Hussain family members try to save their belongings from a flood-hit home in Fazilpur, Punjab – Copyright AFP Arif ALI
Truck driver and father-of-seven Murid Hussain was planning his daughter’s wedding in October when flood waters flooded his house, blowing away the entire back wall and with it her hard-earned dowry.
“I’ve been collecting her dowry for almost three years,” Hussain told AFP from the backyard of his four-room house, which he shares with his brother’s family.
“I would provide a home and also spend some on her dowry.”
Record monsoon rains have caused devastating floods in Pakistan since June that have killed more than 1,200 people and left nearly a third of the country underwater, killing 33 million people.
The poorest people in the country’s rural areas were hardest hit, with their homes, property, savings and crops washed away.
The village of Hussain in Punjab province was hit hard by flooding that destroyed or damaged many buildings.
Also blurred are plans for the marriage of Hussein’s daughter, Nushin.
Every month, Hussain set aside a couple of thousand rupees for her dowry from the 17,000 rupiah ($80) salary he earns as a truck driver.
In the families of patriarchal Pakistan, it is customary to provide an extravagant dowry when a daughter marries.
In many regions, parents are expected to start saving for their daughters’ dowries from the day they are born.
Although the demand for a large dowry is officially prohibited by law, it is still practiced by many.
Fiancé families often present an extensive list of demands to the parents of the future daughter-in-law, including furniture, household items, and clothing.
In the case of wealthy families, it can even be cars and houses.
It is considered shameful not to bring goods, and the bride-to-be often faces mistreatment from her relatives if a decent dowry is not provided.
– Shock and tears –
“I wanted to marry my two daughters after her and one remaining son,” Hussain said.
“I thought I could do it gradually.”
When the flood reached his home, Hussain fled with his wife and family to the nearest high ground railway station.
When the waters receded, Hussein waded through the mud two days ago and returned home with his wife and daughters.
“They started crying when they saw the damage,” he said.
His wife, Sugra Bibi, burst into tears again as she recalled her shock at the state of the house and her daughter’s dowry.
Over the years, Sugra bought a custom-made bedding set and dressing table, as well as a juicer, washing machine, iron, sheets and blankets.
Everything was badly damaged by the flood.
“It turned black, so whoever sees it will say that we gave her old things,” Sugra said.
The wedding is called off and Noushin puts on a brave face.
“It was supposed to be a happy time for my family and I was very excited,” the 25-year-old told AFP.
“I saw how difficult it was for my parents to collect this dowry for me. Now they have to do it again.”
“Now this is such a big problem for us,” Father Hussein said.
“Should we rebuild our house, sow wheat, or marry our children? All three things are very important to us.”