Friday, November 07, 2008

Dowry demands.

We hear so much about dowry demands and how the girl's parents are humiliated at the time of weddings etc,etc. Well I for one feel that there have been good people and bad at all times. there have been grooms who choose to remain silent spectators while their parents make atrocious demands even today and others who have stood up for what they felt was right even some 100 years back.

I wish to share with you some such stories and leave it to you to judge.

My maternal grandfather got married at the age of 13. It was actually his upanayanam (sacred thread) ceremony and my grandmother had come as an invitee. she was around 12 years old and well past the marriageable age of girls at the time. Her mother being a widow approached my great grandfather to help her find a suitable match for her daughter.

"what about my son?" my grandpa's father asked.

The lady was overjoyed and they got married then and there.

But then came trouble. My greatgrandfather expected a decent amount of dowry and unless the demand was fulfilled the actual nuptial ceremony known as 'gauna' in Hindi would not be performed. My grand father stood up for his wife and argued with his father that when his mother in law did not have the means it was not fair to pressurize her. The father had to give in and my grandmother was brought home without the gifts and jewelry that were usually given at the time. My grandfather was perhaps in his late teens when this happened.

I compare this to another marriage ceremony I recently witnessed. At the tilak ceremony held 4 days prior to the wedding the groom's sister demanded that her brother be given 2 lacs in cash and a Santro car.The boy had no father and the girl's parents had been given to understand that since the girl was herself earning Rs.70K per month there would be no dowry demand. The boy's mother and brother kept mum and the boy sat there beaming as if it was some kind of joke that was being played. It took the girl's father sometime to realize the demand was being seriously made not in jest. negotiations began and finally the girl's brother agreed to pay 2 lacs immediately and buy the couple a car within a year. The car has now been 'gifted' to them.

In such cases I blame the boy more than his parents. A well placed groom should have the confidence to say NO to dowry. I hear of a girl who witnessed such a negotiation where her mother in law haggled over the dowry and was upset when her son was given a Maruti 800 (which is like giving a bicycle these days) and pressurized the girl's parents for an Esteem and finally settled for a Zen. The girl was naturally upset and refused to allow her husband to do anything for his family.

'My father has purchased you." she'd say. "your mother has been paid with cash and kind. Your salary now belongs to me". she has since relented but the scar remains.

The other aspect in these dealings is that women are easily blamed for these negotiations. In an otherwise male dominated society how come men hide behind their women when dowry demands are made? No boy agrees to marry a girl as per his mother's wish. He sets his own conditions. The girl must be educated, career minded, sociable and what not. There are many mothers who are insecure when the daughter in law walks in speaking convent english dressed in shorts and Tee shirt and can do nothing about it. The same boy will become an obedient son when she creates a ruckus at his wedding. Most of the problems created by the mother is due to insecurity. She feels that once the daughter in law comes her own importance in the household will take a beating. If only the husband says 'I am there for you, why do you worry about them' or if the son is able to impress upon his mother that he would still remain her son and his wife would be a daughter to her, she would feel more confident.

What about me? I can hear you asking the question. I have just one dowry demand. My DIL read my posts and appreciate them! I was joking. I want her to enjoy a warm relationship with me just the way i did with my own mother in law.

some lighter episode of marriages in my father and father in law's time later


hillgrandmom said...

I think it's also sometimes because some women, when they become mothers-in-law, feel they ought to treat their daughters-in-law the way they were treated.

rajk said...

That was so amazing! It is so ironic that a "21st century/Modern" man didn't have the guts to do what a teenager did maybe a 100 years back!!
Do the men who let their parents take dowry from the girl's family never stop to think how his wife will ever respect him?

aMus said...

i can never unferstand the dowry system...being always sheltered form this, it was a shock when i came to delhi as a bride and the stupid landlords son asked in jest 'how much dowry did they give you?'
of course he was put in his place soon.
anyways now he's in a loveless marriage, having married a girl whose father gave him a huge car etc..the car was displayed at his wedding venue as a thing of was disgusting!

Kush said...

Hello, hip hol g-mom. Nice read! I'd not want to take dowry during my marriage. I'd wanna marry Munshi Premchand's Nirmala!!

Anonymous said...

Hiphopgmom - I feel it's all too easy for men to hide behind the "its-what-my-mother-wants" excuse. And that too, financially independent men today, have no excuse, unlike earlier generations who got married before they started earning...

Cee Kay said...

