Reversing the scenario : taking on the dowry takers. .

My favourite teacher from school, who is now my friend, and my blogging ‘guru’, Monika Bakshi Singh, urges me to write about India with a more constructive mindset, and not just criticise.

I admit I’m often guilty of criticising India and its archaic customs in my blogs.

So, this morning, after watching the show “Satyameva Jayate”, when I decided to write about the custom of taking dowry, the first thing I wanted to make sure was not to make it only a criticism. I HAVE to end this blog on a constructive note. If I can criticise, I must be able to suggest the probable solution to the problem too. Otherwise I’m being just like the Indian broadcast media. So, stay with me. I’ll try my best.

In a largely patriarchal society like India’s, dowry cases can stem from a variety of reasons, starting from greed, tradition, criminal conspiracy, to even societal pressure!

A couple from Bihar, whom I happen to know, told me that they would have to demand dowry when their son gets married, else people from their native place will suspect that there’s something wrong with the groom! Something wrong?
“What could be wrong with the groom?”, I asked.
“People will doubt his reproductive abilities. Rumours will fly. It will seem like we are desperate to marry off our son.”, they said .

Let me first explain why dowry is still surviving in India, in spite of it being an archaic tradition.
Firstly, it is very important to get married if you are an Indian. If you choose to tread down the less trodden path of bachelorhood, eyes will look at you with suspicion, pity, questions. They’ll even doubt your sexual orientation! (yes, i’ve seen that too). If you are a girl, then it is all the more important for you to get married, because you need someone to ‘protect’ you from the society (People vouch for this ‘protection’ theory, without realising, that they are indirectly implying that there ARE perverts ready to pounce upon a single girl, and in some manner, the society knows it and maybe even justifies it).
So, the moment a girl ‘inches’ towards a ‘marriageable’ age, the girl’s parents will run from pillar to post to get her a suitable groom.

And it is this desperation, that the groom’s family leverages on. Once the marriage dates are made public, and it is assured that half the town knows about the marriage, the groom’s side will seize the opportunity to step up the demands for dowry – in cash and kind.

When this happens, the bride’s side is literally in a soup. Why?

Well, this is why…
If the dowry demands are not met, groom’s side will feel free to call off the marriage. And the girl’s life will be doomed.

She’ll be considered as “the bearer of ill omen”. No prospective groom will even think of marrying her. At one point of time while watching the show this morning, my mother commented, “Well, why didn’t the girl’s side say no when they demanded more dowry?”.

I asked her, “Will you let me marry a girl who has had a called off marriage in the past?”.

She gesticulated with her head that she won’t.

So, in India, a groom can spoil the bride’s life only by refusing to marry her.

THE SOLUTION :

1. CUT DOWN THE EMPHASIS ON GETTING MARRIED :
This involves changing the psyche of a whole nation, and a generation. And it can be done through many ways. Firstly, the media can stop portraying happiness only in being happily married or finding the prince charming. Being blissfully single can be the new ‘in’ thing. It’ll take time surely. But it’ll bear fruit.

2. EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION :
This, is often the one stop solution for all of India’s problems. Educate the girl child. Make her capable enough so that she can fend for herself and her family. Teach them from a very young age to be career minded.

3. MAKE MARRIAGES HUMBLE AFFAIRS :
In India, people save for their girl’s marriage from the time she is born. Even then they fall short. Because there can be no end to greed. So, instead of promoting ‘the big fat Indian wedding’, which often becomes an opportunity to milk the bride’s family, let there be budget weddings. Small, humble, eco friendly occasions. This will help a lot in changing people’s perception about marriage. It will no longer be that event , that will be leave you broke, but just another celebration.

4. BLACKLIST DOWRY TAKERS :
What we in India don’t realise is how girls can have the upper hand very easily. Consider this : the sex ratio in India is skewed. There are less girls than boys, which reverses the scenario. It now seems girls are in demand. So what they can do is whenever any groom’s side demands dowry, they can post a full information report in the daily newspapers about the groom and the groom’s family with photos. This should be made legal, and free too. So, once the groom’s name features in the newspapers, let him be ‘blacklisted’. This will spread a dread among the dowry takers and they will no longer ask for dowries.

