I am back here to ramble after a long, long break. Life was good, things were happening, hopes and dreams building up…basically I did not have much to complain about this year.
But here I am.
A couple of days back, I was sitting with a few colleagues in our cafeteria and the small talk, in a very expected motion, drifted towards marriages, because presumably, that’s what we should talk about at our age (those ‘chaar-log’ must have set this ‘at our age’ precedent I know…damn! I need to find them).
Incidentally, a guy in the group was looking for a bride since November last year and hadn’t found his ‘the-one’ yet. People started cracking jokes on him on whether he was looking for an Aishwarya Rai (I refuse to acknowledge that I understand this reasoning, even for jokes, when even celebrities like Kangna Ranaut are refusing the moolah for endorsing a beauty product).
Anyways, so while people are taking their turns at interrogating him and giving their invaluable insights on what to do to get a bride within 2 months, I was just a mute spectator. Frankly, I get a little irritated at these kind of gossip sessions.
During the chatter, another female colleague randomly pointed out that maybe the to-be-groom’s father was not getting enough “compensation” from any of the offers and that was why he was not agreeing to the proposals. The guy quickly jumped in to defend his father, giving reasons like one girl was asking to wait for 2 years, another was planning to go abroad for higher studies and peacefully concluded that any kind of “exchange” was not even the remotest reasons.
Here I got my chance to pipe-in and I told them how I had always assumed that dowry was mostly a problem of North India since I had considered South Indians to be quite well-educated and reasonable. At this, the whole gang burst into a loud cacophony. Now consider the demographics of the group. 4 females, 2 North Indian, 2 South Indian, 3 married, 1 Single. 2 guys, both Single. You would imagine the difference of opinion but everyone was bent on at least one point – the dowry system was a problem of all of India and not particularly of any region. That was actually an eye-opener for me (See? There is no end to learning!)
I asked the guy if he or his family did expect any dowry? He obviously replied in the negative. But, it was funny enough when our groom-to-be quietly added that the “stuffs” the bride’s family give at the wedding are actually gifts and not considered dowry. And also, that it’s eons old tradition and cant be fought over. I was curious to know what kind of “gifts” was he actually talking about. I was assuming things like furniture, linens and the usual general things that any newly-wed couple would need to set-up their new house. So I was damned when he said things like a flat, a four-wheeler, cash amounting to crores and the like is normal. I was having trouble digesting the named things already, how to think about “the like”!
I, in my usual blunt mode, blurted – “Which century are you living in? First, you are clearly expecting dowry from the bride’s family and what’s more, you are actually justifying it with claims like these are gifts the family gives to the bride and that its an old tradition? Do you even comprehend the stupidity of your claim?”
He looked stupefied at this. I believe he had never been blasted like this before about his sacred age old “tradition”. He stammered and said – “Sorry I did not hear you clearly. What did you just say?”
Me – “I think you heard me right. You cant justify some foul malpractice by saying it’s an age old custom and everybody follows it. Someone has to speak up.”
Him – “This has been going on for generations. It’s a custom. I cant fight over it with my family”.
Me – “Well then, you are as much a culprit as them. A mute spectator is more guilty of the crime than the one committing it. Plus, you haven’t even tried.”
Other people realized this was going towards a heated argument and tried to change the topic. I was furious but wise enough to understand that this was neither the time, nor the place to debate over the matter. So I got into my listening mode again and after a few minutes, excused myself to attend a meeting.
When I got up to leave, the guy quietly said, “You know, like I said, dowry or gift, whatever you want to call it, was not the reason of rejection of any of the proposals.” I could only reply, “I did not pay much mind to it then, but now, I seriously doubt it. And you might want to contemplate the point of your having an A-grade Master’s degree if you cant differentiate between right and wrong and take a stand for your own opinions.”