At a time when couples usually want lavish weddings and grand honeymoons, Abhay and Priti have set an example by spending their wedding money on the education of children of farmers who committed suicide and by donating books to village libraries.
Abhay Deware belongs to a farmer’s family in village Umbarda Bazaar in Karanja Lad of Amravati district of Maharashtra. The family has always given importance to education, in line with Babasaheb Ambedkar’s teachings.
Abhay did his B.Tech from IIT Delhi and cleared the UPSC exams in 2015. After this he joined the Indian Revenue Services. While preparing for UPSC in Pune, Abhay met Priti Kumbhare who had also received a B.Tech degree from SGGS College, Nanded.
Soon, their friendship turned to love and they decided to get engaged.
While the marriage was still in the planning stages, both of them started their careers. Abhay was posted as Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax in Nagpur and Priti joined IDBI Bank in Mumbai as Assistant Manager.
During training in March 2016, Abhay and his fellow officers had the opportunity to meet President Pranab Mukherjee during a field visit. The President encouraged these young officers to become agents of socio-economic change.
Abhay felt truly inspired by the President’s message and was determined to do his bit whenever he could.
In the meantime, he also came across some statistics about wedding expenditures in India. The report said that over Rs. 1 lakh crore is spent on marriages every year in the country.
“It’s a staggering amount for a poor country like ours where even the annual budget of the country is only around Rs. 19 lakh crore. This is like saying we have Rs. 19 to spend and out of that we are spending Rs. 1 on weddings,” Abhay says.
At the same time, Abhay read that farmer suicides in India are increasing, the main reason being poverty. This year, the Finance Ministry has allotted just Rs. 36,000 crore for agriculture and farmer welfare, which is not even half of what Indians spend on weddings.
The study further mentioned that despite the huge disparity in the standard of living, people spend anywhere from Rs3 lakh-Rs 5 crore on a wedding. The same survey also pointed out that marriages are one of the main reasons many families have to borrow money. Underprivileged people, especially, sell property, take loans and sometimes spend their lifetime earnings on the weddings of their children.
“Marriage is also one of the major reasons behind the rising number of farmer suicides in Vidarbha. All families tend to organize lavish marriages by imitating the rich classes. Yavatmal, the native place of my wife, and Amravati, both have gained infamy for the highest number of farmer suicides in the country. We wanted to help such families, from whatever little we have earned,” Abhay adds.
And so, Priti and Abhay decided they would use the money set aside for their wedding to help the families of farmers who had committed suicide.
Their parents supported their decision whole heartedly.
“My father was a farmer. He owned seven acres of land. However, he had to sell two acres of it when my sister got married. I was more than happy when my son decided to help farmer families instead of spending on wedding celebrations,” says Sidhartha Deware, Abhay’s father.
On July 3, 2016, Abhay and Priti tied the knot at Abhiyanta Bhavan, Amravati.
The couple donated Rs. 20,000 each to 10 farmers’ families, where the sole bread-earner of each family had committed suicide due to mounting debts and successive crop failures.
Additionally, they provided books worth Rs. 52,000 to five libraries in Amravati. All this money came from their hard-earned savings that had been set aside for the wedding.
One of the beneficiaries was Deepak Deshmukh, an old farmer from Amravati. His daughter in law committed suicide because of the extreme poverty the family was facing. A month later, his son sold off his 3 acre land, paid off all his debts, and also committed suicide. His suicide note said that he still owed Rs.1 to a tea seller and it should be repaid after his death. Deepak was left alone to take care of his grandson when Abhay and Priti’s donation gave him a ray of hope.
Priti and Abhay’s wedding was a simple affair. A short registered marriage ceremony was followed by a basic lunch – chapati, rice, dal, and sabzi.
Then came inspiring speeches by activists like Madhu Uke, Ravindra Mundre, Ashish Lohey, Ramesh Katke and Arjun Thosare.
Instead of flowers and garlands, the venue was decorated with inspirational posters and banners exhorting guests to do something for society.
“The idea was to inspire more people to stop competing and showing off their wealth by having lavish weddings. We could have done the ceremony at home but we wanted to set an example for people who succumb to social pressure and spend large amounts of money. The posters communicated the same message,” says Abhay’s brother Swapnil who decorated the venue.
Abhay and Priti have also made plans for their first wedding anniversary already. They will celebrate it with the children of the farmer families they donated money to and help them in whatever way they can.
“If educated youth like us can’t do this much then our education is of no use. We must realise that we have a responsibility towards society,” says Priti.
When the couple was asked if they had any message for our readers, Abhay recited this beautiful poem by Dushyant Kumar:
Sirf hungama khada karna mera maksad nahi,
Saari koshish hai ki ye surat badalni chahiye.
Mere seene me nahi to tere seene me sahi,
Ho kahi bhi aag, lekin aag jalni chahiye.
(Raising an uproar is not my aim,
The whole effort is to bring a change.
If not in my heart, then yours may be,
Wherever it may be lit, the fire must be lit).
We extend our warmest wishes for a happy married life to this exemplary couple.