Negotiation of dowry

It was the first time in my life when I heard a family planning about son’s marriage. My neighbor, whose son lives in Delhi after completing the 12th class of study, wants to get him married soon. They had come to my family to ask if there is any girl in our relations. It was the groom’s mother and grandmother who came to my house. They talked to my mother about his marriage. My mother knew a few people who wanted to get their daughter married.

The groom is still a student, only 26 years old, and doing some computer degree. They wanted Rs. 10,00,000 (US$25,000) cash and other home accessories like a refrigerator, washing machine, TV, music system, and a bike as dowry. Their wording with my mother was “we deserve to get what we have spent on our child’s education”. It was shocking for me to hear a family talking this way. It did not seem like a marriage proposal, it seemed more like business where they wanted all their investment back with some profit. My mother decided that she would not ask any of her relatives to allow their daughter in this family.

Rs. 10,00,000 is a huge amount for a middle class Indian family. Most people can not save this much money in their whole lives. It is still not sure that after paying this much money the groom side will not ask for something else. Usually these kind of greedy people always tell brides to bring more and more money from their family, even after getting married. I often hear about people killing brides for dowry, and its terrible. How can someone kill their own family member for money?

There is another problem with competition between son in laws. If someone has two daughters then the father will have to pay the same dowry to both girls. My one friend has four brothers. The eldest one got married about 4 years ago. Then his younger brother got married about 2 years ago. The younger brother got a bike as dowry which the elder brother had not gotten. So, he started telling his wife to ask her father to give them a bike. And finally her father had to pay them cash, even after 4 years of marriage.

My cousin also wants a car for his marriage. He works in a travel agency and makes only Rs. 6000 per month, which means he will not be able to afford petrol and other maintenance charge for a car but he still wants it. There are a few NGOs who organize dowry-free marriages but they are still not popular. Dowry is the biggest reason behind our decreasing sex ratio. There are some cultural problems also but those are not as big as dowry. I want to see change but I dont know if I will be able to see in my life, I hope to.

Why do people travel?

I met six couchsurfing members within the past month. It was surprising for me that four of them did not know why they were traveling. They spent most of their time sleeping and relaxing in their guesthouse room. Two of them were from Germany and the other two were from the US. The German guys stayed in Benares for four days but never went to see Aarti or took a walk along the ghats. They spent only a few minutes watching a funeral and that was the only time they spent along the Ghat, they had not even heard about Aarti or Sarnath.

The US guys were students. One of them was learning Urdu with some institute in Lucknow for the past one month. She was preparing was for her research about tension between Hindus and Muslims. I really wanted to spend more time with her to learn about her research but unfortunately I had to leave for Gwalior the same day I met her. The other one was learning Hindi with Virendra singh and has been living in Varanasi for the past month.

The Urdu student knew about Aarti but she didn’t know anything about Sarnath. The Hindi student knew about Sarnath but he didn’t know anything about Aarti, even he had never been to Godaulia which is downtown Benares. I don’t know what he has been doing for the past month. After watching Aarti he said that it was very impressive, maybe the most impressive part of Benares for him. Natasha, the Urdu student, also liked Aarti a lot. I suggested that she should visit Sarnath and they both decided to go the there next day.

Swami Vivekanand said that if you have free time then it is best to travel, if you want to utilize it. Because this way you learn about different cultures, you talk to people, and it makes the world a better place. I think people travel to learn but these people, whom I met in the last month, seemed like they were traveling just because they had extra time and money or maybe they wanted to tell others that they have traveled. They could have learnt better staying in their own country if they had just spent sometime online. I don’t know why they were traveling.

Rinki’s good heart and her marriage

Rinki, my uncle’s daughter, is 25 years old now and her father has been looking for a groom to get her married for the past 2 years but nobody wants to marry her because she had got her heart valves operated few years ago. My uncle went to a lot of families whom he or his friends knew to look for a groom. Everything was Ok in the beginning but as the groom’s family heard that Rinki got her heart valves operated they didn’t want Rinki to come to their family.

They think that Rinki is still sick or could get sick again in the future. She got operated by one of the most popular doctors of the world, the best in India and he also says that Rinki is perfect now and could get married anytime but the groom’s family doesn’t want to hear anything about it. It has become a big problem for my uncle, he wants to get Rinki married at any cost. He is ready to even pay dowry if groom wants but nobody agrees.

My father was also looking for a groom for Rinki in Benares. My father’s friend told him about one of his relatives who has completed a Masters in Astrology and is working with his father now who is an astrologer. My father went to meet them and talked about the marriage proposal. They seemed so nice at first, didn’t believe in concept of dowry, and everything was Ok. He talked to the groom and took a photo to show to our family. Everybody liked him and now everything was dependent on Rinki’s approval.

