On the morning of any wedding there’s a lot of preparation. On 4 November, Monika’s hair needed doing and her make-up had to be artfully applied. The bride needed her maroon wedding sari put on, as tradition dictated.
The jewellery set aside for this special day had to be placed on her ears and nose and draped across her neck. For this Indian wedding, her hands needed to be daubed with intricate swirls of henna too.
There was so much to do. But with only a few hours to go until the ceremony, no-one noticed as the bride herself quietly slipped into the shadows of the family home to make one last phone call.
It was not to a friend, or a caterer, or the wedding venue to check everything was going smoothly.
Instead, nervously, Monika dialled four digits – 1098 – the number of a helpline. Too young to marry under Indian law, Monika wanted to stop her own wedding.
She was 13 when her marriage was meant to happen. That’s according to the charity that helped her, and comes from her school records.
Her parents claim she’s more like 17. It’s common in this part of India for the ages of some people to be a little hazy. Birth certificates often don’t exist for poor families like Monika’s. What is not in doubt is that she is still a child, and that the law only allows marriage at 18.