Why Do These Pointless Traditions Continue To Exist In My Community?

I shall be talking about some traditions existing in my region of rural northern Rajasthan and western Haryana ( i.e. baagar), which, in my opinion, are pointless. 

  • Women must put on their veils (called a ghoonghat) in the presence of all men, and senior women at their in-laws’, and when I say in-laws, I mean the entire village. It is considered a sign of respect. But, in their maternal homes, it is not needed. If it is the question of respect, it is a bit difficult to understand how men can roam around ghoonghat-lessly and still show their respect towards others.
  • Every time one visits their daughter or granddaughter in her post-marriage home, (the sasural), one must give money, as an offering, to her, her mother-in-law (saas), kaaker saas, taayer saas, her sisters-in-law (nanads), and other married and unmarried women around. If, on the other hand, one happens to be a man, and happens to visit one’s sister in her sasural, they must give some money to each of her offspring.
  • On the other hand, when a man visits his in-laws, he must be greeted with a tilak ceremony by his mother and sisters-in-law, and must again be given money as a sign of respect and gratitude. Additionally, if the man has been in the family for a greater time, the offering is subsequently increased, signifying a deeper sense of gratitude. This entire ceremony is, quite famously, called ‘joonhari’.
  • Every time a man’s daughter/niece(s)/sister(s)/cousin(s) departs for her going back to her in-laws, he must gift them a “good” suit or dress, his wife, if any, must give her 50 rupees as well. As if this attachment depends on the extent of blood relation, for niece(s)/cousin(s), this amount may be lowered accordingly
  • People earn and gather wealth mainly to spend it on their daughters’ weddings (in the form of dowry), on their nieces’ or nephews’ weddings (bhaat), and so on.
  • During the event of your daughter’s wedding, the father must give the groom’s family about 2–7 lacs rupees of cash the next morning (if possible, this might be a car, a bike or even a buffalo). This practice of dowry (sumtani) may also sometimes include beds, coolers, refrigerators, washing machines, curd machines, all sorts of utensils, and more as if the groom and his family have been living in forests all this while.
Women must put on their veils (called a ghoonghat) in the presence of all men, and senior women at their in-laws.

As a result, if one has many daughters or sisters, one is bound to spend most of one’s lifetime in calculating the money to give all of them. And repeatedly, finding out that the latter’s in-laws aren’t happy with the amount that was given.

Moving On, Some More Archaic Practices That Prevail In The Region Are:

  • Teenagers who indulge in talking to someone from the opposite gender daily, on the phone, or otherwise, are seen as carriers of a ‘flaw in character’.
  • The amount of cash in the dowry given by someone is considered to be a matter of reputation in one’s circles of relatives. Consequently, it has become a norm to give bigger and bigger dowries in weddings of one’s daughters.
  • Because of the economic burden that these practices induce on the families of the women, people resent the births of girls, because, then, they would have to spend on these practices. But, the sad irony of the fact is that families end up having multiple daughters, to get a son. Only a son, they believe, can take care of them in their old age, and it is only the son that would take their and their clan’s ‘name’ to the future, and not let it die with them.
  • After their weddings, women are not allowed to speak to their fathers-in-law, or even their brothers-in-law, unless an emergency demands it, only to show respect towards them.
  • The concept of women dancing in the streets, during weddings or celebrations of festivals, while they are at their in-laws’, is considered shameful and brings aspersion. A DJ is for men, and it is the men who have the liberty to dance on lyrics like, “Tu cheez laajawab, tera koi na jawaab” (You’re an amazing object, and there is no doubt of that). The house lawns are for women to dance in, on their age-old and “respectable” songs.
  • It is believed that it is the job of elderly men of a family to find suitable life partners for the youngsters. Elderly women, sometimes, might help them in choosing the ‘right’ mates for their kids.
  • There is also a class factor that comes into play in all these processes. If the groom is a government employee or a good private employee, then, he deserves more dowry than a groom who is merely a farmer.

Whenever I try to ask my elders for the answers to these ‘why’s, the only answers I get are, “That’s what tradition is. You alone can do nothing about it”; “If it doesn’t go the way it is going, things look ‘ugly’”; or the worst, “Is this what we are educating you for? This is nothing but lame questioning! This boy knows only his books and knows nothing of family-making.”

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