We have heard about how in India it's always the man who has the last word. We have heard about how it's always the groom's side that throws tantrums, threatening to call off a wedding for minor reasons. We've heard about runaway brides and grooms. We've heard about last minute nerves. We've watched films where spoil-sport, villainous relatives or spurned suitors appear just at the crucial moment, when the marriage is about to be be solemnised, to dramatically announce, "Nahii! Yeh shaadi nahii ho saktii!" We've even had a recent Hindi film on first a groom and then his (different) bride running away from the wedding ceremony, refusing to tie the knot – or be tied down with it.

But a silent revolution seems to be afoot in what appears to be a recent trend, at least as evidenced by recent news reports about the increasingly observed phenomenon of women calling off their wedding and sending the grooms packing, literally from the mandaps, for reasons that, on the face of it, might sometimes appear trivial but could also be seen as a sign of the times: of women making a choice, taking a stand and making themselves heard. While such instances have also been reported in the past, the frequency of recent news reports from the Hindi-heartland seems to suggest that perhaps these could be indicative of the changing gender equations with increasing awareness and education.

As the Times of India reported, only on Sunday, three girls from different rural parts of Uttar Pradesh called off their wedding. In one case, reported from Jainagar locality of Kannauj district, an 18-year-old refused to marry a man when she realised that he was much older than she had been told. In the second case, reported from Bandhurkurd village of Hamirpur district, the young woman not only refused to marry a man who was physically challenged, but "the groom's parents, siblings and some other relatives were held captive and beaten up for hiding the disability". In the third case, reported from Nigohan village, the marriage was called off after incessant demands by the groom during the nikaah ceremony irked the bride and her mother.

We give you a randomly picked list of some other recently reported cases that caught our eye.

1. Why: Mental unsoundness – or was it illiteracy?
Maritar village in Bansdih police circle of Ballia, Uttar Pradesh
When: May 1, 2015
News headline: Rasogullah leaves groom without a bride in VaranasiMay 4, 2015
"The boy's only fault was that he ate a 'rasogullah' made of flour from a plate full of 'gulab jamuns'," said the newspaper report.
the celebrations were marred by bitterness soon after 'dwarpuja' and other rituals. Girl's friends offered groom Manoj Kumar a plate full of 'kala jaam' (sweet dish). At the centre of the plate was a sweet item resembling 'rasogullah' but made of flour. The groom picked up the 'rasogullah'. His act irked the girl, who termed him 'mentally disturbed and refused to tie the nuptial knot with him.

The report seemed to imply as if the bride was just being whimsical, and perhaps a bit unreasonable, as it went on to say:
Though the boy later counted the currency notes, given to him to prove his mental soundness, the girl remained adamant on her decision. Later, the police was called to play the role of peacemaker. In presence of the police and panchayat, both parties returned gifts and the marriage was called off.

However, in other accounts of the same called-off wedding, disseminated by the Press Trust of India, and carried by other prominent publications (see here and here) a day earlier, the reasons cited are at least a little different, of an educated girl taking a stand on being married off to someone who, apparently, could not count:
After initial rituals, the bride, who is a graduate, suspected the groom to be illiterate, the girl's family members said. The girl then asked him to count currency notes in which he failed after which she refused to marry him.

Another news report, also credited to the PTI, along with the Deccan Herald News Service, corroborates the second version and provides more background:
After a few initial rituals, the groom was taken to a room by the bride's friends, where they gave him some currency notes and asked him to count.

“It was just a playful joke,” said one of the friends.

Much to the shock and dismay of the girls, the groom failed to count the notes. It raised their suspicion that he might be illiterate, and they informed the bride of the incident.

The bride then refused to go ahead with the marriage.

Some pertinent questions, however, remain unanswered: Was it because of mental soundness? Could the prospective groom count the notes, or could he not?

2. Why: Drunken Grooms
Rajmilan village of Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh
When: May 1, 2015
News headline: Bride refuses to marry drunk groom in Madhya Pradesh's Singrauli districtMay 2, 2015
The groom reached the venue for the wedding ceremony in an inebriated condition. "In fact he was not even able to walk properly," said the newspaper report, and added:
"Seeing him in such a state, the bride refused to marry him and informed her mother about her decision. This was brought to everyone's notice followed by a meeting of the community elders where a unanimous decision was taken to stop the marriage. Groom's side also agreed to this. There was no dispute and all was settled amicably," Shah said.

"We made him bathe, let him sleep for a couple of hours but there was no change in his condition, he was too drunk. It was then decided that we won't marry our daughter to him. As soon as the bride came to know about his condition she registered her protest and refused to go ahead with the marriage," maternal uncle of the bride, Ram Naresh Shah told TOI over phone.