My father informed Rinki’s father about the groom and he also came to Varanasi to meet the groom’s family. He also liked the groom and he agreed to have Rinki married to him. I was told to mail the photo of the groom to my brother because nowadays Rinki is living with him in Noida. My family wanted Rinki to see the photo of the groom and tell us about what she thinks of him. I knew Rinki would never ever tell that she didn’t like him, even if she didn’t like him, because she is very shy by nature, and because of the way people reject her.

Rinki didn’t see the photo of the groom and said that she will be happy with the guy whom her father had choosen. We also gave Rinki’s photo along with her Kundali (horoscope book) to the groom’s side. Everybody was so happy about Rinki’s wedding, they were planning to organize this wedding in February this year. My mother asked me and my brother what we would give to Rinki. Rinki’s family was also planning to come to Varanasi to start shopping for the wedding, everybody was happy.

But today the groom’s side cancelled the marriage. They said that Rinki is not as educated as the groom, which doesn’t make any sense. Groom has master’s degree in astrology and Rinki has a bachelor’s degree in arts. He went to school only two years more than Rinki. Rinki is still 25 so she could go to school again and she wants to, and she will because she also wants to have a master’s degree. I didn’t understand what happened but it made me sad, very sad. I don’t know what can I do with it.

I understand when illiterate people do these kinds of things but this groom family was educated, maybe not, otherwise why they would make this kind of excuse? Cancellation of marriages again and again will make Rinki feel guilty about herself, It will make her feel like she has become a burden for her family, It will make her think that it is her fault which it is not. I think it is fault of our male-dominant and uneducated society. I often see people violating women’s right which makes me really sad.

I think girls must have rights to talk to their life-partner before getting married and decide if they want to get married or not. But still Indian girls in small cities can’t do this because of social and family pressure. They are presented as a robot in front of grooms, they face a lot of questions, feel pressure of their father selling assets to arrange dowry for marriage, and still are not happy in their marriage life.

Sometimes the groom’s family reject girls saying that the girl is not beautiful, how can they say this to someone? A lot of people don’t want to have a girl because they are afraid of her future- obviously marriage is a part of the future. Our sex ratio in 2001 was 933 girls for 1000 boys and it is still decreasing. I don’t know what will happen in the future and when we will see girls and boys with equal rights.

Tour guide exam result

Finally the tour guide exam result is declared and I passed it. The exam was held on the 26th of August, 2007 and result was declared on 7th of November, 2008, after more than a year. Government had a hard time during this one year. They were sued four times by applicants on various reasons but finally everything is settled now. More than 50,000 applicants had applied but only 300 passed it and I got 223rd rank.

There was one very interesting thing about the result – only eight girls passed the exam. There could be two reasons behind it- either parents still don’t want their daughters to work out of the city or girls feel unsecure having this kind of job. Indian girls in small cities are highly qualified. Usually they continue their studies until they get married and usually they read history or some language which could be best for this profession. There is big demand for girl tour guides but…

Now I will go for a sixteen week training period where they will teach me about Indian history and monuments in North India. There will be fourteen weeks of classes and two weeks of touring at various monuments in North India with a professor. After completing the classes and tour they will organize another exam and the students who pass the exam will go through an interview. After passing interview tour guide license will be issued.

New tour guides are part of the preparation for the Commonwealth Games which are in 2010 so it seems like the Government will not delay starting the training, but who knows, maybe another case because after all it is the Government of India, so anything is possible. I am so excited to go for training so that I can get my license as soon as possible and start working.

Flood in Bihar

Now it seems like situation is completely out of control. More than 4 million people are affected by flood in Bihar and Indian government is doing nothing, just nothing. I saw a lot of people fighting for food, weeping, crying, dead bodies of animals. I had never ever seen such a situation like that before. People don’t have food, they don’t have roof, they don’t have medicines but there is no one to take care of them. People say that it will take at least 4 to 5 months for situation to be normal again, and after that diseases and poverty.

I saw people fighting for a packet of roasted garbanzo in a relief camp. There was more than 50 people fighting for one packet of garbanzo and finally no body could get it, all the garbanzo fell down on ground, people were walking over it and few people were still collecting as much as they could hoping that at least it will keep them alive. Government officers bring a packet of food and find that there are already hundreds of people waiting.

I saw a family who drowned their cow in flood just because they could not feed the cow any more. Being a Indian I could understand the situation when a family kill their cow. First of all they decorated the cow, did puja and then let it go in the flood water and within few minutes it drowned. All the family members were weeping and abusing government.

Indian government is investing huge money on Delhi Metro project, they are preparing for Commonwealth Games 2010, building new stadiums, building new roads which seems like huge investment but they don’t have enough money to save life of 4 million people of Bihar. I think they need to spend the same money on buying resources to save life not to show off by building Delhi Metro and preparing for Commonwealth Games.