Dubai: Indian weddings are often elaborate with parents of the bride still going out of their way, even running into debt at times, to make sure it a lavish celebration. It is also customary for them to provide property, cash, gold, cars, furniture etc, usually on the demands of the groom’s family, during the wedding. Failure to do so results in the bride getting harassed. Last week, a young Indian girl Vismaya V. Nair was found hanging at her in-law’s home in Kerala. It was alleged that her husband had been physically abusing her, asking for more dowry.
Gulf News spoke to a cross section of Indian expats – parents and youngsters - to find out what they think of the age-old custom of taking dowry.
This is what they have to say:
An archaic tradition
Swati Raval, 54, has two sons, Abhishek Chandra , 30, working as investment banker in Dubai and Aniket Chandra, 23 an engineer by profession.
She said education helps raising awareness against the archaic tradition of taking dowry, unfortunately still prevalent in India. “An educated boy will never sell himself. He will have the confidence and charisma to attract a girl for who he is. Personally as a mother of two sons, I know that when my sons get married, I will get two daughters. I cannot imagine asking anything from them. It makes me feel sick even thinking about it.”
Swati said she belongs to a Brahmin community from Gujarat. “My ancestors belong to Chitroda near Ahmedabad. There, we have an age-old tradition called “stree dhan”. When a daughter gets married, it is pre-decided how much the father of the girl will gift the groom to be. At the time of the wedding, the father is expected to show the community what he is giving to his daughter. The community on its part decides a bare minimum to be given as gift whether the person is rich or not. If even one gram of gold is given extra, it is removed from the gift platter. The elders are very strict about this. In cases where the bride’s father is running short, the community pitches in.”
According to Swati, when her sons get married, she will in fact spend on her daughters-in-law. Not just that, Swati has decided her sons’s wedding cost will be equally shared between the bride and groom’s sides. “My parents bore the expenses of my wedding. But I will not do that to another girl who is coming into my family,” she added.
Dubai resident Rina Dave, who has two sons, Anay, 29 and Arjun, 23 both working in New York, feels strongly against the dowry system. “I grew up Mumbai and I would be pained to read and hearing about dowry deaths. One felt so helpless. My parents were well-educated. My husband came from a small town in Madhya Pradesh but he never asked for dowry when we got married,” she said.
According to Rina, traditions are taking a back seat as millennials – both girls and boys -- are changing the way they think with education. A number of them are also getting into mixed marriages where old school ideas of marriage do not exist. “I see my friends’ children all getting married in a 50-50 arrangement. The boy and girl equally pitch in to bear the expenses of the wedding. That is how it should be.”
Rina said in certain cases, parents don’t have a say in their children’s wedding. “It is up to the children as to what they want. They also decide on the guest list. For example, my children have been way from us since 2010. They don’t know all our friends. The parents maybe close to them, but not the children. They don’t want to stand up on a stage on their wedding day and take pictures with people they don’t know.”
‘I put my foot down’
Manish Gupta, 54, business unit head for a private company in Dubai, has a 24-year-old daughter Anya who works in Manhattan, New York. “It is completely unacceptable that the father of a girl has to pay the groom for him to marry his daughter. Equality should be practised in all respects. I completely detest the dowry system.”
Manish recalled when he was getting married, his parents had certain expectations. “But I put my foot down. Every boy or groom should rise and say no to dowry. It is a responsibility for everyone – all the stakeholders.”
A simple affair
Dubai resident Rashmi Malik, 62, mother of two daughters, Tarini Shrikhande, 31 and Aditi, 27, said one of her daughters recently got married. “The wedding was conducted by my niece and it was a simple and beautiful affair. The whole dowry system should be rubbished.”
She said her daughter married an American. “They were both keen on an Indian wedding. My daughter’s in-laws were keen to participate,” she said, adding there was no question of any demands on the groom’s side.
Worst form of begging
Indian expats Anindita Dey, 33, and her husband Ankush Ranta, 34, said their wedding did not involve any dowry. While the bride belongs to Tripura, Ankush is from Shimla. “My father was not alive when we got married. I have an older sister who was already married. Ankush’s parents pitched in a lot for my wedding. They helped so much,” said Dey.
“I feel sad for girls who have to meet dowry demands. It is unfair and ugly. Women are fighting for equal rights and it is everyone’s responsibility to see to it that it comes about,” said Anandita, a former cabin crew, now working as a sales associate for a luxury retail firm.
According to her husband Ankush, taking dowry is the worst form of begging. “It is a taboo for the society and it is the responsibility of a man to say no to dowry.”
Dowry, no way!
Dubai resident, Dimple A, 31, who is currently single, said she would certainly not appreciate her partner or his family asking for dowry. “No way. I am strictly against it. Two people should marry for love, not enter a financial arrangement. If my parents are still insistent on giving me something as a gift, I would prefer cash and would invest the money wisely. I would plan a long vacation with my partner and travel the world to get to know him better.”
‘Let’s change the narrative’
Gautam Laungani, 27, managing partner, Must Dash Dubai, a bespoke men’s grooming salon, said: “Unfortunately, in India, it may seem like the dowry system does not exist, but it does in an unofficial way. Weddings always involve a materialistic exchange of valuables such as gold.”
He said, “I believe the dowry system propagates power dynamics in an already male-dominated society. Having been raised at a place with more women, I realise how unfair the system. More men must actively change the narrative and push against outdated rituals.”
Karan Bhatia, 36, and Priti Goundar, 29, became engaged on Saturday, June 26. The couple, who met in Dubai in January 2021, said they are completely aversed to the dowry concept.
The couple said they both are are sharing the cost of the wedding – scheduled to take place first quarter next year. “I am from Sydney and Karan is from Dubai. His grand-mother who is 94 years old lives in Dubai. So the wedding will be in Dubai. We plan to have a reception after in Sydney.”