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Until we as a society do not remove the evil of ‘dowry’ from our minds, we are condemned to be guilty of any completely preventable dowry death that happens.
I have met her countless times, but all such meetings remained one-sided, from afar.
I had a fairly busy routine those days. My Master’s degree in journalism and job in a media organization were going on hand-in-hand. I would only give a cursory glance to the newspaper in the morning and would read the rest in bits and pieces as and when I got time throughout the day. However, on Sundays, I would take my cup of tea and the newspaper, along with its Sunday special supplements, straight to the terrace and sit on the marble slab there, which served as a multi-purpose table and gave a bird’s eye view of the street.
I would meet her there. I admit to seeing her sneakily from the corner of my eyes.
She lived in the house right opposite to ours. The family had shifted recently to our locality and it was her maternal granny’s house. Her parents lived in some nearby village and she was sent to the city for better education and a better life, of course! Her rosy complexion, prominent features, naturally kohled expressive eyes, and petite figure typified youthful charm and freshness.
She must have been around twenty-two, but her demeanor explained her naivety. I would mostly see her playing with her little nephews. She could be seen laughing boisterously on jokes standing in the middle of the street and playing marbles with a coterie of her little friends. She would ride a bicycle with her buddies and sang songs with them when the electricity went off as if trying to dispel darkness with her sweet voice. She would dance and drench herself when it rained. To me, she personified both beauty and innocence. I always found myself drawn towards her, but could never break the ice.
One day I got to know that she was getting married. I usually shied away from attending parties and gatherings, but just could not resist from seeing her as a bride. She looked ravishing in her bright orange wedding lehenga-choli with Kundan work all over. Her face radiated with the glow a bride carries naturally. Looking so different from the carefree lass who played in the street with her friends hitherto, she accepted my best wishes with a blush.
Days passed by and her memories, which were already faint in my mind faded away completely. I got busy with my exams and then, one fateful morning I woke up to heart-rending cries from the neighborhood. Cries that confirmed some mishap even without corroborating it. My mother went out and returned with an extremely upsetting news…the young woman across the door had committed SUICIDE!
I was standing aghast, when my mother told me that she had become yet another victim of the dowry system, almost omnipresent in our society. Right after her nuptials, she was harassed for not bringing the desired amount of cash along with her. Her husband and in-laws behaved in a brutal manner if she tried to counter or oppose them. She was not happy with her marriage and her man and wanted to walk away from it, but her parents muzzled her citing that an Indian woman goes to her Sasural in a palanquin and leaves it on bier. And it so happened, she was silenced, silenced forever.
But, her charming face still haunts and compels me to figure out and understand how the parents, who are moved by the small injuries to their darling daughters, turn blind to the wounds she carries on her soul once she is “married off”. We may unanimously blame it on our rotten social system, but the truth remains that no matter how modern we become, our desire to give and take dowry doesn’t seem to diminish. A bride gets respect at her in-laws’ place in proportion to the dowry (let us not pass it off as gifts and hide our greed) she brings with her.
But, with rising number of dowry deaths, isn’t it high time to decide whether we want to do away with this perverted system which thrives across all social classes in India though banned here for 50 years now or want to keep putting lives of our innocent daughters at stake? I would especially request our youth to give it a serious thought and before demanding anything from your parents (even girls don’t lag behind in asking for gifts during their weddings) or parents-in-law, please think of the repercussions it may bring, if not for you, for others.
Published here earlier.