The Malevolence of Dowry
Marriages are made in heaven and celebrated on Earth. Almost every invitation card has these lines inscribed at the top. The association, that is marriage, is a pure belief of making two people, halves of each other, whole forever. This association needs nurturing and proper care, every moment of each day. Just to be extra sure everyone understands the chaste notion of marriage, it is important to emphasize that this union requires responsible, honest, and forgiving individuals, with a lot of mutual respect. Above all, what is essential for a successful matrimonial alliance is letting go of social disparities, statuses, and evils that malign the whole idea of such a bond. One of these highly practised evils is dowry.
Dowry, in itself, is an art. How? People, knowledgeable and clever enough to trick the opposite party into bringing in dowry on their own without sacrificing the former’s image, are undoubtedly artists. There are many families who shamelessly ask for gifts on part of the bride but one must say these are fewer in number. There are others who don’t demand anything at first or all through the courting period but as soon as the wedding date approaches, either through the middleman or indirectly during conversations, lists are given out. Another group starts demanding dowry after marriage, occasionally throwing in phrases that signify their incessant need to attain material possessions from their daughter-in-law. Not withholding their greed, threats often accompany such conversations much to the chagrin of the new bride. The whole situation worsens if news reaches her parents. They would, of course, want to keep their child safe so they obediently comply, satiating the ego of the gluttonous in-laws.
Dowry comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it is piling up gold biscuits, jewellery, and/or home furnishing while for others it has an even profound value. They like to amass land, automobiles, and/or huge sums of money from the bride’s parents. The notoriously interesting fact is that these families don’t even require such assets most of the time. They already own a well defined house, with cars, and ornaments. To top it off, many are filthy rich too. While some are not, the majority are well educated. Why, then, do they need dowry is a conundrum. With such dexterous cabaret going on, what each family expects does not end even here. For every occasion, festival, birth, or death, they make sure to put forth honest opinions regarding any requirement. Wazwan is the need of the hour even when a one-foot-in-the-grave great-grandmother visits. A variety of specialities arriving before the main course should be artfully decorated and served. If God forbid these whims are not catered to, on any occasion, the guest party makes sure to issue daily reminders to the hosts. These situations have an effect opposite to the desired on the two families where instead of respect, hostility thrives. Consequently, the host makes sure to pray such guests never set foot in their household. This, here, de-sanctifies the whole concept of marriage. Nonetheless, it is true. Combining all the above scenarios, what we perceive is the art of dowry warping the art of a healthy matrimony.
To make sure their child is not harmed or feels uneasy, parents make sure to provide her more than necessary on the pretext of providing gifts. These ‘gifts’ are, in reality, gifts not for the daughter but for the family she is married into. Being cautious of the daughter’s well-being is okay but it is not okay to flaunt what was sent or spent. While making sure the bride is seen as bringing affluence to the family by transporting a truckload of gifts, what these parents don’t realize is that there are others living in the neighbourhood or among their relatives, who can’t. Thus, in addition to fuelling the nuisance of dowry, such families make marriages a forbidden territory to the rest. Grieving the lost beauty and age of their daughters, the middle and low income families are left forlorn. This gives rise to suicides, and many other social menaces in households. Cases of self-mutilation, anger, depression, and decrease in work efficiency are also reported. Making matters worse are those who seek well-off families and brides who can shell out hefty sums, notwithstanding the fact that the girl is leaving her dear home, for their sons. All in all, what is left is dejection on part of intelligent, beautiful, and honest daughters, responsible enough to make a house, a home; but adequately unfortunate in not being able to proffer the opposite party monetary benefits.
People, Kashmiris, should understand that what they call a marriage is actually far from it. Social evils have consumed us to the extent of camouflaging with the landscape of our society, making everyone believe it is the way we should live or breathe. What, in fact, is the virus has been carefully cradled. It has prospered in ways no one can even dream of. With new accessories added to adorn dowry, Kashmir has long forgotten the holy idea of a matrimonial alliance. The pillars of Islam, guiding principles of our religion, and Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW) have all been taken for granted. People comply when these rules correspond in securing their selfish purpose while when essentially applicable, conveniently turn a blind eye. What we, as a society are, is just oblivious Kashmiris, not reverent Muslims.