Destination Matrimony

My domestic help  has been very worried ever since the day her daughter’s marriage got fixed.  The  reasons being financial .  The groom’s family has  demanded a motorbike, one lakh rupees cash and 15 “savaran” gold ( Whatever that might be!!!).  In addition to this she also has to provide for a bed, an almirah and kitchen utensils. While we had offered to  sponsor the bed, she now finds herself falling short of the Rs 1 lakh by about RS 70000. She was in a state today telling me that unless she arranges for that in some way  the marriage may not take place as planned .
I repeated what I had asked her earlier. Why was she getting her daughter married to someone who was making so many demands ? 

“What do you mean, Amma  I can’t keep the girl at home all her life can I. And anyway she is already twenty nine years old?”

But wasn’t her daughter working as a sales girl in an up market boutique in our neighborhood and earning around Rs 10000 a month? According to her mother, she has bought the jewelry with her savings.  However this is not something the mother is proud of because the daughter has been taunting her mother about her inability to pay for it!! That her mother  has worked hard as a domestic help to educate her and her siblings, paying for everything singlehandedly is of no concern to her. Her father is an alcoholic who  hands in his wages only sporadically, 

The girl’s bad behavior has been something that her mother has been dealing for a while now. She has had these screaming tantrums every now and then for a couple of years where she has accused her  mother of not being able to find a match for her. And now that the marriage has been fixed she expects that her mother would take care of all other expenditure. 

So where is that image popularized by all our Tamil movies/ serials of a poor girl who loves her hardworking mother/father and refuses to marry any fellow who asks for dowry? She obviously does not exist outside of the screen play!

During the days when this girl’s behavior was at its worst I offered to speak to her. But her mother was horrified “Please don’t. She will then take it out on me for sharing this information with you” ! I have heard of abusive husbands doing this. But daughters….?

I tried to put myself in the shoes of a twenty nine year old girl. I think when I was in my twenties my biggest problem in life was the fact that my parents would come up with candidates for marriage on a daily basis. I was in no hurry to give up the freedom that education and a job offered me. My parents were worried and I remember my mother telling me in frustration “ All your friends will get married and  you will be left on the shelf”. 

I think that sentence sort of sums the fears of unwed girls and their parents. The fact that our society instills in a girl the thought right from her childhood that she has to one day get married is the root cause of all trouble. While educated families may do it more subtly the not so educated ones are more direct about it. A girl’s identity is defined by whether she is married or not.  So right from the time she is very young, parents are preparing themselves to fulfill that duty. 

But I wonder why an educated  girl ( or for that matter her parents) who is earning reasonably well should feel insecure about her not being married? Is it a fear of society?  While I can accept societal fear as a reason that might affect parents, I am not sure that is the only reason why a girl might seek marriage. After all  isn’t youth  all about freedom ? So why would a reasonably well educated girl be waiting to give that up at any cost? 

I think the reason in slightly more complex. In a society like ours where  free interaction between boys and girls is frowned upon and the movements of girls are very closely monitored there builds a sexual frustration in their minds after a certain age. This is particularly so in girls belonging to the poorer strata of society. Marriage for them is the only way to get out of it.  

And regarding the dowry bit, I think the movie/television serials have also had their hand in shaping mindsets. A girl is supposed to be “married off” with clothes, jewelry etc being bestowed upon her. If she has to pay for something through her own earnings ( like my help’s daughter has) the parents have supposedly failed in their duty. It is interesting that this ability for a girl to be able to pay her own jewelry ( or bear some expense of her wedding)  is not being portrayed anywhere as an achievement.  

Meanwhile my domestic help is turning absolutely panicky. Dowry amounts unfortunately do not work on an “installment plan”. She is thinking of mortgaging her house- a house for which she ran pillar to post trying to get the documentation of ownership before investing her savings in doing it up. 

“Once I have that girl out of my house and my life I will figure the rest of the things out” she told me today.
I shuddered !!! I guess this is what happens when your life has been a constant plague of problems. As a mother my heart goes out to her. There is a limit to which you can offer yourself as an emotional punching bag!.


  1. I pity your household help. Very unfortunate she has an uncooperative daughter.

    “Once I have that girl out of my house and my life I will figure the rest of the things out”. That will not be the case. The problems are just beginning for her. Such demanding in-laws will ask for more and more stuff after marriage. Her daughter will not resist with the in-laws. She may even join them in asking for more stuff from your household help.

  2. that's bad , the daughter should feel ashamed of her behavior and the mother too should take a stand but as you pointed out that our society is molded in a certain way and that is the root of all evil where a single girl is perceived as a case gone wrong or a meat ball. My heart goes out to that maid too..God will help her.

  3. Perhaps you could have thought of directing her to an NGO who would handle the matter. The grooms party must be in jail. As for the unkind daughter what else can one say.
    It boils down to the sociological misconception that is rammed into girls that marriage is the most important aspect of their life. Wonder when the egregious life styles would change.

  4. @SG you are right about the post marriage"milking" bit. But if my help is lucky she would have a cooperative son in law like her older daughter's husband who pays for the things that his parents demand of his MIL and present it as her offerings !!!

  5. @ Anil the jails would be full to capacity if every groom and his family who asks for dowry is pushed inside. The daughter is stupid and selfish using her mother as an emotional punching bag. A lot of children do that -even in our strata of society. Just that the things they bully their parents about are different.

  6. @ Ankita at the moment Kala's employers are the ones who are getting together to help her as she has generated a lot of goodwill in people through her honesty and her sunny nature that has kept her going despite all these set backs.

  7. The Indian marriage institution is the most over rated one in the world !!!!!!!

  8. That's one sad story among many other sad stories prevelant! and such classic stereotypical situation - alcoholic husband who doesn't support the household and a daughter to marry off. It is very sad that the daughter despite seeing her mom's situation is bring so nasty and uncooperative!

    I think marriage is a beautiful institution as long as individuals get to safeguard their personal identity and are comfortable with each others quirky ways. People have just chosen to ruin it with unnecessary complications! Frankly I do get a mini attack if I see someone who is not married. That is, not as a iski shaadi kyun nahi hui ab tak, but more like "I couldn't go that long without a companion" There is nothing wrong in getting married as early or as late as you please.

    In typical maid case marriages (and also others *sigh*), meeting the dowry demands are just one phase of the entire process... its just the beginning of a whole new circle of recurring demands - right from investment for a new business to birthing a baby boy!

  9. I am really disturbed at the insensitivity of the bride to be. If I can remember, at the age of 29, one of my criteria for getting married was a family which will demand not even a dowry. I agree this does not happen in every family. However, the youngsters, both boys and girls need to take initiative and change the way things are but sadly, things are just the opposite. It is saddening to say what heights of aspirations the girls have for marriage, the events, the garments...and the ones in job since 2-3 years are unable to sponsor their own extravagance. I feel really disturbed at the heights the extravagance and the show of dowry is going and the way the TV serials and Movies are contributing to al this

  10. I think this behaviour on the part of the bride is pretty common.. I have seen it happening in well to do families where the bride is earning well around 6 - 7 lakhs per annum and dowry amount is around 10 - 21 lakhs.. The bride it seems is pretty happy about boasting how her parents are capable and are providing so much dowry ..


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