Hope this works! Suggest more ways of reversing the scenario.

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5 comments on “Reversing the scenario : taking on the dowry takers. .

  1. Monika Bakshi Singh says:

    First of all I feel humbled when you call me your “Guru”. But I won’t stop you, despite the fact that I learn a lot from your mature writing.

    Coming to the theme you picked to write, I’d just say: It’s commendable! The way you tried to put the solution, or so to say, the armor against dowry in place, was worth appreciating. But there are a couple of things that need to be noticed: It’s just not education (if at all that means gathering degrees) that can empower girls.

    I have met highly educated Telugu girls whose parents are amassing huge dowry to be given away to the future groom and these girls feel it’s OK! You can’t imagine how much cash and gold is given away in Andhra weddings (Courtesy: a Telugu neighboring family).

    Not taking or giving dowry is an individualistic approach; it has nothing to do with culture or a community, or education. Until and unless we, as individuals, as families, do not pledge to stand against dowry – NO results will be seen.

    The present generation youth – boys and girls – should put their foot down when it comes to offering or giving dowry.

    The dowry laws of the country are either being under used or misused. The legal fraternity in India should hold voluntary workshops in villages, towns, and cities, in neighborhoods to raise awareness against dowry tradition.

    Well written blog! Very thought provoking!

  2. Ah! How could I overlook this point? Education is not necessarily empowerment. But i do believe that in spite of taking dowry being an individualistic decision, community pressure can play a huge role. If societal pressure can force some to take dowry. Then it can also prevent them from doing so. Small towns of heartland India Bhiwandi and Burhanpur are examples of leadership through community control. Also i believe legal fraternities can’t help much. There are laws in place already. More laws or regulating the existing laws wouldn’t be of much help unless the communities get actively involved.

  3. Jamie Furlong says:

    A well written assessment as usual, Subh. I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head regarding the problems, whilst your recommendations I am in agreement with too.

    I’m all for sexual equality; for me that is pretty much the solution. When women can live by their own accord, as single, professional workers on their own, go out and party independently without a man, without social stigma, and decide when they want to get married, we’re almost there. As you say, this comes down to education, but it is not just education of women. The paradigm shift in social consciousness has to come from men because India is still a patriarchal society.

    My observation is that many Indians are aware of the dowry problem, will speak out against it in principle, but when the time comes for their children to get married that all goes out the window and tradition is followed.

    I have a friend who is 21. His father tells me all the things I want to hear: his son does not have to marry a Muslim; he can marry one of the girls from the orphanage; we do not want a dowry… and so on. Meanwhile his son is posting up on Facebook how he’s searching for a bride but doesn’t want ‘no second hand junk’. I was horrified at the language he was using. ‘Second hand junk’? When I met my partner she’d been married twice before, so what? What difference should this make? The problem, as you have identified, is that this young man, brought up on a diet of Bollywood schmaltz, has a romantic ideal about what wife and marriage should be about. It won’t be long before his new wife will be stuck at home with four children.

    On the back of the above discussion, and this drive for everyone to be happily married, where does homosexuality sit in India? Now there’s an education for people to get their heads around.

  4. Hi Jamie. Your observation that there is a certain hypocrisy even amongst the younger generation regarding taking of dowry is spot on.

    I agree with you too when you hint at Bollywood’s possible role in creating the perception of ‘first hand’ love. Its an audacious thing to post on fb “second hand junk”. It had me fuming!

  5. Oh, and I almost forgot to address the ‘honosexuality’ part. India is a young nation when it comes to embracing homosexuality openly. Its just been a year or two. It is looked upon as a perverse, sick, habit. People don’t come out of the closets. In the metros the situation is a tad better though. We have a long way to go.

Let me know what you are thinking. . .

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