How To: Deal with the Dowried Class
Have 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.
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 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.