How My Parents Met: No Dowry, Please
by Priyanshi Singhal
This article is part of a new culture series called "How My Parents Met," which showcases various cultures in the context of love and marriage.
It was 1:43 PM.
She was sitting in front of her mirror putting on a bindi and braiding her hair. She was dressed in her best - a tangerine sari that her mother said brought out her golden complexion and olive eyes. She argued with her elder sisters about what to serve to the guests, veiling her anxiety over seeing the possible love of her life, the person she’d grow old with.
Clumsily walking towards her gate, wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants, he walked nervously. His hair combed back, a confused look spread across his face. She noticed him from her balcony; he was her brother’s best friend. She had only heard of him once before this day but as he walked, she saw him in a whole new light.
That first visit of my father’s at my mother’s house lasted for many hours which turned into days, months and now, a lifetime.
Both of their parents couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. They were of similar economic backgrounds, had known each other for several years and practiced the same values – this match was made in heaven. Her sisters giggled teasingly while she blushed, finding it hard to make eye contact. He, on the other hand, couldn’t help but stare at her hypnotizing beauty which he still praises to this day.
No matter how heavenly this match seemed, the future brought a problem nobody could’ve foreseen.
Dowry is a popular concept in India wherein the bride’s family presents the groom’s family with gifts, often in the form of financial sums, cars and in extreme cases, houses. What started as a practice meant in goodwill, turned into a business arrangement, something that would be a make or break in talks of marriage.
Upon the agreement of both my mother and father to get married, my father refused dowry much to everyone’s surprise. A modern approach, a more noble one, my mother respected my father even more. However, problems arose when my father’s family felt so offended by his decision that they put their ties with him on stake, saying that if he didn’t change his decision he would no longer be in relation with them. A step they now regret, it was societal pressure and fear of breaking traditions which forced my father’s family to take such an extreme step. In the end, seeing as how stubborn my father was with his decision and a lot of convincing, the delay was interrupted and the wedding was put back on track!
We often make decisions based upon fear of society, traditional or restrictions placed by certain social constructs but it takes just a thought outside the box, courage and persistence to change the world little by little, a step at a time.