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.