Dowry – How much do you cost?

My cousin is going to get married soon, maybe in December this year. My relative who has a permanent job in a bank is too much interested in getting people married. He knows several families who want to get their daughters and sons married. He asked my uncle to get his son married with one of his relative’s daughters. This girl is doing a masters from the Sanskrit University and my cousin works for a travel agency in Delhi. My cousin is crazy about getting married. He has always wanted to get married and now it seems like his dream is going to come true.

Neither of bride nor groom have talked to each other ever in their lives. It is all arranged by the family. They were presented in front of each other a few days ago when my cousin was in Varanasi and that’s all. He saw the bride and liked her and decided that she was the girl for him. It was his engagement yesterday. He called me a few days ago and he was telling me that the girl will not be good for Delhi because she has completed her studies in Varanasi through the Sanskrit board but he will still marry her because she has only one other sister.

He said that after her father dies, he and the husband of the other sister will get all the assets. He was most happy about having their own house in Varanasi. He asked me how much that kind of house would cost and when I said that it would cost something like five hundred thousand rupees, he became more happy, started laughing and said that his bride is worth at least two hundred fifty thousand rupees at present and her value will increase with time. He asked how long will her father be alive; five years? ten years? fifteen years; and after his death he will get half of the property.

His engagement was something different because neither the bride nor the groom will be present during the engagement. Only families will meet and do some formalities. The bride’s father gave Rs. 10,000 ($200), a few fruits, some sweets and a suit for the groom. The wedding will be held on 12th of December at which time rest of the things will be given. I heard that the bride’s father will give Rs. 50,000 in cash, a gold chain for the groom, five kinds of gold jewelleries and clothes for bride, and other household stuffs like a bed, refrigerator, wardrobe, TV, music system etc… all these things will be given on the wedding day.

Since they have already given Rs. 10,000, they have to give only Rs. 40,000 more on the wedding day.Groom has asked for cash instead of household stuffs because his wedding will be held in Varanasi but he lives in Delhi, and he has already bought a few household furnishings like a TV and a bed in Delhi for him. The groom has planned to spend the money given by the bride’s side to prepare for his wedding which means he will not have to spend anything from his own pocket but bride’s family will have to spend a lot.

The bride’s father is a retired employee of Municipality of Varanasi. He worked as a temporary employee for most of his life which means he would be getting something like Rs. 2000-3000 per month; I am sure not more than that for a temporary employee. He became a permanent employee in 1999 and got his retirement in 2008 which means he made good money only for nine years. I am sure he will spend a good part of his savings on this wedding. I think my cousin should not have asked for cash instead of household stuffs if he has already bought them but…

This wedding seems more like a business setup where one party will win the game and will make good amount of money, and other party will lose everything, and even they will even have someone wishing for their death. Dowry has become a huge problem in India and is one of the biggest reasons behind decreasing rate of sex ratio. I used to think that dowry would decrease with the decrease of sex ratio but it never changed actually. Ratio of girls has been decreasing continuously and dowry is increasing. People joke sometimes saying that grooms will have to give dowry in the future because there will be fewer girls but when I look at the people like my cousin, it seems to me that this joke will be only a joke forever.

AIDS survey in Mehdiganj, Varanasi

Lok Samiti had organized a group wedding of 30 couples in Mehdiganj where more than ten thousand people were supposed to come. I was also invited there, so I thought that it would be a good start for Sanjeevni Booti’s work. I discussed about it with Lane and we decided that we would take survey of villagers about awareness of HIV and distribute pamphlets about basic knowledge of AIDS. Lane wrote matter for pamphlet and created questions for survey.

I got two thousand pamphlets and 200 survey sheet printed. I needed few other people to help me taking the survey so I asked my friend Raju, Sonu and Bablu, who are member also of Sanjeevni Booti, to come help me. Sonu got agreed at once but Raju and Bablu were busy with their work. But I needed few people to help me so I offered them their one day’s salary and Raju got agreed with this offer but Bablu still didn’t get agree. Lane paid for everything- pamphlets, survey sheet, traveling expenses etc…

I needed few girls also to take survey of other girls but I could not find one. I asked Nandlal if some of Lok Samiti’s female members could take survey of other females for Sanjeevni Booti, and Nandlal said that he will send two females with me. I reached at the wedding place but unfortunately Lok Samiti females were busy organizing wedding, so we could not take survey of any females. We did survey with over 80 people, and distributed one thousand pamphlets.

