While reading the ‘Sindh story’ by Kewal Malkani, I was fascinated by the fact that Gandhiji was quite-horrified by the Sindhi custom of ``Deti-Leti'' (Dowry) particularly among the Amils.
Gandhiji added: ``The Amils of Sindh are probably the most advanced community in that province. But in spite of their entire advance, there are some serious abuses of which they seem to have monopoly. Of these the custom of ‘Deti-Leti’ is not the least serious.... The parents should so educate their daughters that they would refuse to marry a young man who wanted a price for marrying and would rather remain spinsters than be party to the degrading custom.''
That was way back in 1934, more than seventy years ago.
In this era, women are more educated and independent, and have faith in themselves, some of them are also in higher positions, earning four figure salaries. But the ‘Dowry’ custom has still not been eradicated from our culture. Only it is done in more sophisticated way.
Recently, I had attended a wedding which was done in a very lavish way. The exchange of gifts and parties between the families (brides/groom) was astounding.
Grooms family says, “We don’t want anything, whatever you wish to give, it will be for your daughter” and in whispers they will say ‘Keep the honor of my family’ (whatever that means)
Bride’s mother says, “Do I have to give such a lavish party?’
Groom’s mother says, “What can I say. You know the rules. Honor must be restored. Just keep my family happy” and I wonder why bride’s family should worry about pleasing the groom’s extended families.
Sometimes I wish young boys (groom-to-be) make it very clear to their parents that they are not up for sale. He should use his own money to bring a bride for himself and not tax her parents. If, on other hand, the bride’s parents insist on giving some gifts to their daughter then a Sindhi youth is supposed to be sensible enough to invest all the money for their better future rather than waste all that money in the lavish parties.
But, what can we really do to educate the illiterate parents who embarrass their children by asking/or giving a ‘price’?
The give-take relationship that is done in casual way, out of friendship, is the normal way of life in Sindhi society but give-n-take transaction, if done out of compulsion, or to keep the (honor) of the extended family, is an unnecessary evil.
These practices have been so deep rooted that until we ourselves take effort to eradicate it from its root it will be difficult to fight against these social menaces.
The world is changing and I see youth of today are more mature and self-reliant. They consider gifts as unnecessary charity and some of them even feel insulted with these gifts. Time has come for young people (who are now earning more than what their parents made in their life time) to take a firm stand and just refuse to exhibit themselves in the retail-marriage-market.
Today when we see the wedding celebrations in the cities, it reminds of the gloss and glamour of Bollywood movies. Even the middle class families celebrate their weddings in Bollywood style.
Today, just like any other commodity in the market weddings have also become commercialized. There are people to plan your wedding. You don't have to spend extra time in thinking about the menu or the venue of the wedding.
And all this luxury costs lot of money, which rich people can afford it and they start these trends which demands an excess burden from not-so-rich families.
Many parents feel obligated in indulging in such practice because they are afraid about their failure to please their daughter’s in-laws might result in endless taunts for their daughter all her life. They are also afraid of being isolated from their relatives and friends if they do not reciprocate in similar lavish parties.
About living the life of endless taunts and allowing people to bully them….....It is deserved by those who have no faith in themselves. How do you feel obligated for not getting him any ‘Dowry’?
Some youngsters are opting for love-marriage outside their community to escape from this menace.
To get married to a non-Sindhi to escape this ‘compulsory exchange of funds’ is not a bright solution to eradicate the social menace called ‘deti-leti’! Getting married outside our own culture requires lot more of adjustments and sacrifices, which is even more painful in the long run.
Only the youngsters of today can end this menace. If they make it very clear to their parents that they are not for 'sale'.
So Be It.
A man who had faith in himself, and a woman, who is brave enough to take a firm stand, can easily survive with dignity.