Pan Indian Marriages Part II
It is probably natural progression to start a continuum to Pan Indian marriage blog with dowry. Surprising this did not occur even before I thought of writing on marriage, probably because the issue did not raise its dirty head in my childhood. Or in my marriage! My parents were bogged down even otherwise with whatever expenditure they had to incur. I never became poor with lack of money thankfully or rich for that matter with money. Dowry is not about money, it is about the power structure seeped in the patriarchal South Asian society, India very much included. In this Twenty first century it still exists in some parts of India, with its tentacle gnawing at not only the self esteem of girls about to get married, but corroding the air they breathe before and after marriage. It is some of the rich, educated and cultured in Rajasthan who cover this virus with so called traditional values. Since I am sitting in Rajasthan I name it but other parts of India are just as much on the rack.
I will share something to give hope. A student in Foundation Women’s Studies class (probably 2012) said she wanted to share something about her mother. Her mother did not want to get married. There is one group of Indians who advertise for marriage in Newspapers. So this young girl told her parents her feelings and suggested that they advertise that only who will not take dowry can approach as their daughter wishes to study further. Her mother was sure that such a family did not exist but she was proven wrong. One set of parents were looking for such a girl who wished to study and they would have nothing to do with dowry. So this student of mine was born to such parents to share about her mother. My mother, her mashis and my pishis were all married without dowry being asked or given. That is a small part of the Indian story about marriage and dowry.
The Dowry Act was made in 1961. Prof Vina Mazumdar, Member Secretary of Committee of Status of Women in India (CSWI) and Founder of Centre for Women’s Development Studies (www.cwds.ac.in) mentioned regarding terms made for the Report for UN meeting that the then Indian Government did not acknowledge the violence against women within marriage inspite of the Act been made. It was up to the women’s movement in late 70s early 80s to campaign against dowry to convert the deaths happening after marriage as murders instead of suicide as they were reported till then. The mothers of daughters burnt for dowry took to street and women spontaneously kept joining. A play was enacted aptly named ‘Om Swaha’ (for details read Radha Kumar’s History of Doing 2018), representing the offering to the fire during yagna, so were women in marriage burnt in fire for the sake of dowry. The media was supportive then. After some time there has been complete silence about dowry as if it had vanished from the Indian landscape.
The marriages I have been attending were mostly in the bracket of ‘money no issue’. Just as problematic as dowry in Indian context is the ritual of ‘kanyadaan’, religiously followed by rich, educated and cultured of this landscape. I am as much party to it, as I did not say anything. Most surprising to me is that to what level boys are socialized to remain silent in the face of this degrading ceremony to accept a living human being wrapped and given as gift! The parents of a girl are hoodwinked into believing that they are doing the best deed of their life by giving away their daughter. These days the pundits who perform the rights sugar coat it to explain the phenomena in English to ‘so called’ modern educated breed. Marriage in Gurudwara is an exception where this ritual has no space. I have not attended any marriage ceremony in South India so I cannot vouch for it being followed but dowry is definitely an issue even in South India. Since I am writing a blog not a research paper I will not try to find out. As it is I have gone into my analytic space more than justified for a blog.
I will share the remaining weddings I attended. My sister has told me umpteen times the linguistic use of marriage and wedding and still I mess them up. Hopefully I will get them in course of writing about them. February 13 was Pratha’s marriage. Pratha is first my friend Toral’s daughter, then the person she has become. I love both of them. I used to make it a point to attend her birthdays till I shifted to Jaipur in 2010. I reserved myself for her wedding too. Toral is born to Gujarati parents and she married Mukesh, a Sindhi. We became friend in 1986 when I joined Happy Hours Nursery school in Khar, Bombay. Thinking of those days is like opening a Pandora’s Box. I will restrict my thoughts from creating an avalanche and stick to marriage. Toral was still dating Mukesh then. My boys were 13 and 12. I had taken admission for them in BPM school in 16th Road Khar, we lived in 15th Road, the school was in 14th A Road and Toral lived in 18th Road all within walking distance. Toral got married, had her first child with blessings from Punu for a baby like him. Yash was a peaceful child and still is peaceful as an adult. I could not attend his wedding. I had met his wife Nupur before they got married.
Pratha grew up to be an artist like Toral. She took to photography. Saw the movie Rangoon, as Pratha was part of the team. All occasions of her marriage had her creative signature. I attended all the functions from Ganesh Puja, an essential beginner for all Hindu occasions, to post wedding Cocktails even though for a little while. I avoided the wedding ceremony for did not want to be witness the kanyadaan. I appreciated immensely the venue for the ceremony decorated with only green, leaves of different shapes and sizes. I saw an entirely different Toral draped in western gown in the last function. It is only at the time of marriage I got to know that the boy was from a similar field as Pratha and Maharashtrian. Toral Mukesh had got a house made for Pratha. Yash and his family, with a new member had come from Australia. I had the privilege to spend some time with the new member, infants know no boundaries. Everyday menu was of different region. The first day it was an unusual South Indian spread, neither Sindhi, nor Gujarati, nor Marathi. Of course being in Bombay never thought idli, dosa and sambar to be South Indian, for me and most Bombayites it is as much local as vada pao. No wedding is complete without mention of food, there were crisp hot jalebis.
I have to move to the other weddings I attended but Toral keeps coming before my eyes. Toral has been a dear friend much younger in age. When she married Mukesh, they became one couple dear to me. Even as I attended Pratha, her daughter’s marriage Toral and Mukesh’s struggle with life swam through the festivities. Throughout their life not once has it been visible that they were in any sort of discomfort. Every year they celebrated Ganpati puja in their home with faith and relish. With a gypsy nature I knew just like my sisters’ Toral and Mukesh’s home was a space of comfort for me. So for now thanks to all ‘grihast’ persons who have inherent in them to support others, walk a little extra towards providing comfort to whoever needs it, like Toral and Mukesh, who worked to remain happily married throughout their life. They are not Sindhi, Gujarati, Bombayites, Indians, Hindus, they are just two beautiful human beings to me, who somehow let me believe in the illogical marriage system otherwise I have no faith whatsoever!
The other weddings will have to wait for now…..