Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why the dowry ‘show’ goes on

 “Come and see the Pashmina shawl I’ve bought for my daughter’s wedding” invited my friend Neela.  “It’s hand-embroidered and cost me Rs. 10, 000”.. Out of sheer curiosity to see what a 10 grand shawl looks like, I sacrificed my Saturday afternoon nap and went across to Neela’s. 
The shawl naturally was fabulous.  Neela then laid out all the other beautiful things she had acquired over the years, for her daughter’s trousseau- there were hand woven pillow cases, delicately crocheted bedcovers; lace-edged handkerchiefs; table-line and a host of other things that took my breath away. 

   “You know, ever since my Tina was born, I’ve been buying expensive articles which will make her home look grand” boasted Neela.  “My relatives will be green with envy.”
It is but natural that mothers like to gift their children with the best. But should it be publicly displayed?  It is this exhibition that breeds unhealthy competition and greed. 
In most marriages, parents make it a point to display all that they’ve bought for their daughter, in a special room.  This room is often the focal point of attraction where the women throng.  A thorough scrutiny is made of the items, some even pick up silver articles to weigh them and calculate their possible cost. 
Comparisons are made to previous weddings attended and the performance gauged according to the quantity and quality of the articles on show.  Criticisms are leveled against mothers who have not had the foresight to buy things when cheap and collect a sizable treasure. It is indeed paradoxical that women agitate against the dowry system and demand laws to regulate or abolish them.  The acquisitive tendency in a woman and her desire to ‘show off’ has been the root cause of the dowry business.  Tea and coffee can be served in any cup or mug.  But women want to lay out the most expensive crockery and take pride in saying that it is part of their wedding ensemble.
Men rarely concern themselves with these trivialities.  Of course, they insist on taking hard cash.  But here again, indirectly it’s the women who are to be blamed as they make such impossible demands on their husbands that they are forced to resort to extortion. Considering the influence that women have over their men folk (as against the myth that they are oppressed) they should curb their desire to outshine their counterparts in ‘giving’ to the daughter or daughter-in-law.  Every parent will give what he or she can to the offspring.  No law need interfere in this personal matter.  But this ‘giving’ is often thrust upon parents which leads to problems.    
 More than clamping down legal restraints, women should exercise self-control on their needs and desires.  It’s all very well to call dowry a social evil and condemn it on the one hand and go to Kashmir to buy a Pashmina shawl for Rs. 10,000 on the other.  Worse still, to make it an occasion to invite friends to gush over it. Let’s face it, as long as we women make a virtue out of the vice of displaying our wealth, the dowry evil will continue- law or no law.