A similar case involving drunkenness was reported from Ajnar village in Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh just a couple of days prior to the above incident: April 30, 2015: Groom comes drunk, girl refuses to marry
Neha, in her early 20s, was decked up in traditional red bridal attire and ready for 'jaimaal' ceremony, but on seeing Arvind drunk and quarelling with her siblings and other guests over DJ music, she refused to marry him and walked away from the venue.

"At the 'mandap', the priest who was getting disturbed while chanting mantras, asked the siblings of the girl to stop playing DJ music. When they stopped the DJ, Arvind and his relatives who were drunk started quarelling with them and created a scene. Neha, who was witness to the entire drama, called off the wedding," informed SHO Rajiv Yadav. Villagers also supported Neha and asked her parents not to force her into marrying a person against her wishes. Sources said that the groom was so drunk that he along with other members of the 'baraat' created ruckus at the wedding venue.

Clearly, more and more young women are taking objection to drunkenness on the part of their prospective grooms, as evidenced by the third report from this week, May 5: Girl dumps inebriated groom, in which the girl not only ended up marrying someone else, who was apparently there as a wedding guest, but also ensured that the drunken groom's family returned the dowry amount and paid compensation for other arrangements in the marriage function:
Love of Bacchus proved costly for a groom as the bride refused to marry him at Madahiyya village in Kapsethi on Sunday night. He and other relatives had to spend hours as hostage. The girl tied nuptial knots with another youth, who had come to attend the marriage ceremony.A panchayat was held in presence of police on Monday. The groom's family had to pay Rs 3.30 lakh as compensation before returning home.

3. Why: Poor eye-sight
Mahtiya Dandi village near Aonla, Uttar Pradesh
When: April/May 2015 (Could not be ascertained)
News Headline: Bride spurns groom for having poor eyesight, 
May 3, 2015.
The bride discovered that her groom had hypermetropia, a common vision-related problem where one is unable to see things at a close distance, and called off the wedding. Dinner had been had by the baaraat, garlands had been exchanged between the groom and the bride, but the groom was unable to apply "tilak" and place rice husks at the right spot in the wedding mandap as instructed by the priest:
According to sources, the bride, after noticing that something was amiss in the groom's eyesight, immediately got up from the mandap and confronted her would-be father-in-law. When it was revealed that the boy had hypermetropia, the girl decided that she will not go ahead with the marriage.

Later on, at a panchayat convened by village elders, the groom's family agreed to pay back a sum of Rs 2 lakh incurred as expenses by the girl's family.

4. Why: Medical condition
Bairikheda village of Ghatampur tehsil in Mahoba district, Uttar Pradesh
When: April 23, 2015
News Headline:  Bride refused to marry, after her groom-to-be suffered epileptic fit
April 25, 2015.
The groom fainted soon after reaching the wedding venue. He was rushed to a Primary Health Centre in Jahanabad area from where he was discharged within two hours. However, the bride left the mandap just before the function saying she would not marry the boy, "who is epileptic".
"There was some altercation between the groom and members of the bride's family at the 'mandap'. However, a 'panchayat' was called, but the angry girl refused to budge from her stand and refused to marry her groom-to-be. Elders from both the sides pleaded the girl to change her mind, telling her that both the families be ridiculed by friends and relatives if the marriage would not be solemnised, but in vain," said a village source.

Finally, the bride decided to switch husbands. "She suggested elders to marry younger sibling of her groom-to-be and later took 'saat-pheras' (seven vows) with him," added the source further.

A similar case had been reported from Rampur in February, by the same newspaper, where the groom apparently had an epileptic fit, falling to the ground in front of the whole gathering, just before the varmaala, or exchanging of the garlands. The difference there was that the bride announced she would marry her sister's brother-in-law:
The young bride, angry that her family had been kept in the dark about [the groom's] medical condition, promptly changed her mind and announced that she would happily marry at the same ceremony a guest at the wedding...

[The groom] pleaded with [the bride], telling her that he would not be able to face friends and neighbours if he returned without her. His relatives, too, tried to intervene on his behalf. Where persuasion failed, violence was used – spoons, plates and dishes became weapons as wedding guests tried to force the bride to change her mind. But all in vain. The young woman stood firm.

5. Why: Disrespecting women
Aavdipurhal village, Laskar, Haridwar, Uttarakhand
When:  April 19, 2015
News Headline: Groom slapped by ex-girlfriend; bride weds brother, April 20, 2015
The bride refused to proceed with the wedding rituals after a woman suddenly appeared at the venue, claiming to be the groom's girlfriend:
Accompanied by a friend, the woman slapped the bridegroom several times, in public view. She was pushed away by other wedding guests. She said she had been in a relationship with the groom for many years and had entered into a court marriage with him. She threatened to get him arrested, if he dared marry another woman.

