being recognised en route to their ATM trysts, girls often carry with them not one, but two scarves to keep their identities masked. “They wear one when leaving home and another when going to meet their lovers,” says social activist A. Farishta.
Chhattisgarh is a state of just over 2 crore people with a literacy rate higher than the national average and a gender ratio second only to Kerala’s. At the same time, the population is also predominantly rural and tribal. And in this world of contrasts, love has transcended the boundaries of caste and tribe.
When Manu Choudhary, a 27-year-old marketing executive, started going out with a tribal girl, a final-year engineer student, everyone around them was nervous. Says Choudhary, “My choice was unexpected for my relatives and friends.” The girl, who would rather stay anonymous, says, “Never has any non-tribal boy articulated his love for me the way Manu did. He is the right choice for me.”
Another shift happened when Chhattisgarh was carved out as a new state in November 2000: a number of visitors from other parts of the country started streaming into the state.
Twenty-nine-year-old Vikas Pathak from Bihar was one such ‘visitor’. Pathak, a contractor and a non-tribal, was working on a school building when he met 24-year-old teacher Ramshila, a tribal. “I used to watch her teach,” he says. “I didn’t realise when I fell in love with her.” Pathak knew that back home in Bhagalpur, her caste would create a problem. Ramshila had the same fear. So Pathak decided to make Chhattisgarh his home, and solved all the worries at once.