New differing perceptions of dowry

Dowry has attained new meanings among different socio-economic groups. While the affluent may avoid using the word ‘dowry,’ the transfer of gifts to the man’s family as an obligation is still deeply entrenched.

There are two faces to the Indian woman today. The public-school educated, well-informed urban young woman and the barely literate, rural woman.

They also have different perceptions about dowry.

Marriages may be made in heaven but the celestial affair is celebrated right here on earth, that too in style.

Fuelled by our growing economy, it’s no longer a luxury for the select few. For the 300-million odd middle class it’s also what their daughters want to ensure comfortable wedded bliss.

Weddings today is an industry in India worth US$ 50 billion and is growing at a rate of 25-30%.

Wedding shopping is the least parents can do for their daughters, it is also the least the daughters themselves demand.

Designer gifts is what shouts parental love today. But these young women never want to discuss this. They justify it as a family affair.

Parul owner of Design Plaza said, ”Today girls come with their parents and give their opinions. Earlier it was considered dowry but today they are vocal of their need, actually its more of a fashion trend. This trend is increasing for the upper class.”

Meenu Dhingra has been in the interior decor business for 13 years and has seen it change dramatically. ”Earlier parents bought some stuff, but today with fashion needs have also gone up. Earlier you could give 2 things now everybody has a longer list of fridge TV, microwave etc to be given,” she said.

Meenu also added, ”Nowadays we are sent to the grooms house to get sizes etc. Earlier a godrej cupboard would be given but today the whole room has to be designed. The grooms side says do up the whole wall, set up a separate dressing room along with bedrooms and the payment mostly comes from the girl’s side.”

Yet the year 2006 witnessed 1000 more dowry deaths than 2005.

The other women

Oblivious to this urban notion of dowry there are other women from different parts of the country for whom dowry tops the list of evil.

The enlightenment is recent and they are still miles from becoming bringing about a transformation.

Razia Khatoom says, ”We tell our parents to to spend the money on our education instead of the dowry.”

According to Akhila Shivdas a sociologist, ”Consumerism generates all kinds of responses, one of them has become this regressive notion of the consumers themselves. No hope should be pinned to the middle class for a change, it will begin from the ground level.”

There are ones with all her education regressing to old traditions, the other is fighting against them.


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