Brought up in Patna and working in Kolkata, Neha’s life was nothing less than a dream come true. She had a job she loved and which paid her enough to take care of her family on her own. But her mirage was shattered by the society that judged her based on her looks and marriageability. Even though she has turned 36, she couldn’t find the right groom to marry. Every groom rejected her for her looks but accepted her on the condition that her parents were ready to pay a huge amount of dowry.
Finally, Neha’s marriage was set in a family of Mau, Uttar Pradesh. Everything was in place- rishta approved, marriage halls booked and invitations distributed. But then, on the break of the day, the groom called Neha’s parents and said that he needs 9 lakh rupees and a car to take the marriage forward. What was the reason that he gave for his demand? That the groom is earning and needs to be respected. This is even though Neha herself is a Bank manager and earns lakhs of rupees.
So what will Neha’s parents decide? Will they agree to the demand and marry Neha off to a greedy man? Or will they break the rishta and wait for more? Neha is my cousin. I know what her parents are going through. I have overheard conversations in which Neha’s mother lost her stability in hopelessness and tears. “What does my daughter have in her fortune,” she constantly whimpers. The propensity of the parents, like many others, is to collect the amount and somehow pay the demands of the groom. But is this fair? Should Neha’s parents or any other parents agree to every demand of the ladke walas?
In our society groom’s family’s demands is valued beyond the requirement. Everything they say or demand is revered as a line on stone. The major reason behind this is the idea that a women’s marriage determines her legitimacy. If she is married and at the right time, she is considered to have “settled down” in life securing her and her family’s reputation. Without marriage, a woman becomes a threat to the family and society. She is shamed for not being good enough to be accepted by a groom and his family. In other words, a woman’s acceptance or rejection by the groom’s family decides a woman’s eligibility, not her success, nor her achievements.
Isn’t it common for parents to blame their daughters for being “different” when grooms reject them back to back? Another cousin of mine faced the same problem. Many grooms rejected her in marriage. But the parents decided to blame the daughter by excavating her history of affairs or friendships with boys. Not only parents, but society too finds fault in a woman’s character if she constantly rejected in marriage
In such cases, it becomes almost essential for women to be accepted by the groom and his family in the first meet. The yes or no of the groom has the power to determine how the entire life of the woman will pan out.
But the question is that who gives grooms that power? Who makes the groom’s family the determined of a woman’s fate? Why don’t we blame the grooms for the faults they have?
We live in a society where damaads are valued as princes for agreeing to marry a woman. Their demands are upheld and they are given huge respect even though he is not as successful and good as the woman/wife. In some families, including mine, there is a custom of washing the feet of the damaad as a token of respect. In such cases how can we expect families to see the faults in the grooms? How can they slam the grooms for disrespecting brides?
In Neha’s case, it is clear that the groom is at fault. He takes pride in being a man and an earning man, disrespecting the woman who has also worked hard to earn a job. He is even a criminal for demanding dowry along with the bride which has been banned year’s ago in India.
But despite all this, parents are willing to bend down, blindfolding themselves to the wrongs that the groom and his family embody. How long will parents value men for their gender and devalue women for the same? How long will society judge women for the mistakes they have never committed? Because it is not a fault of a woman that she was born as a woman, had unique facial features, decided to live as per their choice or put her foot down if they don’t agree with something. How long will marriage be about men demanding and women fulfilling? How long before we understand that marriage is a relationship of equals not of power relations?
Views expressed are author’s own