I was shocked to hear the answers of the villagers about AIDS. It seemed like they didn’t know anything. Few people told us that AIDS could spread through air, few said that if people make relations more than 5 times a day then they are more likely to get AIDS, few said that AIDS could be easily treated by medicines etc… Nobody knew that AIDS could spread by sharing shaving razor or needles. We asked them if any other NGO had ever met them to talk about AIDS and none of them said yes, it means that they had not talked about AIDS with anyone who can tell them reality.

We have huge number of AIDS cases in India and it is increasing rapidly because sex practices change as people start becoming rich, and our economy is booming rapidly. So I think number STDs would also increase rapidly in near future. I think government should do something otherwise we will have the most cases very soon, because we have huge number of people living in India. I think Indians are very open to new ideas, and use of condoms was never ever a issue for us, so I think we can control this disease easily. We just need to educate people.

Lane wrote the survey report and published it on Sanjeevni Booti’s webiste.

Group Wedding in Varanasi

Lok Samiti organized a group wedding of 30 poor couples in Varanasi. The motive of this group wedding was to give secure future to the brides and promote dowry-free weddings. All the couples were so poor that they could not get married on their own. Usually groom side demands for dowry but nobody was allowed to ask for any dowry in this wedding. There were lots of gifts for both groom and bride but everything was arranged by Lok Samiti and other people who wanted to donate something.

I was also invited by Nandlal Master and was asked to donate something. I thought it could be a good start for my NGO work because about 10,000 people were supposed to come there. I and Lane discussed about it and decided that we would also give some gifts and take survey of villagers about awareness of AIDS. Giving clocks as a gift seemed a good idea to me because it stays for long time and people see them often. Lane was not sure about giving clocks as a gift because of research ethics issues but finally we came up with the same decision to give clocks.

Lane paid for everything- clocks, pamphlets, survey sheet, traveling expenses etc…� I bought 30 clocks and got Sanjeevni Booti’s name printed under glass of it. We packed it and put one pamphlet also in every packet. I asked Raju and Sonu, my friends and member of Sanjeevni Booti, to help me but Raju was busy with his job so I offered him his one day’s pay to come with me and he got agreed with this offer. I still wanted some girls to help taking the survey of other girls during wedding but I could not find one.

It was wedding’s day today and I reached there with Raju and Sonu. I saw Lok Samiti members decorating stage, arranging chairs, working with flowers etc….. They had food arrangement also for over 10,000 people. Lok Samiti had been preparing for this event since past one months. There were more than 10 chefs preparing sweets since past one week. I saw a lot of political leaders, social workers and other general people who wanted to donate something. Wife of Mehndiganj block’s representative had brought 30 Benaresi sarees to give to the brides.

thirty couples getting married together

Lok Samiti members invited to all the grooms and brides on the stage. There were thirty couples supposed to get married but two of them could not come because of some reasons, so only twenty eight got married . They all made garlands wear to each other and� this way formality of getting married was done. After this Nandlal Master came on stage with a paper where all the brides and grooms had to sign, actually most of them were uneducated so they just put their thumb on paper. Nandlal read the document first on mike, and then grooms and brides signed it.

Grooms and brides had to swear on mike that they would never fight to each other, they would always live together, grooms will never ever ask for any dowry and if they do any of those things then Lok Samiti would go through legal channel against them. After this all the grooms and brides moved to a nearby Shiva temple. They had music and family was dancing all the way from wedding place to the temple. In Hindu weddings bride and groom take round of fire seven times. It is said that Lord Fire becomes evidence of the wedding, but here there was no fire, they took round of Shiva temple and Shiva became evidence of the marriage.

After this wedding part was over and now it was people’s turn to give the gifts to the couples. I had brought clocks so I gave it to the them. I went on stage with Raju, Sonu and my driver and we all distributed� the clocks together to the couples. Few people gave sarees, watches, pots and other gift items. Lok Samiti gave one sewing machine to every bride and one bicycle to every groom. They say that bicycles and sewing machines will help brides and grooms to make some money on their own in the future. I liked this idea. Amanda, my American friend, also gave a sewing machine and two boxes of refined oil.

It was fun to see 30 couples getting married at same time, on the same stage. One thing was interesting to

She was not excited for her marriage

She was not excited for her marriage

me that I saw three brides sleeping on stage, it seemed like they were excited for their marriage. Nandlal Master told me that they will continue organizing this kind of gruop weddings in future also. They are planning to get 51 couples married next year. I liked the way Lok Samiti got those couples married. Since everything was done on paper, I think groom side will not ask for any dowry or disturb brides in the future.