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How To: Deal with the Dowried Class

28th April, 2013

Anti-Dowry Poster by Karnataka Forum for DignityHave you met a rapist? I would think most probably not, they exist in the confines of your newspaper. How about a murderer? Quite scary to think that you might be friends with a murderer, but I’m pretty sure we can rule that one out. For probabilities sake.

But how about a man who asks for dowry? Yeah. You know them. You’ve seen them. A friend-of-friend you met at that party last Christmas? Or that colleague you actually respected? Or maybe some of your closest friends. The ones who’ve seen you in your worst moments – unwell, vomiting last night’s venomous fluids and crying in agony. And they’ve seen you in your best moments, giving you a pat on your back like any good friend would do.

But they’ll ask for dowry from their to-be-wives.

How do you rationally deal with such contradicting behaviour?

Sadly, It’s Everywhere

The pervasiveness of dowry-asking-dweebs is ridiculous. It’s a shame that they come from all walks of society – poor, middle class, rich, educated, uneducated – almost forming a majority of Indians. Dowry is a part of their upbringing, a part of their “honour”. Boys are told to earn well for a dowry that awaits them proportional to their achievements.  Girls are repeatedly reminded of the burden they are to their family, that certain privileges were denied to the family to save up for a later largesse. Or sometimes it works the other way, where families are proud to give (and publicize) the amount they give for dowry, indicating social status and “success”. Pathetic.

Dowry is possibly the most legal illegal act in India.

It’s illegal by the way. In India, the 1961 Dowry Prohibition (DP) Act, Section 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, along with the Dowry and Bridal Gifts Restrictions Rules, 1976 and Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985 should give you a subtle idea as to how illegal it is. Fun fact: Tihar Jail in Delhi has an entire “mother-in-law” cell block for those who killed or harassed daughter-in-laws. I’m not kidding!

So, how do you deal with these people?

Step-1: Ignore Their Jokes

“Abay, US posting? Chalo, there comes an extra Rs. 1 crore!”

At this point some folks would laugh, chug their heads and display hints of jealousy and / or respect and awe. You hold back a gag reflex that might send all your bile and vomit onto these same people.

It’s awkward. You can’t even try to put on a fake smile.

The goal should be to turn the tables around here. They should feel awkward, not you. It’s time we break this cycle that reaffirms to the dowried class that “it’s acceptable to ask for money.” And yes, a small joke here and there reaffirms this behaviour.

What’s funny is that the dowry that we know of today only came into being because of our British colonizers. Before that (in the Hindu definition, that is) dowry was the inheritance that a girl would bring with her into a marriage and – most importantly – would be handled by her only. It was a sort of financial independence that would put the bride onto equal footing with the wage earner. Oh and that money would be returned to the bride’s parents if the bride and groom divorced.

The Britishers introduced the system of private land ownership that could only be inherited rightfully by sons and not daughters, thereby setting off a chain reaction that resulted in what we have today: extortion.

In fact it’s said that Indians despised the fact that the city of Mumbai was given as part of dowry when the Princess of Portugal married King Charles II in 1661.

Brilliant blog-post on the Origins of Dowry in India and a more detailed article – Dowry Murder as a Legacy of British Policies.

Step-2: Convince Them Their Next Generation Won’t Participate in This

The dowried class that you know clearly got it screwed up. They jumped on an opportunity to turn marriage into a downfall of money – a ritual that barely existed three generations ago.

Realities are harsh, however. Young boys and girls who are convinced that dowry is wrong aren’t able to convince the generation before them. It’s hard to break traditions in a country seemingly defined by traditions. Women, with parents convinced of the irrelevance of dowry, barely find any equivalent in the marriage market with similar guts to defy an incorrect system.

The OatmealThey cave in.

The least we can do is to convince the current generation to weed out dowry by the time their kids grow up. The folks that you know today will be tomorrow’s elders. Sow the seeds of that change and let time play it’s role. In fact, this Oatmeal comic on the right said it best!

Step-3: Give Them a Cookie

Let’s say you do meet some blokes who get it right. They get it that dowry is yet another roadblock towards fair and equal treatment of women in our society. They understand that the India we live in is a country of many Indias: numerous families with different tolerance towards dowry coexist in the same vicinity. They only deserve a cookie. Nothing more, nothing less.

The fact is, not asking for dowry (or not giving it) is normal behaviour. You’re not doing some great service to the world by not peddling in dowry extortion. You’re just normal.

And normal people only get a cookie.

Last Few Words

Let’s take dowry out of the equation. Let’s see men and women build their lives from scratch, growing their bank balance and deposit lockers through hard work and perseverance, rather than through a self-entitled bonus for those born with an XY chromosome.

We don’t have the luxury of a social revolution – like the Independence movement – to rid us of such evils. We’ve got to fight this one ourselves. And it starts now.

