The price of a bridegroom...

In Bangalore, despite the City’s cosmopolitan and outwardly liberal exterior, this well documented social evil remains a potent source of harassment for the married woman.
 
The frequent dowry deaths and the innumerable cases of dowry harassment reported almost every day in the City is telling proof of this trend. No wonder, now we have this problem surface right inside marriage halls, even when the marriage vows are being exchanged.

The girl may be spared the harassment before the wedding. Instead, her parents are quite often subjected to this treatment, leaving them humiliated. Televised stories of this nature in the recent past do not seem to have shocked Bangaloreans much if the rising trend of dowry cases are any indication.

A major of pre-marital tension is the inability of the girl’s parents to fulfil demands made by the boy’s side. These are in most cases unreasonable. As seen in a recent episode, the demands could even be as petty as non-availability of specific chairs, specific food and specific arrangements during the wedding.

Dealing with scores of dowry-related cases, police officers in the City observe that many marriages are broken right at the wedding hall, before the bridegroom can tie the knot.

“Parents of boys are becoming increasingly specific about gifts as most of them are aware that a case of dowry harassment under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 will stand in a court of law only when there is a written agreement on dowry. Hence, to be on the safer side, they prefer to finalise the deal orally. Moreover, they prefer gifts and other assets such as house or land instead of cash,” explains a police officer.

“Though complaints are lodged rarely, we have seen boys’ parents and relatives staging  ‘walk-outs’ from the wedding halls because the girl’s parents failed to provide the sweets they (boys parents) had asked for,” says a police inspector. He cites the recent episode in Basaveshwaranagar, where the boy’s mother created ruckus as rooms provided to the boy’s side at a lodge were not air-conditioned.

Dowry often is a prime cause for wedding costs to escalate. “The cost involved in completing a wedding reasonably is nearly 10 to 15 times higher than what it used to be a decade ago,” notes N. Veerabhadraiah, a resident of Vijayanagar.

Till the late 1990s, girls’ parents gifting the bridegroom a car, a house or a site just rose out of affection and a wish to ensure the happiness of the girl. Such gifting is now expected by the boy’s relatives as a fundamental right. Brazenly, they hand over a list of items as part of dowry. Items like car, site or a house are an integral part of the list.

“More shocking is that several matrimonial associations maintain give a checklist explaining how brides’ parents can turn the ceremony into a glittering extravaganza,” remarks Veerabhadraiah.

Socialisation as cause

The change can also be attributed to the process of socialisation and culturalisation.

Young men from different parts of the country, belonging to different religions and communities have settled down in Bangalore after finding jobs fetching handsome salaries. Such men are not particular about any tradition, but are specific about making the wedding a grand event.

This mixture of tastes and cultures has also influenced matrimonial affairs among native Bangaloreans. Marriage budget for any middle class family ranges between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh. The costs range between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 50 lakh if the bridegroom is a doctor, engineer, a businessman or into civil service.

Choices increase costs

Another major concern is the choice of venue to conduct the wedding. Due to the bloom in the real estate industry, rentals of marriage halls has gone up. It is becoming a trend to organise the wedding in Palace Grounds or other high-profile locations where the rent per day for a specified space is between Rs one lakh and Rs two lakh.

The sharp increase in prices of essential commodities, vegetables and food products has made catering costlier. Despite skyrocketing prices, relatives of grooms make specific demands about the delicacies to be served.

Due to the expensive rent of marriage halls and food costs, the boy’s parents never take the risk of organising the wedding. In many cases, they demand less dowry, but expect the girl’s parents to conduct the wedding at a specific venue or serve the items chosen by them, says Supraja V, a counsellor.

In some cases, the girl’s parents are required to gift only silk sarees, each costing between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 to all important women from the boy’s side. A decade ago, only the boy’s parents gifted jewellery to the girl. But these days, the boy’s parents expect a similar gesture from the girl’s parents. Supraja says this has become a common trend.

Price and demands go together

Another form of dowry is the demand that the girl’s parents pay for the continuation of expensive education, or further education of the boy. Families that claim to have taken no dowry discount such demands, claiming that the girl’s parents would only be paying for the “happiness” of their daughter.

Seethalakshmi T D, a City college lecturer, feels that the increasing demand of the bridegroom’s parents for dowry in ‘kind’ than ‘cash’ is nothing but a “crime against women’. Despite the existence of several laws including the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 which ensures severe punishments, the dowry system still exists as it is a traditional practice. For years it was believed that education would the antidote to social ills such as dowry. But it is noticed that it is the educated families that are most dowry-hungry. The more educated or better employed the bridegroom is, the fatter is the dowry demanded. The illiterate aren’t that greedy!

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