I grew up in a small city in eastern India. Life had always been good to me. People always say that there’s a lot of patriarchy in Indian society, which is true, but I never experienced it growing up.
I have two younger brothers. We went to the same school and the same college. We received the same amount of love and gifts from our parents. There was no gender discrimination in my home.
Even while at work, the environment was the same for both genders. I got appreciated for good work and paid an equal share in office outings. I found some great friends in these colleagues, mostly males.
I also dated quite a few guys but never felt any gender dominance from them. Of course, we had our differences, but I did not feel one gender had any kind of superiority in the relationship.
Having grown up in such an environment, I really believed in equality, which not only meant equality in terms of liberation and rights but also responsibilities and finance. I earned and spent equal to men. I took responsibility for the household and also home expenses.
But I never knew what was coming my way. Once talks of my marriage started, I started noticing the difference between men and women, the long-standing patriarchy of Indian society and Indian misogyny.
I had presumed that since marriage happened between two parties, both share equal expenses. But to my shock, I came to know that the bride’s family bears all the expenses. At every meeting, the bride’s father has to arrange for the venue and pay for the food.
The wedding cost, including the decorations, venue, food and even transportation costs for the groom’s family, is borne by the bride’s family. And if this wasn’t enough, the bride’s family also “gifts” utensils and furniture for their new “home”.
Well, this was too much for me. This is wrong on so many levels, but I wasn’t able to do anything. At most, I was only able to convince my parents that I would not take money for the furniture from them. But the main concern was not money; it was respect. It suddenly felt as if the place for a woman was lower than that of a man.
I didn’t pay any dowry (money in cash), but a lot of women do. Even though it was criminalised half a century ago, it’s still practised widely.
We as a society talk so much about equality but practice this misogyny happily at weddings. People need to realise that burdening one family for a function of two families is wrong and evil. If we want to bring a sense of equality into the minds of upcoming generations, we truly need to practice equality in marriages.