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. 28th April, 2013 12:29 PM

    ‘You’ve seen them, a friend-of-afriend you’ve met at a Party.’- that would have been the best and most appropiriate place to start your article, which is quite interesting. The beginning is somewhat distasteful, and callous: Millions of people have met a rapist, including myself, and it didn’t end well for us. Many are Meeting the rapist and murderer right now, while you amuse yourself. You may delete this message, but someone Needs to tells you that the lead-in to your article is simply not cutting it. Cheers.

    • 28th April, 2013 12:35 PM

      I was going for a stark, horrid, distasteful beginning. Thanks for the feedback, mate!

  2. 28th April, 2013 7:17 PM

    A timely article this!
    I was at a startup meeting one day. The youngest techie there said something about marriage and asking for dowry. I pointedly asked him, “Would you ask for dowry?” “I don’t want it but my parents do,” he said. Like it was some everyday occurrence. I said he could take a stand and say that he doesn’t want it. “But what if the girl’s parents are insistent?” Umm…still say no? Then there was awkwardness that ensued because *I* thought it was odd that an educated engineer would give in to the concept of dowry. This was 2 years now.

    Cut to the present…a colleague is getting married. And it’s the same thing all over again. When I widen my eyes wondering aloud about it, the standard response? “It’s part of the wedding trousseau it’s not dowry!”

    Yeah, right.

    • 28th April, 2013 11:25 PM

      Damn!

      The funniest part is that these same people would tremble before breaking any other law. I doubt education has got anything to do with this: it’s the self-entitlement that’s the problem.

      Shameful.

  3. Pallavi permalink
    28th April, 2013 11:45 PM

    This is gooooooooood. Love your balance of wit and whiplash!

  4. 29th April, 2013 7:35 PM

    Firstly welcome back Kartikay 🙂

    Until not so long ago dowry was the ‘in’ thing in my community. The groom’s family thought it was beneath their standards to not accept dowry and the bride’s family took pride in giving insane amount in dowry. Now the things have changed perhaps because the girls also work and draw a decent salary. This is the story of the middle class and the upper middle class.

    The lower class still face the burden of dowry to some extent.

    • 29th April, 2013 8:06 PM

      Good to hear that such change is taking place! (And good to hear that someone knew I was missing :P).

      It’s difficult to generalize – given that we’re an India of multiple Indias – but the number of dowry related deaths / threats / complaints has shown an opposite trend. Maybe it’s because more people are coming forward, but there’s been a mind-boggling surge in dowry-related mess.

      You saw the Satyamev Jayate episode on dowry? Aamir Khan took half the airtime to show that it’s not a problem of lower classes – it’s pervasive everywhere!

      Thanks for dropping by Rebel!

  5. 2nd May, 2013 9:23 AM

    Why don’t we hand over dowries directly to the daughters to start a business instead? Or do we think she doesn’t deserve that money but her groom’s family does? If her business succeeds the streets will be lined with men wanting to marry her.

    As for the groom’s side – the economically backward won’t change that mindset because money from any source is welcome. But the well off?

    I would say there are two types of dowry-accepting grooms. The kind you describe – who feel a dowry is their entitlement or the ones who are too weak to stand up to their own parents’ greed. To them I would say – have the gumption to openly declare that your future happiness isn’t wrapped up in money (and things) that she brings to the marriage but in what the two of you bring to the relationship.

    • 2nd May, 2013 4:52 PM

      Eloquently said! I’m going to quote you for a long, long time to come!

      Isn’t it really nice to meet people who’ve actually fought for such change? We need more people like them!

      Thanks for dropping by, KayEm!

  6. 7th May, 2013 10:25 AM

    When I was in college, I had this image that India is changing. Now of course, I know better. I still have to meet a guy who is dead against dowry.

    • 7th May, 2013 11:08 AM

      Let’s start with you?

    • 8th May, 2013 7:52 AM

      I am already married and no, I did not take dowry. I made that very clear during the initial talks.

    • 12th May, 2013 10:22 AM

      🙂

  7. 8th May, 2013 5:12 AM

    As long as there are arranged matches there will be dowry. As long as sons get preference over daughters, the practice will continue. The son is not an investment and the daughter is not a liability and men who think they deserve to be bought, deserve a wife who files a dowry harassment case against them.

    Loved your neatly structured thoughts.

    • 8th May, 2013 7:39 AM

      I think dowry is just one more piece in the puzzle of women’s fair treatment. Everything affects everything else. Dowry seemed like an easy target – being illegal extortion that it already is – and how pervasive it is in Indian society.

      But I really want to understand the fears of a dowry harassment case – and why that reasoning has been used to continue with dowry in the first place.

      Thanks for dropping by, Purba ji! I hope this doesn’t persist among the Indians in Australia!

