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Poonam, my maid, currently puts up in a hut (a kuccha house) with no electric supply. The other day, I was generally asking her why she doesn’t move to a cemented room (rooms specially made for maids here). She will have a better life there as it will have an electric supply as well. She told me that such rooms are very expensive and will cost her around 4 k extra per month. And, she can’t spend so much on a room right now because she has to save money for her daughter’s wedding, who is now 15. Out of curiosity, I asked her how much typically their family needs for a daughter’s wedding. And, this is how our conversation went:
Me: So, how much would you need for the wedding?
Poonam: Depends on the groom didi.
Me: But, approximately how much?
Poonam: Well! If I want a well settled guy for my daughter, who would give her a decent life, I will need at least 2-3 lakhs.
Me: Oh! That's a lot of money.
Poonam: Yes didi. Actually, the more you spend the better guy you get. If I spend less, my daughter will have to do a lot of work after the wedding. My father got me married in just 12-15 k and I was expected to work the entire day. My husband had a big family – his parents and six younger brothers. I used to cook for everyone, wash their clothes, and then work in other houses too. I used to be completely drained by the end of the day. I don't want my daughter to lead that life. You see, if I spend more, she can have an easy life. Basically, we have to buy grooms for our daughters (humein ladke kharidne padte hain apni betiyon ke liye).
I was shocked to hear the last sentence. I kept wondering the entire day about what she had said. And, then I realized, it’s bitter but it’s the truth. Weddings in India have actually become a business. Grooms' parents have a price tag attached to their sons. And, the brides' parents have a set budget for their daughters. Only if the budget matches the price, the deal can be agreed upon. And, it applies to all classes of the society.
I remember when I was in school; there was this guy in my class who came from a village. He used to stay in my school’s hostel. One day, I got to know that every time his father came to school, he carried a register with himself. He used that register to keep a track of every single penny spent on his son since birth so that he could claim that amount from his bride’s family. And, I was shocked. I wondered why a father would claim the money spent on his son from his wife’s family. But, I guess this is what the typical mind-set of a large group of people of the society is, which is really really sad.
As per the Indian law, both giving and taking dowry are criminal offences. But, people continue to ask for dowry without any guilt or fear and those who are giving are doing so because they have no option. If they have to get their daughters married, they have to agree to the groom’s family’s demands.
But, it needs to be stopped – because it claims so many innocent lives every day, every month, every year. It needs to be stopped because it creates discrimination between a girl and a boy child since birth. It needs to be stopped because it makes even the most stupid boys feel superior and even the most intelligent girls feel inferior. And, it needs to be stopped because it’s wrong in every way.
And, hopefully, one day our society will change and this evil practice will stop. Till then, let's keep raising our voices and doing our bit to contribute to this cause in every possible way.
Thank you for reading my blog!