The bride said she could not accept as her husband a man who showed such scant regard for women. The matter was eventually taken to the panchayat, which suggested that the bride consider marrying the man's younger brother instead. The bride and her family accepted the proposal.

6. Why: Prank gone wrong
Where: Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh
When: March 13, 2015
News Headline: Bride refuses to marry after groom fails to bowMarch 14, 2015
The bride declined to go-ahead with the wedding ceremonies when the groom was playfully lifted a little too high beyond her reach. The marriage was called off and the groom's family ended up paying Rs.5 lakh to the bride's side for arranging the marriage function.
Both the man and the woman, who would have been husband and wife, came to know each other while working in a multinational company in Pune and decided to tie the knot. The bride's family lives in Ghaziabad while the groom hails from Pune in Maharashtra.

During the garlanding ceremony on Friday night, the friends of the groom lifted him too high due to which the bride could not garland him. She attempted to garland him thrice, and after that she refused to marry the man.

A confrontation between both sides followed and police had to intervene.

7. Why: Illiteracy
Where: Karerampur village in Rasulabad area of Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh
When: March 10, 2015
News Headline:  Indian bridegroom dumped over failed maths test, March 13, 2015
The bride, who had studied till class 12, got to know that she had been kept in the dark about the groom's poor education, that he was in fact illiterate.
The bride asked the groom to add 15 and six. When he replied 17, she called off the marriage.

Reports say the groom's family tried to convince the bride to return, but she refused saying the man was illiterate.

Local police said they mediated between the families, and both sides returned all the gifts given before the wedding.

The groom apparently replied 17 "after much thinking", according to Rasoolabad Station House Officer Sunil Kumar, as quoted in this report.

8.  Why: Public display of affection
Where: Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh
When: December 5, 2014
News Headline: Bhabhi kisses groom, angry bride walks out of wedding, December 6, 2014
...the bhabhi (sister-in-law) was so excited that her devar (brother-in-law) was tying the knot that she leapt up and kissed him even as the bride and her family looked on in deep disapproval. Undaunted, the bhabhi pulled the bridegroom to the dance floor and shook a leg. That kind of broke the camel's back.

A brawl promptly ensued between the two families and the party's venue at Khair Road degenerated into a free-for-all akhara that had the 500-odd guests running for cover. So peeved was the bride's family that they not only beat up members of the baraat but also held the bridegroom captive.

9. Why: Bad Behaviour
Where: Bangalore, Karnataka
When: March 10, 2014
News Headline: Wedding called off due to chicken biryani, March 10, 2014
We include this case from last year only to provide some representation from our southern states, this one about an argument over food sent to the groom’s side by the bride’s family that led to a wedding being called off.
It all started when the girl’s family prepared 30 kg of chicken biryani and sent it to the groom’s side. The groom’s family was upset as they do not eat chicken. The issue was resolved soon. However, it was brought up again at the wedding on Sunday night where it got blown out of proportion.

Seeing how events were unfolding, the bride refused to get hitched, police said. Seeing the groom’s family’s behaviour prior to the wedding, she wondered how she would be treated after marriage, they added.

The groom’s family decided not to mend fences and took back the mehar that had been given to the bride, police said. The girl’s family filed a complaint with the KG Halli police. Both families live on Tannery Road. The boy works in Dubai.

Post Script: That the above are, at best, only a silver-lining to the all-pervasive dark cloud of our social reality becomes clear as just when we were about to publish this story, came news of a case from Jodhpur where, as the Press Trust of India reports, a girl’s decision to annul her marriage, which was solemnised in her infancy, has invited the wrath of the village panchayat as it slapped a hefty fine of Rs 16 lakh and banished the family from the community.

Despite being illegal, child marriages remain common and incidents of young women refusing to accept them still continue to be rare. "If done with mutual consent, the annulment may take place within three days," Kriti Bharti of non-governmental organisation Saarthi Trust, told the BBC. "Otherwise, things may take their own course. An annulment application of a 15-year-old girl married to a 55-year-old man is pending for the past 18 months.

According to Unicef, 47% of girls in India in 2015 were married before they turned 18, the official age for marriage. The silver-lining even in this case is that the family decided to go-ahead with the annulment despite threats from the panchayat.  A college student who wants to be a teacher after graduation, the young woman told the BBC that her so-called husband had studied only up to 10th standard in school and that she had no intentions of living with him.