In middle class families, when a girl reaches her marriageable age, a mother mourns not much for finding a suitable match for her daughter. Her main headache is the unaffordable wedding budget.
Dowry is openly given and accepted even today. If a girl’s parents are rich enough, they give a truck full of house-hold stuff like refrigerator, television set, washing machine, air-conditioner and a four-wheeler vehicle to their super cool son-in-law as a ‘gift’. That clever son-in-law refrains mutely but under the pressure of the elders involved gives in and accepts it all later. He is labeled as being humble. If some girl’s parents are not rich, cannot afford to give these extra gifts, still go for planning and saving money to save their reputation at the time of their daughter’s marriage and in a hope that their daughter won’t be harassed after marriage for dowry.
The average budget of an Indian middle class family in North India starts from Rs. 7 lakh. If a daughter is the eldest or an only child, then this amount may increase easily to Rs.15 lakh and end up somewhere within Rs. 25 lakh. For marriages involving people, who are lawyers, doctors and IPS officers, this amount is laughable. It may straight shoot up to Rs. 1 crore. The reason often given is that as these marriages happen only once in everybody’s life, families see to it that they parade around and show it to the whole world that it’s their beloved daughter’s marriage. Of course, nobody thinks about the whole point of spending so much money extravagantly becoming useless, if the same marriage turns into a divorce later.
In my family, people spend money on marriages as if there is a money plant in our back yard that actually grows Indian rupee notes on its branches. I have seen women growing anxious when the final moment of truth arrives, their daughters are about to get married and they start looking uncomfortably at their bank accounts. There are still men around who turn away in disgust whenever a girl child is born, because that would amount to spending lots of money on her marriage later.
I argue with my mother over this issue many times. She is firm on her thoughts. If we don’t give away dowry and do not spend lakhs at the time of my marriage, the boy’s side may feel unhappy and trouble me later. When I’ll be troubled, she will be heart-broken too. When I say anything about court marriages and even community marriages, she becomes fed up. The society will not accept it, she tells me. And I know for a fact that my traditional thinking grandparents certainly won’t. A marriage means spending money on catering, dresses, band walas, photographers, video recorders, travel tickets, guests, relatives, dowry and four wheelers. Even if a future groom has his own Volkswagen, he wants another priced trophy in his personal collection by his future-in-laws. Even when a boy’s side is well maintained financially, they want a Sony Bravia T.V set (without a Tata Sky connection) and the latest available washing machine in the market. This is baffling to me. A bride’s side gives dowry under the name of ‘gifts’ and a groom’s side, not to dishonor the opposite party, accepts it graciously. Here both the parties are at fault.
Every father loves his daughter. I know that when the time comes, my dad too will fall in this stupid trap just to see me getting married off to a good family. Good family? It means a rich family and a man straight from an IIT or an IIM. Why? So that I would be guaranteed to be kept happy by my in-laws and my future would be secured. A groom’s education is directly proportional to a demand for dowry nowadays. A teacher, teaching in some unpopular school may demand a two-wheeler and that’s considered acceptable. But when a groom works in a government job, the dowry money increases with the velocity of a rocket launched from Earth straight into space. I have told him many times that why to agree for such an alliance when the other party wants not your daughter but your money. He keeps quiet and frowns. He just doesn’t want to see his daughter remain in the house forever just because he said no to every boy’s side that demanded open dowry. When I tell him that I don’t have any problem with staying at home, he frowns further and my mother glares. He explains that I need a life partner at any cost, someone who looks after me when my parents are not there to do that job. Now how to argue with that statement?
So in a close competition between saving my father’s money (he will never allow me to spend a penny on my own marriage, why are dads like this?) and getting married to a man who wants me and not a flashy BMW, I can see that I am going to get sandwiched easily. It will be a close and tough call. But I am ready for it. As always when anybody tries to pressurize my parents. This whole marriage system has grown into such a painful business. In future, I don’t want to get ‘exchanged’ for a dowry. I am not a commodity or a product on sale. I am a human being who has some feelings. I don’t want my father to spend lakhs on my marriage. I don’t want him to give dowry to any undeserving fool who demands for it. Instead of spending so much on an unpredictable marriage, it is better for him to save it for future health expenses. A father earns every month and accumulates it preciously for his daughter’s marriage, to give it all on that one night and then become bankrupt? No thank you. I don’t want that time to come ever. Period. I'll prefer remaining single.
Marriages are certainly not made in heaven nowadays. If it is so, then I would like to go to hell. Because this heaven sounds costlier. If anybody approaches me and utters “Mujhse Shaadi Karogi?” any time, before asking him “Hum Aapke Hai Kaun?”, I would first dial that special hot seat number to go in Kaun Banega Crorepati and gear up for my future marriage expenses. Only this thing is left to do I suppose. A big sigh.