The other day, I met a friend of mine, who’s working with one of the best IT companies in the US. He left me speechless when he said, “I’m worth one-crore rupees”. Unable to comprehend the statement, I delved further just to realise that he was talking about his market price in the ‘industry’ of marriage.
More investigation in this area unveiled that the prices go up further if the groom is a foreign graduate and even higher if he is an IAS! And yes, this has nothing to do with a girl’s educational background, which sadly, is not even taken into account.
A dowry demanding educated groom has become the biggest oxymoron of this society. And,it seems that education has failed to alter the age-old stereotypical mindset of today’s man; on the contrary, the more educated one becomes, the higher his price is quoted in the marriage market.
Unfortunately, various initiatives of the Indian government and television shows like Satyamev Jayate have fallen on the deaf ears, as some people openly ask for money, completely aware that it’s a punishable offence. “I met a guy in an arranged-marriage set-up. Everything was going fine until we actually decided to get married and the ‘real’ talks began. His parents told us bluntly that they would want us to sponsor their son’s higher education, which he apparently plans to pursue from a foreign university. At that moment, I looked at the guy, but he kept mum, supporting what his parents were saying. I was shocked beyond belief as I had only seen this in movies,” says Pooja Verma, 26, a primary school teacher.
Ironically, the definition of dowry is not just limited to a cash transaction between a bride’s father and groom, it entails much more than this. A bride’s family is expected to hold extravagant weddings in five-star hotels, gift gold coins to some 51 relatives, arrange for travel and lodging for all the guests during a destination wedding, give away swanky BMWs or Mercedes as gifts to their daughter or son-in-law, buy a house for the couple or help them establish a household from scratch – these are nothing but just a few modern day subtly put ‘dowry’ demands.
Some people are of the opinion that dowry is a father’s parting gift to his daughter, however this was not the case for Riya Aggarwal (name changed). When she got married, her father gifted a luxurious BMW and she assumed it’s for her use, but soon her in-laws started troubling her, as they wanted another one for their own personal use. The poor father finally succumbed to the demand, as he didn’t want to break his daughter’s heart and at the time, wanted to save her marriage. Interestingly, love marriages don’t seem to have escaped the dowry epidemic either. Vartika Arora, 25, a media professional decided not to marry her longtime boyfriend when his parents laid down only one condition. “We had been trying to convince our parents since long but his parents were adamant that they would not let him marry outside of their caste. But suddenly, one day, my boyfriend called me and he said that his parents have agreed for our marriage on one condition and that is, if my parents agree to pay EMIs for a Rs 50 lakh housing loan taken by them,” she says.
Such incidents can traumatize women for life and feelings of worthlessness creep in. Some of them even start to consider themselves a burden on their parents and are often surrounded by fear of love, relationship and marriage, claims clinical psychologist and author Dr Seema Hingorrany.
Throwing light on psyche behind the unapologetic-dowry-demanding-attitude, my US-based IT friend clarified, “It’s not that we won’t contribute to wedding expenses at all, but of course, the bride’s family is expected to contribute majorly as per our Hindu traditions. And yes, I’m not doing something which others don’t do.” Dissecting the mindset, Dr Hingorrany explains, “These men who still demand dowry have deep rooted set patterns, which have been reinforced by the family time and again. They believe it’s their right to demand dowry and that’s the true sign of manhood. Such people refuse to accept this as distorted thinking, which is unhealthy and in fact disgusting.”
Sadly the concept of modernization has also remained hypothetical without yielding any concrete results in relation to dowry practices in India. Avantika Debnath, author of The Bridal Pyre -Nainam Dahati Pawakah, a book-based on life of a woman after marriage and her battle against each and every form of evil that exists in our society, sums up by saying, “The ‘modern’ Indian man is not the one who is living in the 21st century, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses, Pepe Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger shirt, clicking cosy pictures with his wife for Facebook and still hiding under the veil of his mother and the shadow of his father when it comes to standing up for his wife.” But, a modern, educated man is the one who doesn’t let himself become a product, that is sold in showrooms!