Check out 16 Return-To-Work Programs In India For Ambitious Women Like You!
IAS officers - a "catch" in India for whom "high prices" in the form of dowry are offered - and paid
The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie (LBSNAA, or the Academy for short), is just that- an academy where probationers of the IAS (also called the Indian Administrative Service or the Indian Arrogant Service, depending on how you look at it) are trained. There’s nothing at all to see there, and that’s why the spectacle I am about to describe is something that took time for me to figure out.
Every afternoon during lunch break we would go up to our lockers to check for notices and mail, and we would find hordes of outsiders standing around the main lawn gawking at nothing in particular. Well, the Academy is neither a tourist spot nor a shrine, so this did defy logic till I realized these hordes were not actually gawking at nothing, they were gawking at us- the probationers. Mercifully, outsiders were not allowed beyond this locker-reception-lawn area or I’m sure they would have overrun our hostels like an invading army.
These people – men and women, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, many a time accompanied by daughters of ‘marriageable age’ (whatever that means) would stand, stare and fidget; making us probationers fidget in response. One such afternoon I was accosted by one of the more enterprising guardians of a daughter of marriageable age. Are you a probationer here, he asked. It’s rather obvious that I am, I said.
Without much ado he wanted to know my name, caste, creed, residence and the history of my life. I mumbled incomprehensible mumblings and escaped, but some of my less fortunate colleagues were at one time or the other trapped into lengthier conversations, proposals of marriages and offers of dowries made on the spot. We are aloo ke bore – sacks of potatoes waiting to be auctioned- was how a colleague put it after he had barely managed to escape one such inquisition.
By and by I, like many other probationers, learnt to make a wide detour from this danger zone, little realizing that the more enterprising parents of daughters of ‘marriageable age’ would not let things rest. One sunny afternoon I had navigated myself away from this crowd to find a letter in my locker. It began, “Sunil beta, I am Dr. so and so, you’ll remember me, I am a close friend of your father…I need your help…will you be so kind as to send me a list of all your batch-mates who are Kayasthas from UP, MP or Rajasthan, who are in the age group 25 to 29, ideally at least 5’ 7” tall……I’ll be so grateful beta, you remember my daughters don’t you?”
This was incredible! What was I supposed to do? Pick out my batch-mates by state of domicile, find out their castes, measure their heights, confirm their ages, perhaps interview them for good measure, and send the list so compiled to the good doctor? Thankfully, the doctor did not want the list also by skin tone, colour of eyes, body weight, sexual preferences, number of siblings and previous marriages if any.
I did nothing finally, but as I sat down to wonder at these assaults on us hapless probationers, one of my colleagues suggested that I put up the doctor’s letter on the notice board, and possibly some colleague matching the doctor’s requirements would reply. Better still, another recommended, invite him to stand among the daily hordes, and he could just pounce on the first eligible Kayastha who happened to walk by.
And yes, many of my colleagues, Kayasthas, Brahmins, Thakurs and those of every other hue imaginable, did mutate over time into sacks of potatoes, and auctioned themselves off.
Finally, lest I forget to mention, some bright soul has put up a dowry calculator on the WWW, and has dedicated it to “all the matchmaking aunties of India”. Try it; it includes calculating dowries for IAS officers (I must say it is rather outdated, though. I was offered at least ten times more than what I calculated on this calculator!).
Pic credit: The Justified Sinner (Used under a Creative Commons license)
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!
It is easy to give in to patriarchal expectations from a married woman and lose your self in a marriage, but the path to happiness is in keeping your independence.
Marriage is often described as the joining of two individuals’ bodies, minds, and souls. Upon getting married, you are expected to share everything with your partner, including time, money, and all other aspects of life. Your life should revolve around your spouse from beginning to end.
But is it necessary to spend every waking moment with the spouse? Are you not supposed to have a life apart from your spouse? And do these rules apply only to women or men as well?
Although both men and women may face this situation, women are generally expected to give up everything once they get married. Despite progress in several areas, expecting women to abandon their interests, passions, and friendships to align their lives with those of their spouses is still considered the norm.
The rising numbers of single women choosing this life shout out clear and loud that patriarchy and sexism will no longer break or chain us.
Another book on singlehood? It seems to be the season for books on the joys and freedom of being single. But Demystifying and Dignifying Singlehood: Life Journeys of Single Women Across the Globe by Uma Jain is different. The book does not glorify or glamourise the lives of single women in any way. These are real stories – with the good, the bad and the ugly, all there.
The book tells the stories of 15 single women across the world. A feeling of deep understanding and empathy fills you as you read the book and understand the challenges faced by the women who are single – by choice or chance. Some of the women chose to be single because they faced discrimination and even abuse as girl children. Some others had abusive marriages and sought divorce.
The tag line ‘Crafting pathways on rough terrains’ on the cover page is enough to tell you that this is a serious take on the issue of singlehood. If it focuses more on the rough than the smooth, that has been the reality for the 15 women.
Please enter your email address