Hello HipHopGmom. I am curious about one thing - why don't you blame the girl for just watching siletly and not speaking up? She earns 70K a month. She should have the backbone to stand up and say "You are not getting anything. Or I walk out of this wedding". No?

Mampi said...

Very relevant, and very lucidly written. and your grandpa's guts is worth appreciation.
I got married without any dowry. I have often wondered how girls who marry with hefty dowries ever get close to their husbands who never stood up for them. How can the involvement of money ensure a healthy emotional relationship?

Hip Grandma said...

hillg'mom:yes,it is true.But no woman who feels secure in her husband/son's care would feel the need to do so.If her own MIL ill treated her was it not the duty of her husband to stand up for her?If he had she would not have clung to the resentment she felt at that time.

rajk:my grandpa was an exception even in his generation.He got a child widow re married at midnight and sent her off to Bombay.The lady visited him 30 years later and I was present at the time.

suma:It is indeed disgusting.A woman had stocked 3 trunks lof steelware as dowry for her 7 year old daughter and proudly showed it to anyone who was interested.Finally the girl married a man of her choice and left for America taking nothing with her. The mother is now relocating to delhi and wants to sell it and there is no one willing to take it for the girl parents also contribute to this growing menace.

rhett:welcome here.We need more like you.

apu:I agree is time women stood up and said 'No'to dowry demands whether MIL or DIL.

GTN:The girl in question was not present at the time of the Tilak.It took place in Madhya Pradesh and only the male members attended and a decision had to be taken then and there.With just 4 days to go it was difficult to cancel the wedding.In fact the girl contributed to the cost of the car that was later given.Today
the husband is trying to get her to pay the instalment for a flat in his name and she has politely refused saying that she planned to invest in real estate and would not be able to handle two loans and since he had booked the flat even before their engagement he ought to know how he planned to pay for it.As rajk says it is difficult to respect such people.

mampi:I too did not give any dowry for my daughters nor did my husband's family place any demands at the time of our marriage.We are a lucky minority.unfortunately easy money whether as bribe or dowry is welcomed by many people.

Ramya said...

hello hg ma, tat was a nice post.. I can relate to so many incidents in my family..
Ofcoz, I have witnessed showcasing of steelware in my cousins marriages esp when the couple r going to live separately from parents abroad.. one wud be assigned the resposibility of having the key n showing thm to relatives n friends.. At the top of this, sum wud criticise 'this is not very sufficient', 'these look like polished ones n not new'.. and wat not.. I cud never stand in tat place for vry long..

U talked abt MIL's insecurity.. how abt DIL's insecurity when the husband treats her equally or even gives more importance to his parents.. those kind of men also exist.. u wud really appreciate thm as a mother. but a simple n extrmely adjusting DIL wud hardly appreciate..she wud jus feel saturated of adjusting..

About dowry demand again.. many boys' mothers have a nach of asking dowry's.. initially they give a great people kinda feeling.. later they slowly build.. it might nt be in cash or car or vessels or any furniture.. but small small things which wud really irritate gals' family.. the boy wud be totally against dowry.. but thse demands wud be secret.. n gal's parents wud consider gal's happiness n fulfill yhem,.. later boy wud think his FIL wants to show off his prestige.. I really feel he wud know n pretend not knowing to make his mother happy.. lot of things to talk on these lines.. more in next post..

Tys on Ice said...

this has always bothered me...i mean, how come in indian society , a woman is another woman's worst enemy?

but i do stand with u on the spinelessness of the men involved...

personally i cud have been bought for just 3 meals a day and a life long companion who will bear with me..wish i had put my foot down...coz now she insists on putting me on 1 meal a day..


Vishesh said...

hmm...Well i am into "falling in love and getting married" and dowry surely is ruled out :)

Monika said...

I want to standup and applaud for your grandfather… doing what he did in those times is commendable… I now of someone who choose to keep quite (actually both the girl and the boy) when the dowry was being negotiated by their parents… arguments happening etc at this age… I think I wrote a post on that one...

what one needs is our generation standing up against it

Hip Grandma said...

Ramya:DIL's also have their own insecurities and that's what I want to say.The men folk be they husbands,sons or fathers should make their womenfolk feel secure.Once a woman understands that her well being is the concern of her own family as well as that of her husband's most problems would vanish.

tys:madhu puts you on one meal a day??Too bad.Let me talk to her.

vishesh:you ought to be studying and worrying about your career.faling in and out of love can wait.and my dear boy,arranged or otherwise, it is upto the couple to say a firm no to dowry demands.

monika:i think I read a post by you to the effect.can you link it for me?Selfish people have always been there at all times.I know of daughters who keep cribbing and complaining about their dowry collection and that too even before the in laws even open their mouth.

