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Divorce seems to have become a trend in the modern times, and unlike earlier when people used to be surprised at the increasing number of divorce cases, no more does the society pay much attention to them nowadays.

But recently, a new trend seems to emerging in the coastal districts. According to recent reports, girls have suddenly begun disappearing from their houses shortly after or just before their engagements were to take place. The news is shocking, but at the same time thought-provoking too.

During the last week of April, Girija, from Mangalapadavu of Veerakamba village disappeared a few days after her engagement to one Narayana, chosen by her parents, and they were on the verge of getting married on April 27. But just two days before the wedding was to take place, Girija vanished.

Her case was followed by Amita, a 22-year-old who went missing from Hengavalli near Shankaranarayana. She was betrothed to a certain Narasimha. She left home for getting back her laundry, but never returned. Rumours are rife that after leaving home, she called her fiance and told him that she had already married someone else.

That's not all. Another girl, Sushma (21), a resident of Kelarkalabettu went missing as well, shortly before her engagement that was to take place on April 29. A student of Mithra Nursing College, Udupi, she left home at around 5 pm on April 27 without informing her parents, never to return. Her mother Susheela filed a complaint at Malpe police station.

Now, the question that arises is why do these girls take such measures? Or could they have been kidnapped? But then, all three were either engaged or about to be engaged, and therefore it points to the question as to whether they may have eloped with their lovers, or left home on their own, unhappy with the decision of their parents.

Their action lends itself to other questions too. Arranged marriage is still an integral part of our culture, but at the same time youths today want to be given the freedom to choose their life partners, and the trend seems to be seeping into villages too. Villages have been the flagbearers of our tradition and culture, and girls choosing their husbands is something unacceptable to the parents. There is no scope for inter-caste marriages, and worse, even honour killings are still prevalent.

On the other hand, the youth are also influenced by modern society, especially by the media and movies that time and again portray elopement or disappearance as a solution to unhappiness over arranged marriages. Girls, educated more than their mothers were, want to be free and stamp that freedom by ascertaining their rights, which, though would be a welcome change, becomes undesirable when it materializes into elopement or disappearance from home.

What can be done in such a scenario? Perhaps NGOs and social work groups may help such families to evolve a better parents-children relationship and help them relate to one another more openly, wherein the wishes and perspectives of each party is considered and respected. Forced marriages have been a bane to our society, but such escapism from the situation is no solution at all.