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.