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The Disease called Dowry
Vasu Reddy from Chicago
I am privileged to write for India Tribune. To provoke our collective thoughts we need to introspect on our community and issues that concern our human decency. Individuals by themselves can’t fight issues of deep concern to the community, but can provoke others to think progressively and act progressively. Instead of fighting causes we should start to think of fundamental changes in our common sense and practices.
As my first article to write “As I see It” I chose Dowry as a disease to fight. For some reason this dowry issue has been bugging me. A couple of weeks ago when my friend Vinnie asked me if I had seen the report on a guy killing his wife in Washington and cutting her to pieces and dumping her in garbage cans, I said I did. Since then I have been reflecting more on this dowry issue and have been quite agitated about it. There was also a story written at the same time about a goonda killing a young lady who was attending her exams. Both these stories are examples of the atrocities of men against women. There are thousands if not millions of such stories that we don’t hear about, but happen everyday. My friend and I felt sad for a couple of days. We reflected on our inability to do justice to the victims, and reflected on why such things are happening? Well for sure the article is an output of our disbelief. I am going to raise the issue every opportunity I get.
Dowry is simply taking someone’s money for the sake of marriage. Marriage in my definition is an act of a man and a woman getting together and living life together. The day-to-day sharing of chores, life, companionship, love, living, happiness, difficulties and adjustments are part of the arrangement as long as it lasts. If people are lucky this is a joy for a lifetime.
I am not sure or how this practice of dowry came into existence in India, but there are enough references in our mythology and old books to believe that the practice has been around for centuries. Dowry was I believe a form of gift giving between families to help with establishing a new life, and help with creating a base for the new couple to start from. We must remember the practice was when women did not work, there was no transportation or communications, and the parents were happy to do this.
The current day practices of demanding dowry, establishing a market price based on what the boy is doing, and after marriage demanding more to cater to the wants of the husband are barbaric practices. My deep concern is that the whole cultural misgivings of our community with this evil issue. In the USA, where basic needs are easy to meet and life is uncomplicated, we don’t need to take money from someone else to buy things. The new immigrants both men and woman seem to be looking at the opportunity of being in the USA as an opportunity to attract a spouse for money or for immigration. Both practices are deplorable.
In the olden days a woman did not right to inherit a share of the ancestral property, and when she was married the family gave some of its wealth to its child. This was a good way for parents to equally distribute wealth to all children. In today’s society dowry has become such entrenched practice it simply is evil.
Cash, gold, land, durables, consumer goods, vacations, homes, cars and whatever demands the boy’s folks have the girl’s folks are obliging. In most cases they don’t have the money to buy all this stuff so they end up borrowing. When their own boy gets married they try to get this from their prospective bride’s family and try to pay off their debts. This cycle of money transfer in its crudest form is being perpetuated on the burden of families with girls. Dowry also has become a vehicle to satisfy the unfilled wants of the husband’s family by demanding unreasonable sums from the girl’s family. It has somehow become acceptable in our community to continue to demand large sums of money and extravagant gifts long after you are married.
I thought our society believed that a girl was Lakshmi, our goddess of wealth. What more does a man want but a beautiful girl to spend life with? If you are lucky and find a beautiful partner, life becomes simple, satisfying and fulfilled. Throwing in the ingredient of dowry demeans the institution of marriage. Hearing of wife killings, wife beatings, continued harassment of in-laws is beneath human dignity.
Every person I spoke to on dowry condemns it. Every person who is willing to speak on dowry doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. But at the same time in my questioning the guys who got married, they all admit to taking money or gifts or something when they got married. Some guys I have been acquainted for a long time have taken money, and don’t think anything of it. Just imagine what would a poor man do if the educated and middle class Indians who live in USA take money in return for marriage? How come we have become so casual about demanding money from the girls? How come the wife beatings, wife killings and wife burnings are common practice? How come we cannot find simple ways to part from each other if things don’t work out? How come our society that is known through the ages for Dharma and Karma tolerate such practices?
After the 1970s there is some action from women’s groups and forums on protesting dowry. The government has banned dowry but looks the other way, and has not put any laws to prevent and necessary punish the culprits. The police or the law simply ignored the incidents of abuse. The boy’s family participates in the demands made to the girl’s family. Friends and relatives don’t give any thoughts to the suffering of the girl’s family. So what are we to do? How do we stop the abuse and may be start the reversal of the evil system.
I am not asking for overnight and instant change to our marriage practices. I don’t expect it. I only want to raise the issue as a disease to be controlled and eventually eliminated. I only want all our lakshmi’s to be worshipped and not abused. I only want the community to voice for progressive changes to eliminate evil from our illustrious and wonderful heritage.
As in our mythologies, when evil was ruling the world, the Almighty came to rescue the civilization. I am not sure if God can make time to come down and kill everyone who wishes a dowry, so us humans can champion the eradication of this disease. I am not sure how much more our civilization can stand the atrocities of dowry, but we, as individuals should protest this evil practice every instance we get. Let us support our own human decency.
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