For over 50 years, Barwan Kala in a remote corner of Bihar did not have a marriage and youth had to move out to get married. It has not witnessed any marriage ceremony. Relatives of prospective brides who managed to make it to the village retreated in haste, preferring to give their daughters in marriage elsewhere. This left as many as 121 villagers — of all ages, bachelors. Those who were lucky enough had to go down the hill, take temporary shelter in a relative’s house or in some guest house to get married. Over time, the village of over 6,000 people and 400 households earned the title of ‘village of bachelors’ with the highest number of unmarried men in any Bihar village.
For long, the village had no road, electricity, water, or mobile phone network and no primary health centre. The nearest police station is 45 km away. The women fetch water from a well nearly 1.5 km away, as all 12 hand pumps have gone dry. Except an upgraded middle school, a public distribution system shop (PDS) and some solar panels pitched randomly, the village has virtually no link with the rest of the world.
“All our requests for a road fell on deaf ears. When elections came, politicians made promises but did nothing,” said former village head Nandlal Kharwar. In 2005, Ram Chandra Singh Yadav, a young contestant, assured the villagers that he too would not get married unless he could get a road for them. The villagers voted for him en masse. Yadav not only won the Assembly poll but also got married the next year and had a daughter. Meanwhile, the number of bachelors kept increasing. “One day we thought enough is enough and decided to open up the hilly terrain ourselves and make a road”, village elder Bodha Singh Yadav said.
In January 2008, the villagers assembled with chisels, shovels, hammers, spades and other tools. While one group shoved big stone boulders aside, another hammered them into pieces to lay the road. Seven years later, in April 2015, they celebrated the construction of six km of road which reduced the circuitous route of 40 km to the block headquarters to just eight km. Tractors, Jeeps and motorcycles started plying.
But then, the Forest Department registered FIRs against seven villagers. The area where they were building the road falls into a designated wildlife sanctuary where construction or any economic activity is banned under a Supreme Court order.
Nearly two years later, on February 28, the first marriage in Barwan Kala took place and the baraat, on tractors and bikes, accompanied the “over-aged bridegroom,” 28-year-old Ajay Kumar Yadav to the bride’s place, some 100 km away in Mahartha village. The next day, the bride aged 18, came to Barwan Kala in a Bolero, negotiating the difficult terrain in which her husband and other villagers had created the road.