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In this age where women are at par with men in all respects, why do we still cling to the outdated idea of the ‘superiority’ of the ladke vaale over the daughter’s parents?
In today’s urban India parents raise their girl child just as equally as they would raise a boy child. They encourage the girl to study, play and compete with her peers. She is free to pursue higher studies, travel far and wide and quite sometimes even to choose her life partner. On every achievement, she is applauded and parents take pride in not only introducing her but also being introduced as her parents.
Why then, are the same parents expected to feel small or little once she is married? Why do the ‘boy’s parents’ get the upper hand in everything right from the wedding venue to taking care of the grandchildren? Why this unsaid rule that the girl’s parents should always be the lesser ones and treat the boy’s parents as though they are god-like?
To understand the roots of this practice, let us travel back to centuries ago when dowry or the dahej pratha was established. That was the era when women married very early, sometimes even in their teens.
Women weren’t as educated as they are today. As they had poor to no education, and their skill set was limited to household chores. The place for them in the society was to procreate and to run a household. Not that parents didn’t love their daughters. In fact, they loved them so much that they made sure to find a ‘suitable’ boy & family (read higher in societal stature and financial ability) so that she was secure & could spend the rest of her life in a socio-economic status higher than what she was born with.
After all, that was the only means for a woman to ‘progress’ back then. What studies and work earn us today was brought about by marriage alone in those days. So it was logical that parents gave their loving daughter ‘stree dhan’ which was her right and property for any unforeseen events. The gold, the ornaments, the cash or the kind was all for the darling daughter’s comfort and future.
What started as a security for the bride corrupted and became a right of the groom party. So while the era went by, dowry took shape of something like a barter or a valuation of the groom.
While today’s urban India is not so afflicted with this dowry syndrome, there are other subtle and not so subtle means in which the girl’s parents are burdened. Going broke to entertain thousands of guests over the wedding is still a common thing in urban India. Financing the entire wedding and not sharing the load is anticipated.
Expectations of extra aav-bhagat or entertainment prevail even after years of the wedding. If the groom and his parents are to be called over, the entire household has to slog and scrub to make sure an extravagant buffet spread is prepared. Gifting the entire family and extended family lavishly on occasions is prevalent. And even on non-occasions, one is expected to gift, because ladki ke ghar khaali haath kaise jaayein? (It is inappropriate to visit the daughter’s marital place empty handed).
Times have changed and so should the mindset of today’s parents, whether the girl’s or the boy’s. No more is the girl a reliant being who depends completely (especially financially) on the marital family. She is the co-breadwinner, more for practical reasons than for fancy ones. She can very well look after herself and her partner and kids. She has a say in her own home which she and her partner set up, so then why should her parents still feel small?
Or in other words, toh kya aap ab bhi ladki ke ghar ka paani bhi nahi peeyenge?
Image is a screen grab from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam