By Aishvarya S. Raghavan:
Dowry, a word both dreaded and cherished. Dreaded, of course by the bride’s side and needless to say, looked forward to by the groom’s side. A lot has been said about the bride’s side regarding this practice, but what about the groom? Well, it is not an easy task to collect a respectable amount. It requires hard work, loads of sleepless nights and a substantial amount of fair and handsome.
Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to the world of dowry collection. Her elder brother was about to get married, for which he and his parents went off for “bride-hunting” and she tagged along. What ensued was a series of discussions about the selected finalists who were rated on education, looks, family background and most importantly, yes you guessed it right, the dowry rate. Hence I figured, the dynamics of dowry collection in India is complex and multilayered so much so that if it had a mathematical algorithm there would be multiple variable coefficients.
I also recently stumbled upon dowrycalculator.com, a sarcastic take on the dowry-practitioners of India (Read: Match-making aunties). The rate increases and decreases according to the complexion (Unless you are fairy white, buy fair and handsome, it will do you good in the long run; And if you are charcoal black, sorry mate, you are doomed), Alma mater (Brownie points for being an IITian, double that for an IIT+IIM alumnus), profession (Higher points for engineers, less points for journalists, lecturers and other artsy types), height etc. Although it is meant to tickle your funny bone, the real-world parallels are painfully un-funny. Many instances of competing for that highest dowry rate exist especially in the lower strata of the society, much more prevalent in areas like Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh etc. It is common knowledge that many mothers want their sons to do engineering just because her “ladla-puttar” would be able to wheedle out more green notes than say, a journalist or an artist. And since, demand is less and supply is more, competition is sky-high and nobody wants to be left behind.
But is it ethical or even logical to bind two people in lifelong matrimony based on such a greedy basis? What happened to compatibility and adjustment? The practice of dowry dates back to the times of the maharajas where the queen would bring something from her land for king’s treasury. What started as a custom to help the girl monetarily in her in-laws place has evolved into the primary basis for marriage. In fact, the only socially acceptable mixture of begging and thieving. The only time when the usually egoistic male is willing to be auctioned, like used cars in a car sale. A person who demands money to marry a woman is obviously not trustworthy.
The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act has made dowry an illegal crime under the eyes of the law, Even after which, it is being practiced at a large scale. It is a heinous crime, which should be stopped as soon as possible.