I didn’t get to see Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate this weekend. Truth is, I havent caught any of his episodes on TV yet. Saw the first one on the net, but thats about it.
Anyway, so this week we had the curse of dowry as the raging issue. It is a very old and prevalent social ill so I needn’t get into the details.
But what irks me strongly is that Aamir Khan didnt get into the details too. The episode was played safe. Too safe. The inclusion of the ‘pakadwa byah’ took away some of the seriousness of the issue. This one particular case may have ended up having a happy ending, but there are hundreds of others where the girl is mistreated after marriage, dowry or no dowry!
I know girls from well educated families who saved up for their marriages. These girls claimed that they would have to give ‘at least’ 10-20 lakhs as cash, in spite of them being money churning machines themselves!! Nothing I said or did, could make any difference. A male colleague in Bangalore, once explained to me the ‘value’ of a prospective bridegroom. In his hometown of Hyderabad, a boy’s monthly gross was equal to the amount in lakhs payable by the girl’s family. So if a boy earns 25K, his market value is 25L. Not only did my friend pay up for his sister based on this guideline, but he also demanded a similar rate from his future wife’s family, which they were more than willing to give. My friend is an engineering graduate and works for an MNC. In his words, this money will just secure the future of his wife. Never mind that a chunk of that same money was used to repay the loan he had to take for his sister’s wedding. This was in Bangalore.
I met another friend in Pune, who followed the same logic. He was desperate to visit America because that would drastically escalate his market value. If he got the tag of ‘US returned’, he could demand dowry twice the market value and be paid for it. So deep was this belief that he went and did parikrama of the ‘Visa Temple‘ .
And oh! He did go abroad shortly after
The point is, these men I talk about are not villagers or small town people. They are well educated people belonging to good, upper-middle-class homes. They still have ancestral properties and reap gains from agricultural land. Yet, they are conditioned into believing that dowry is their birthright!! They have the right to demand it and get paid. They pay up for their sisters and then claim it back from their wives.
The only difference between the North and South would be that in the South, both parties are equally involved. The girl’s family is as pleased to part with the money as the guy’s family are eager to accept it. This results in relatively ‘happier’ marriages.
In the North, matters are worse. There is no limit to the amount a girl’s father pays. I have friends from really well-off families whose in-laws still demand that the girls ask their parents to install ACs in the in-laws homes or buy new TV sets (flat-screen LED ones). The fact that their son is capable of buying stuff costing twice that amount, is carelessly tossed aside. The girl’s family has to pay up. Period.
Else, the girl suffers.
One friend had to bear severe insults from her in-laws because her parents gifted ‘only’ 5 carat diamond necklaces to her MIL and SIL. The in-laws expected nothing less than 10-20 carats.
Another Maharashtrian friend, an IT professional, saved money on the sly (sometimes as less as Rs.5-10/- ) just so that she could send it to her mother. Her husband controlled her account and was of the belief that once married, her parents didnt have any right over her money, more so because she did not bring a substantial dowry with her. He even beat her up badly one day when he felt that her parents weren’t making any efforts to bring a proposal for his sister!! The man here was also the BF’s colleague. When I mentioned it to the BF, he asked me to stay out of other people’s internal issues. But was it really internal? Specially when the girl came to office bruised in 5 different places just on her face?
I was scandalized and repelled beyond words.
These are people I meet everyday. Well educated men and women. Most of them with engineering degrees from reputed institutes. Most of them coming from so-called ‘good’ families.
But when it comes to money….they all fall down so low, you’ll have difficulty differentiating them from a dust-mite.
Very few girls I meet are averse to asking their parents to refuse paying up. There are very few girls who say that they would rather earn and spend for their marriages. There are very few parents who believe in making their daughters independent, favouring the approach of ‘dumping’ her on someone else, along with a bundle of cash, for ‘looking after her’. If this isn’t treating women like commodities, what is??
There are many MILs who demand money because they feel that their son ‘deserves’ it . Never mind that half the reason they educated their son was because they want him to tend to them in their old age (nothing wrong with that. Its the compulsion that the son should, which reeks of selfishness).
From the news reports on the show, I gathered that the concept of dowry is alien to the North-East.What a blessing!! To think that in our country, there is still a segment which is untouched by this evil!!
But the crux of this post is that just ‘asking’ men to abstain from taking dowry isn’t enough. Instead of being a custom followed by parents (or people of older generations), it is something that is actively initiated by the youngsters themselves. My colleagues are examples I can never forget. Though one of them confessed that if he refused he might be ostracized. The girl’s family could go to any lengths to tarnish his image (even label him impotent ). Though willing, he couldn’t go against the ‘custom’
The solution lies in publicly shaming people who ask for dowry. Show their faces, expose them. Let the world know that such greedy people exist. If they cannot preserve the rights and dignities of their spouses, why should the media allow them the privacy of anonymity??
PS: We are three daughters of our Dad. He didn’t pay up a single penny to any of our spouses or their families. They never asked themselves. All of us have happy families/lives. This is just to let you know that it is NOT important to give dowry. Like my Dad said to our in-laws, “We give you well educated, cultured daughters who are responsible and independent. What they earn and share with your family would be a hundred times more than what we could give you”.
So yes. Educate those girls. Let them earn their living, so that when they get married, their fathers can hold their heads high, like mine does..