Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rituals and etc

The past several days mom and I have been hearing various anecdotes related to weddings and rituals and customs and practices. 
One of the strangest accounts our therapist told us, where her son-in-law belonging to a smaller town down south had an interesting demand. It was the first Deepavali after the daughter had been married. Hence they had gone for the customary visit and to deliver gifts that are expected of their family. On the day of Deepavali they offered oil for the traditional oil bath in a bronze bowl to the son-in-law and he would just give the bowl a look at it and refuse to take it from them, without giving any reason. "Etti etti paathutte irundhaaru... enna nne sollala she said". The lady then felt something must be wrong and by the time they got it out of him that the oil must be offered to him (as was the custom in their town/family) in a silver bowl, which must contain sesame oil and a gold ring of a certain weight, it was late afternoon.
Being Deepavali, they had to go and ask a jeweler to open the store, buy these in a hurry and give it to him. “Andha aattam poattaaru avaru” she said. She somehow has a very hilarious way of narrating such stories that most of her listeners would be laughing.
What struck me most is (opinion based on personal accounts I have heard) that a lot of people in the lower economic strata have unfair demands on a girl’s family. As a society with its various rungs, don’t we all by default know how much another family of our own strata would be able to afford?
With a wedding, a girls’ family falls into debt, (not from banks mind you, coz banks won't fund them) but with the usual kandhu vaddi, meter vaddi kinda lenders. Small wonder Indians would rather not have girl children, because the society punishes a family that has a girl child. I tweeted about this yesterday and got a few responses on the affluent and the dowry system prevalent there specifically naming some social groups in India. My tweet was more in the lines of people who can ill-afford expenses. 
A marriage, for me, is only a social custom that recognizes a man and a woman as a couple so that may  now legitimately procreate. A social custom 'sanctified' according to various beliefs. 
Various customs and practices have been introduced in society and as it changed some more introduced/eschewed tailoring them to the cultural or societal needs at a given point in time.
Culture/Society is one of the most dynamic aspects IMO, constantly evolving. Nothing is, or can be written in stone. Sati was an accepted and endorsed social custom. The women of a land considered it better to die than be ill-treated by the enemy. How that went on to become an aberration until social activists changed the face of it, we studied in school, albeit briefly.
At some point women were educated too. I am yet to understand when people started saying women no longer need education. However, I presume the upper echelons of most world societies continued to educate their women to a certain extent. 
Somehow this concept of dowry baffles me. How a lot of groups in India believe that, the sole qualification of being a man or having a male child is enough to keep demanding one thing after another of the girl’s family when it comes to marriage. 
Unless the mindsets change, no law or lawmaker can do much, I guess.


Sri said...

First want to wish you a very Happy Diwali!

Even i have heard a lot of rituals surrounding the Thalai office friends presented me with a 4 gm gold coin for my wedding and i gave it to my Mom to give it to my hubby for the Thalai husband doesnt believe in all this but i remember MIL telling him to carefully bring the gold that my parents would gift him for Deepavali..

Dowry has various legislation banning it but is still practised freely across various you rightly mentioned, most people treat a girl child as a burden...barring a handful of educated families, most perceive 2 daughters as a shame on the family...

Hope our society changes for the better...

Sowmya Gopal said...

I think the girl's families have to take their share of the blame. Why agree to marry someone by giving dowry in the first place ?!?!?! This means you effectively accept that you are inferior and the man is infact doing you a favour by marrying you ! Parents, who worry about a smoker or a drinker, hardly seem to notice that anyone who makes such unreasonable demands from them and wants to enjoy life based on someone else's hardship is not a decent human being ! If you have to sell your house and pay the money to convince someone to marry your daughter, then could you stop for one minute and wonder what your daughter has done to receive this sort of treatment from you as well as spend her life with a creep who expects this ?!

Krishnan NS said...

Mindset of parents need to change for this. Even now, while many next generation parents say they love girl child would still be longing for a boy, and feel family is complete only with a male heir. I have seen this with many of my friends, who have a girl child first and say they wanted a girl child only etc., but try to have a boy as second kid. And on other hand, friends who have got boy child do not look for a second kid as such & a baby girl in particular..

Also, shouldn't boys be paying dowry, for girls are in short supply :)

Poornima Srinath said...

Hi Chinmayi, Read some posts from your blog. I am so tempted to post my comments on this topic.Change alone is changeless. Soceity will change for the best as we become more cultured! The days are not far behind :)

I would like to share an interesting custom of African people regarding dowry. I live in Joburg, SouthAfrica. Though many Africans follow Christianity, when it comes to wedding, they follow african culture in which the boy who wants to marry a girl must give what is known as "LOBOLA" or dowry. This used to be cows in the olden days and now-a-days they pay money. The amount is decided by the girl's family and if the boy cheats the girl then the value of the girl will go high. This system is followed by people across all strata. The boy will get all rights including children only when lobola is fully paid. At times they will end up not marrying because the money is not paid. This protects the dignity of the girl/ woman. They consider this as the commitment from the boy towards the wellbeing of the girl.

When I knew about this custom I was awestruck especially coming from the background where I have heared of female infanticide and hatred for dowry reasons! The tables might turn in our country too :D