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!.