Saturday, July 27, 2013

Groom Price for a Niece

In a few days she will be married. All of 22 and a commerce graduate. She will don the golden white saree and wear the bridal bun, one that has decorously become a habit with Syrian Christian brides. She doesn't know the guy she is going to get married to. I was told she never had a word with him. Just saw him smile at her, while the elders of the family discussed the best bid for the groom price. They asked for a more than five lakhs, and my cousin brother sealed the deal for about two and half lakhs. They say if she had been more educated the prices could have shot up. And deliberately maybe, her father didn't educate her much. Just sent to her to a grad college and did the permutations and combinations.  He couldn't loosen the strings of his purse further so asked her to not study more. Don't know if she understood the implications of not been able to study beyond that and did she ever know of a tomorrow that her father was planning for her.
I only spoke to her once, on my January trip to Kerala. She didn't speak much, except stutter and smile shyly. She kept looking at the dress I was wearing that day, in her land they do not allow girls to wear anything other than sarees and salwar kameezes. In the company of those three children, two of whom are only a few years younger than me, I felt like a fool. A fool haplessly holed in the twelfth century, where girls weren't given the confidence to speak to people they meet for the first time in their life! (Oh yes, that was our very first meeting!)

The two girls of the family were brought up behind closed doors. Their father thinks that all men who go to church are saints. Both the girls would be given to such men, chosen by their father, whose foolish haste is no good. But were the girls ever allowed to think out of the box? Were they ever given the freedom to fly? No, I think I never saw their wings. They might have been clipped when they were born. Their desire for a third male child made this family fast for days and nights together, until their forbearance bore fruit. Seems, the two girls were only been educated to find a decent catch in the arranged marriage market, ones who would settle for an affordable amount of dowry. Oh yes dowry! Syrian Christians give and take dowry in the name of streedhanam. Streedhanam is actually supposed to be the daughter's share of her paternal property, but since ages, streedhanam is something that the groom's party demands and the bride's side has to oblige to. At the time of the wedding, this amount in cash and kind exchanges hands between the two fathers of the family, thus giving no ownership to the bride.  Hardly have there been families in my knowing, that haven't given and taken streedhanam, which otherwise is the bride's share in her father's property, but in this case implies to dowry, for the owners of that wealth are the groom's family and not the bride. 

A few weeks ago, I was informed by my cousin brother that his eldest daughter will be married off soon. I was aghast. I couldn't comprehend how they made this decision in finality. I wanted to speak to my niece and know if her consent was sought. But to stand guard for my own interests, I stay away from both my paternal and maternal families. Not deciding to meddle with the muck was to safeguard my own space. Later, in one of the telephonic conversations I was told that the groom's side had put out their son for sale, for an amount of five lakhs I guess. Since the bride's father didn't agree, they pressed on having a share of the land that they owned. I wonder what made my cousin, go on with the deal? And I don't know was this deed puffing pride, in the otherwise civilized society we boast of?  This marriage that is going to happen in the family in a few days, is too much of haste. And,  I wish earnestly that it doesn't waste, all this heedless haste. Even if things do not work out,  I am sure that the girl would have been taught the great theory of "adjustment". Perhaps that is her destiny. And, do not know if she has foreseen what is in store for her.

What makes me averse to arranged marriages in our societies is this practice. Of giving and taking in the name of "woman's wealth" copious amounts of cash and kind. Most girls like my niece do not know why it happens? They quietly stand witness to buying of a male prostitute for them, mostly by fathers and elder brothers. They aren't given the rights to decide for themselves. All that is done by the male members of the family, right from the call to educate to the clothes they should wear to whether they should get married for a groom price and to whom they should get married to?
Don't you think buying a groom, is as good as buying a male prostitute. And the Streedhanam or bride's wealth stays in the lifelong custody of the men in her conjugal household. So, is it really the woman's wealth? Or isn't it another synonym for dowry?

And the vicious cycle continues. A great dowry is a bed full of brambles.


Sonaa said...

Wow. The male prostitute bit was very powerful. Good job!

shashimysooru said...

Dear Rinzu, I am glad to read your blog. At last, and at least a "girl" is saying something against this social evil - dowry. Frankly speaking, the other side of life is some girls fight with their fathers to pay a hefty dowry that has been saved for a long time by her parents since her birth, just to get married to a guy that she wants. This dowry disease will be prevalent as long as givers and takers are there. The only solution would be - a woman/girl going against all odds and fight this battle, and dare to say I will remain single rather than selling myself to a person who loves only money OR loves me only if a hefty dowry is given. I am saying this, because, as I have noticed, there are some guys, if not many who come forward and say I don't want dowry and I want a simple marriage(giving damn care to wedding, as wedding always involves huge money)but they are always discouraged in many ways by the society, including prospective brides. Abolishing dowry is a two-way act, and its a social responsibility of each and every person in an Indian society. Anyway, keep writing. said...

Wow, this is truly a hard-hitting piece and a radical point of view about male prostitution.

Dowry is so ingrained in the culture of India that irrespective of religion or education, people in power (the groom's side) and people who are cowards (the bride's side) will still keep doing it. Sometimes, you want to scream, "don't you see the lack of simple logic here?!"