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Nothing more obscene than dowry

The most disgusting aspect of many Indian marriages is the prevalence of the dowry system, which not only drains a poor parent of the bride but also creates an everlasting cause of disagreement with her parents-in-law, often with the connivance of her groom.

Cash, property, car, jewellery, household appliances, dresses and much more-are among the items that are expected of a boy’s household when a bride walks into their home. In a country where almost 60% of the population subsists as the ‘middle class,’ the demands of grooms’ parents are seen as obscene and highly objectionable.

The Indian Penal Code provides for punitive measures including imprisonment for those demanding and receiving dowry but the law is observed more on the breach. There is ‘price’ for every type of groom-graduates, postgraduates, engineers, doctors, professionals, those employed in the Arab Gulf, US or other First World countries. Grooms who say they are against the system but fall a prey, cite their parents’ greed as the excuse but in reality are no more than cunning partners.

In a country that is steeped in such anomalies, it is difficult to imagine, let alone expect a bride to raise cudgels against her in-laws and be in charge.

But there are a few who rise above the rest and protest.

Nisha Sharma of New Delhi was one such.

She heard her father negotiating the dowry with her future in-laws and said ‘enough!’

Since then other girls have followed suit and stated that they would not let their parents be harassed for dowry.

Trump Card

In its original form, dowry was a bride’s trump card and her security for life.

‘Streedhan,’ as the term suggested, was her share of her father’s wealth because as per law only her brothers would share the family wealth after the parents passed away.

The truth remains that people believe that money equals happiness. During prayer and discourse, all believe that happiness comes out of doing one’s duty, in connecting with God, in being unattached to material wealth.

But the moment of human truth and weakness lies outside the place of worship.

The day we internalise these truths we may not have problems.

Says an expert: “There are a few imponderables which must be addressed. A person must believe that his or her daughter’s happiness depends on a warm and caring relationship, in respect and love; the day we genuinely believe that money can come and go but health and good relationships are the pillars of happiness; that will be the day we will look at marriage in a different way. That will be the day we won’t have dowry deaths and harassments.”

How can we blame the in-laws for harassing us for dowry but we don’t first blame ourselves for putting our daughter in such a snake pit? How can we say, ‘Society expects this’ and put our ‘izzat’ ahead of our daughter’s happiness? And what is this social ‘izzat’ that we are ready to do anything short of burning our own daughters at the stake for it?”

A terrible evil

Dowry is an evil in its present form just like drugs. The issue has to be controlled from both ends. While the law takes culprits who make unreasonable demands to task, we must help the law by not supporting it in our drawing rooms. But it is also true that girl’s parents feel proud when they can meet demands.

Dowry is a dirty word. It must be wiped out of the dictionary and more important from our marriage system.

In an age where marriages are considered no more than arrangements that can be repealed anytime, it is ridiculous to put a price on a bride.

More, it is obscene.

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