Friday, November 18, 2011

Paying for marriage, and how!

I find it hard to understand dowry in this great city where millions shove, spit and battle loneliness. That fellow whistling in the air as he rides the footboard on a train, scrutinising a girl in the next coach—is he wondering if her dad will pay for a Honda? Probably. How else do we explain dowry?

Over the past year or so, I’ve been forced to think a lot about dowry. Much has been happening. Someone came up with a computer application called The Dowry Calculator. Girls were undertaking sting operations against greedy grooms. People in Bihar have been kidnapping grooms. Sunita Singh has written an article about ‘pakarvah bibah’, in which she says that between 1995 and 2000, about 845 grooms were kidnapped, of which 556 were forced to marry at gunpoint. There was a film about it, Antardwand, which won a national award. There were screenings of Kundan Shah’s Teen Behnein, based on the suicide of three sisters who can’t deal with the whole dowry-marriage mess.

Someone on my Twitter timeline retweeted a sad brother who said his little sister, a bride of two months, was killed for dowry. Last week, a journalist emailed me the story of her maid, who is getting her computer-skills-enabled daughter married. The maid must cough up a ‘reasonable’ dowry—Rs 50,000 cash and 10 gm gold, demanded outright—and fund the wedding.

Meanwhile, the Big Fat Indian wedding continues to be glorified on TV and in cinema. Nobody seems to wonder who pays for all that jazz. Usually, the bride pays. Sometimes, she pays with her life.

... Perhaps the real problem is that nobody has a real problem with dowry. Not until the violence escalates. Not until you ask for more than someone’s ‘swechha’ permits. In fact, my generation of women is in shock about the fact that dowry harassment isn’t just something that in-laws do. It can also be something you do to your parents.

My friend G mentions a cousin who had a love marriage. The groom’s family was hostile at first; when they relented, their blessings came with a price tag. G recalls that the bride’s mother felt so betrayed at a daughter demanding her own dowry that she went into depression and required therapy.

Linking modern dowry to the disinheritance of Indian women, (Madhu) Kishwar has argued that most women do not want a dowryless wedding, lest ‘their brothers end up with an even bigger share of family resources’. But parents who bring up daughters as their sons’ equals must be wondering: where did they go wrong? Grandmothers in Kerala must be wondering: why are well-qualified girls paying for grooms?

Read the full piece at Open

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,

I read your full story on the issue. It's really nice. I work with a production house and we're doing a talk show on dowry. I was wondering if you can share any of the stories that you came across, with me? Especially the one that you mentioned was tweeted.

Thank you
Prerana Thakurdesai

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