A helper at a grocery store in Nilphamari, 26-year-old Ershad Ali lived a nondescript life.
Whatever little earnings he had was sufficient to lead a simple life with his wife and toddler daughter. Yet, from every pay check, Ershad set aside a portion for a reason only he knew about.
Four years ago, his father Atiur Rahman, 60, of Sabuj para in the upazila town, who was a rickshaw puller, arranged his marriage with Rozina Begum and demanded a dowry of Tk 1.5 lakh.
Rozina's widowed mother Rabeya Begum, 50, bargained and reduced the amount to Tk 90,000; she took a loan from an NGO to pay the amount.
Ever since, Ershad has seen his mother-in-law toil as a domestic help to pay the loan instalments.
“Even when she was ill, she sometimes worked till midnight,” he said. “She never complained and insisted on bearing all the medical expenses herself when my daughter was born in 2016, despite my objection.”
It gnawed on Ershad that he had done injustice towards Rabeya by taking the dowry. In the mean time, he observed the anti-dowry campaigns of the government and listened to the khutbah (Islamic sermon) before the Friday prayers at the local mosque that condemned the practice of paying dowry.
“Without informing anyone, I decided to pay back the amount. I gathered the amount by withdrawing money from a matured fixed deposit in a bank, personal savings and a small loan from a local NGO.”
Last week, Ershad bought a milk-yielding cow and calf for Tk 40,000, and took Tk 50,000 in cash to his mother-in-law's house.
“While my husband was alive, I saw him pay the dowry to marry off my first daughter,” Rabeya recalled. “I only thought it was natural to pay the same for my second daughter as well.”
“I could not believe it when Ershad came in the morning with my daughter and grandchild to my house. Now I can leave work and make a living by selling the milk, and pay off the loan as well,” she added.
“I am very lucky as the Almighty blessed me with such a good son-in-law,” Rabeya said in a choked voice.
Word of Ershad's noble act quickly spread in the neighbourhood and a few local journalists were summoned to take a photograph.
However, not all in Ershad's family were supportive.
“I got my daughter married off by paying dowry, why should I not ask the same of my daughter-in-law?” asked Atiur, his father.
When contacted, Rashedul Huq Prodhan, upazila nirbahi officer of Jaldhaka, said, “I hope this selfless act inspires others in the locality to abolish the practice. Ershad has set an example for all.”