Usha said...

We ought to feel ashamed that 'dowry' is a word that is still allowed in decent society - we should treat it like an abusive word and expunge it from polite conversations.
Change has to come from the younger generation - they should refuse to let their parents decide the terms on which their weddings are performed. let them stand up to them and prove that they deserve each other before they can tie the knot.
I have a few stories to share too from our grandparents' or even my mothers' times.

Monika said...

ya u did read and comment too... here is the link again

WhatsInAName said...

I can only say that your future daughter in law is damn lucky :) How I wish all MILs were like you! And yes, its a shame when a boy cannot support a girl during the first hour of marriage. How will he support her all her life? I would say that the girls and her parents should gather courage and walk out the moment the word dowry is uttered!
Easily said! hmmmm

Sumana said...

A real thoughtworthy post HHG. I just wish that everybody thinks this way. I still read about how when the girl's parents could not afford dowry and the girl gets killed in the first year of their marriage.I for one know of one instance where a friend of mine (south indian) got married to a north indian. The demands started after the engagement and the girl's mom just came up to say that she had raised a well educated and charactered daughter. And she is not there to sell her daughter. She had sent her daughter abroad for studies and the daughter is doing very well.

Renu said...

I think this menace of dowry is encouraged by girl and her parents also, they all want rich famiulies, well established boys...nobody sees or bothers much about accomplishments, character or anything.Some girls also look for a luxurious life.
I neither gave dowry to my daughter,nor took any for my son. and many people were surprised and had a doubt that there is any catch somewhere , otherwise why would a handsome well educated and settle boy is not asking for anything....this is the mentality now-a..days

Hip Grandma said...

Usha;very true.It is the younger generation that has to take the initiative.Unfortunately many youngsters also want easy money in the form of dowry.Looking forward to your stories.

monika;thanks for the link.I enjoyed reading it all over again.Very pertinent.

whatsinaname:the girl's parents are to be equally blamed.If a family loses a daughter on account of dowry death their relatives will offer their daughter to the very same boy.I know of a case where an airhostess was brutally murdered and the body was hanged later making it seem like a suicide and the boy married the girl's first cousin after convincing her family that the dead girl was characterless.

sumana:I wish we had more mothers like her.

renu:I'll be doing a post on the points raised by you.It is unfortunate that good intentions are often misunderstood.

The Talkative Man said...

visiting after a long time :)

It's sad that even in Shining and assertive India(read middle-class), there are still sissies.

starry said...

I think women should also stand up and refuse to be bought.Maybe then the dowry system will end.

Anonymous said...

That is why I ensure I always leave comments at ageless's blog...

Hip Grandma said...

THE TALKATIVE MAN:India is not shining. It is actually burning. figuratively as well as literally.Easy money is always welcomed by selfish people.

Lalitha:well said.But women as MILs,daughters and sisters do want to grab whatever they are able to lay hands on.

akila:welcome here.You naughty girl!Drawing out comments from grandmas and the like!

EggHe/\D said...

What a rush of inspiration (twice) and exhilaration (once) reading this post.
Inspiration (twice) because it's a pleasure to see 50 + demography blogging while we (20 +) we are the only ones. In fact I just taught my mom (who has just hit 50) how to use google reader. And I forwarded this post immediately to her.
Hoping this to be an inspiration to her and many more to come.
Glad I read this post, would come back again and again. And more power to you !!
Shriram R

Artnavy said...

And what do you expect from S(on)ILs??

Hip Grandma said...

Shriram:Those were kind words.Thanks.

artnavy:sons in law also have a responsibility to make their parents in law comfortable and secure.particularly in these times when very often parents have just daughters to depend on.But here again society has been tuned to blame DILs but never the sons in law who fail in their duties towards their parents in law.

deadmanoncampus said...

Read your blog.Here is my take on the issue.

"People argue that dowry makes marriage a trade and women a commodity.I have no idea of what they are talking about.It is the girl's family which pays dowry to the boy.How would that make the girl a commodity? Certainly,it is the boy who is treated as a commodity here.Moreover,in almost all cases the girl's family look at the job and income of the boy before marriage.Doesn't that make it a trade? Doesn't that make the girl a prostitute?"