  8. 14th May, 2013 12:36 AM

    Great post! Didn’t know that it’s officially illegal in India. I once got a proposal for a guy who had just finished his bachelors in dentistry and in return for marriage my parents would have to pay for his masters degree and build a dental office at a prime location in Chennai as the dowry. We laughed and said thanks but no thanks. Btw, I’m Muslim and in Islam it is the Man that has to give money/gold/whatever the girl asks for (this is called Mahr) for the marriage to occur. However, even the Muslims in India have forgotten this concept and accepted the dowry system introduced by the British. This money that the girl accepts is to support her in the event of a divorce. The most righteous of the girls are the ones who asks for the least amount or none at all.

    Must say I’m pleased that finally men of India are starting to put an end to the dowry system :).

    • 14th May, 2013 11:31 AM

      Ah yes, the Mahr! Funny how this entire country switched to the dowry customs of a few families, in turn eradicating centuries of work where women had a much higher standing (on an average!).

      I’m happy for two reasons: you didn’t pay when requested, and you didn’t move to Chennai 😛 (kidding!).

      Thanks for dropping by, Khansword, and I must say I love your blog!

  9. 14th May, 2013 7:39 PM

    Haha… I too am glad I didn’t move to Chennai, wouldn’t have been able to handle the heat.

    Thanks.. certainly a compliment coming from you 🙂

    Do you by any chance know what was the outcome of the ‘Say no to Dowry’ Campaign?

    • 14th May, 2013 11:30 PM

      Couldn’t find any report on the Say No To Dowry campaign :(. As is with such causes, it’s very difficult measure the change and identify which factors / organizations helped the change!

    • 16th May, 2013 12:05 AM

      As expected… also such changes won’t been seen over night, will at least take a generation or so. Thanks for checking though 🙂

  10. 8th August, 2013 12:35 PM

    Very succinctly put, K!
    I remember writing essays on this subject and our teachers evaluating them enthusiastically. Has life moved beyond that point? I really don’t know.

    • 8th August, 2013 4:04 PM

      That’s where we come in, don’t we? Make noise – as much as you can!

      Thanks for dropping by, Deboshree! Just reminded me that I haven’t blogged in a while *turns-around-and-runs-away* 😀

  11. anuglyhead permalink
    31st October, 2013 7:09 AM

    My goodness!! That was something!! I am a lawyer and a woman and for some reason my relatives feel that this would affect my dowry in a huge way. I wonder for good or for bad. But I have my own fierce little plans you see. 😀
    New on ur blog. And boy!!1 Loved it!

    • 31st October, 2013 8:23 AM

      Thanks for dropping by, abeautifulhead!

      Good to know you have your fierce little plans – you know there’s someone here rooting for you! I hope it works out – woohooo!

  12. Deepshikha permalink
    25th February, 2014 5:28 PM

    Hey!!! First things first, I love your blog. The chai wala post brought me here ( have been an eager chai monger since lousy modi “chai pe charcha” attempt )
    And I was so lit up reading your this post :). Finally someone complementing my realm of thoughts ( will surely give you a cookie, if ever meet you :p ).
    In one of my coaching classes for upsc, the teacher was assigning dowry amounts to the ranks, cadre and services you get once you clear the exams. And there were guys in the class who confessed that the parents of their would-be-wife are paying the entire sum for coaching as part of dowry. I was flabbergasted.
    Not to mention that that was the only time I raised my voice inside classroom and earned more enemies in an hour than I would in a lifetime. And these were aspiring civil servants. What a shame!!!
    And because of this 1 deal/condition that I have brokered with my parents, I am happily unmarried ( I hope the joy lasts long 😉 )

    • 27th February, 2014 10:23 AM

      Oh meee ggaawwwdd. Such a comment makes me feel really bad that I haven’t posted much stuff here. Lethargy, my common enemy.

      It’s really distressing to hear about that UPSC class. Quite disappointing that our whole generation takes dowry for granted, and even puts a positive spin to it – “success” “achievement” etc etc.

      As is with everything, the change starts with us. And hey – great to know that you’ve brokered a deal with your parents. That’s exactly the kind of spunk we need in our world! Kudos!

  13. Skull Candy permalink
    4th December, 2014 10:34 AM

    Why does liberal Iceland want to ban online pornography?

    Iceland is run by the world’s only openly lesbian prime minister, while 65% of Icelandic children are born outside marriage.

    The country’s proposed ban can be seen as a continuation of earlier legislation to regulate the sex industry. In 2009 it introduced fines and prison terms for those who patronise prostitutes (though not the prostitutes themselves, which the law treats as victims). In 2010 it outlawed strip clubs. And distributing and selling pornography in Iceland has actually been illegal since 1869.

  14. 23rd December, 2014 12:43 PM

    One man says God is. The other says there is no God. But both are sailing in the same boat. They have come to a conclusion without inquiring.

    Doubt is an inquiring approach. It does not mean no. It simply says, “I do not know, and I am prepared to know. I am ready to go as far as possible, but unless I myself come to know, how can I say yes?” Doubt is an open mind, without any prejudice.

    Neither the theist has doubted nor the atheist has doubted; both have accepted borrowed knowledge. — from the God Conspiracy

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