Minutes before solemnising her wedding vows, Kanpur's Lavli Kushwaha discovered to her horror that the man she was about to exchange garlands with was not the one she had agreed to marry – it was his illiterate elder brother.
The prenuptial ceremony was already complete, but she did not hesitate and walked out of the wedding, backed by her family and relatives.
The bride's father told HT the man they had matched Lavli with, Sonu, was replaced with his brother Ram Karan but the groom's family disputed this, saying Sonu was already married.
The Kanpur resident is not the only one as a bunch of brave women across Uttar Pradesh have been taking a strong stand against mismatched marriages in a state otherwise in the news for rampant violence against women and dowry-related deaths.
In Varanasi last month, a minor girl escaped a forced underage marriage when she called the police with the groom's party at her door. The authorities arrived after getting a call from Kavita* and stopped the marriage, sending the girl to a child welfare committee.
Some of these botched weddings have also been settled amicably – as was the case last Friday in Bareilly's Aonla, where the bride discovered during the wedding rituals that her husband-to-be had very poor eyesight.
She noticed the groom kept missing the mark when asked to offer water to the deities and got up to tell her mother she could not tie the knot.
As news spread, members of the groom's family tried to convince the girl that the boy's eyesight was alright but it soon came to light that the bride had been deliberately left in the dark about his problem.
The groom then returned home unwed with the two sides sitting down amicably and deciding to share the expenses of the botched wedding.
In yet another case, a Dalit girl, Shakuntala Devi, refused to tie the knot with an ill-matched groom, Vipin, in Kanpur Dehat.
Shakuntala's relatives and friends noticed a lump on his back and that he had a problem opening his mouth. They told her about the groom's 'problems'. When she confronted Vipin she also found that he was inebriated and without thinking twice, Shakuntala announced she was calling off the wedding.
Despite requests from her family as well as the groom's side, Shakuntala put her foot down and the two sides agreed to return all the things that they had exchanged in prenuptial ceremonies and the groom went home single.
Such incidents are reported across religions as educated women refuse to compromise on their husbands and listen to the diktat of their family, rejecting obscene dowry demands.
An educated Muslim woman in Kanpur, Gulshan Khan, refused to marry an illiterate carpenter who demanded a dowry of Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and electronic gadgets, filing a police complaint against the man.
Khan was engaged to Mohammad Nazir Ahmad since December 2009 but while she worked hard on her education for the last 5 years and got two post-graduate degrees, he remained illiterate, even taking Rs. 50,000 from Khan's family for a motorcycle at a pre-nuptial ceremony held earlier this year.
Before the wedding, Khan's septuagenarian father Mukhtar Ahmad Warsi requested Ahmad's family to accept his educated daughter without any dowry and said his family was already impoverished. He even put his turban, a sign of a man's honour, at the feet of the groom's father and asked him not to press for dowry, but to not avail.
When Khan learnt all this, she decided to call off the proposed alliance.
* Name changed