Several families are ruined beyond repair on account of dowry and ostentatious marriages
The article “Down with Dowry” (The Hindu, Open Page, August 11) is timely. Even though the case study was with reference to a particular community, the scourge remains a hydra-headed monster in other communities as well, the difference being only in degrees.
Simple marriages are talked about more and more, discussed and debated. But rarely practised. Our selfishness and hypocrisy stand in the way of practising what we preach. We always want the other man to start. The more you talked about simple marriages, the more complex it has evolved over the years. Costly and complicated invitations, fully air-conditioned venues, mela-like dining with stalls, a corporate style event management team attending on the guests, ever-increasing items served and entertainment with highly paid artistes are proliferating the simple act of marriage between a man and a woman.
Each one wants to add novelties by spending more. The one who attends such a marriage is immensely happy because he is treated well and floats in a dreamland until his turn comes. Votaries of lavish marriages may advocate specious arguments: We do it once or twice only; how else to exibit our status? Are we not making people happy? The commercial activities benefit society, blah, blah. But are they really in tune with the larger social good which is more important?
The “Ten Commandments” society should seriously adopt if we are to behead this demon of dowry are:
1. Let the rich and famous come forward to conduct simple marriages. Only the rich who have all options can set an example, and not the hapless poor. The rich doing it will be applauded but the same act by the choiceless poor will be ridiculed. The one who can do something but desists from doing so will have a great influence on society.
2. Let us conduct marriage for marriage’s sake and not for business promotion and status declaration. Let the sanctity of marriage be not reduced a deadly cocktail of pomp and vanity. Promotion of business and status can still be done separately so that it does not pollute and spoil the venerable institution of marriage.
3. The money saved can be productively invested in the names of the couple for their future expenses — to buy a house, start a business or spend on children’s education.
4. Let there be a realistic definition of a “simple marriage” with the list of dos and don’ts. This can be done by religious leaders and elders. Let the package include the number of guests, the type of venue, duration and dress. Such “standard marriage” or “economy marriage” will pave the way for simple celebrations.
5. Let the expenses be shared equally by the parents of both bride and the groom. This will instil a sense of accountability in parents. You are liberal when the other man spends; frugal when you have to foot the bill.
6. Give wide publicity to simple marriages — at the venue and outside through the media, which should, in turn, showcase such events. Gradually, simple marriages will become fashionable.
7. Let there be a movement for simple marriages. Catch the boys and girls young and get their pledges before their idealism evaporates in the hot sun of parental greed. Introduce the virtues of simple marriages in curriculum.
8. Let religious and community leaders make an effective propaganda against lavish marriages and dowry. Let them attend marriages performed in a simple manner. Political leaders and cine stars cannot do this for obvious reasons, even though their advocacy will have a better effect!
9. Girls’ education, imparting skills and their empowerment, resulting in financial independence, will gradually kill the monster of dowry.
10. Let every lavish marriage be discreetly watched by the government agencies concerned for purposes of probing and punishing the guilty. Fear of punishment may have a deterrent effect.
Money spent lavishly on marriages hurts social stability and happiness. Several families are ruined beyond repair on account of dowry and ostentatious marriages. Follow these commandments so that the girl child gets her legitimate share of pride in society.
(The writer, a tax consultant, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)