Monday, June 12, 2006

Shopping within your budget

What I am going to talk about is old hat. But after observing many such incidents and a few conversations down the years, I do have something to say as this is a topic that rankles me no end.

Take Anita ( not a real name). Anita is a mallu Christian girl, well educated and smart. She is a Senior Software Engineer with us and gets a decent salary. Anita is of marriageable age and her folks are actively looking around for ‘suitable’ grooms. Nothing new here.

Anita’s parents will get several profiles that fit the bill and Anita may like a few from the profiles her parents have gathered. After her parents and she have narrowed down what they feel is best from the proposed grooms the pennu kaanal ceremony begins. This will further narrow down the field to a couple of people that both parties agree on. Till here it is smooth sailing for both parties.

Then comes the crunch. After all this exercise Anita’s father will have to see who he can ‘afford’ among the final list of prospective grooms. The ‘price’ of the groom is taken into consideration and decisions made. If the price is too high, he will have to bargain or pledge land. If the boy’s family refuses to budge then he will have to set his sights lower. He will look for a groom who is perhaps lesser qualified and paid. Most girls will accept the arrangement. Some like Anita will not and decide that they are better off single. But girls like Anita are in the minority. A very tiny miniscule minority.

Marriages in Kerala is like shopping ( I cannot speak for other states). You look around and buy what fits yours or your father’s purse.

If you are exceptionally good looking and fair then there are many rich men willing to marry you without dowry to increase their snob value and the quality content of their gene pool.

If you are drawing a really high compensation package, then you get massive discounts for the best brands.

If Daddy has the moolah then money is not a constraint.

Some gals fall in love and get away without paying; some have to still pay a token advance even if it is a love marriage.

Then if you are lucky some brands may sell at a cheaper price due to age, short stature or faulty packaging like dark complexion or a pot belly or some physical disability.

The lesser mortal’s a.k.a. the qualified but without above attributes have it the toughest. They settle for cheap substitutes (excuse the language but I can’t think of anything else) and envy the luck of the people with more money power.

After the cold and unfeeling 'transaction' is over the wedding takes place and the Bride and Groom actually look happy in the photos.

This is such a well established system that no ones even notices it and look askance at you when you question it.

p.s. since this is a trading environment no protests about “cheap substitutes making good husbands is a cheap shot” and “cheap substitutes are humans too” and “cheap substitutes have feelings” etc will be accepted :p


Mind Curry said... have written about a topic that i am also going to publish next.

i absolutely hate the "marriage industry" in kerala state, and like you said i can also speak for only kerala. it stinks like hell!

it is one of the most harshest and downright degrading social custom practised. and i am not just talking about dowry, but generally, how the whole concept of marriage is torn apart and broken by vested interests.

the way the system exists in our state, i am totally put off! i even wonder why anyone wants to marry this way!

Jagan said...

its just not with mallu girls happens with all girls in indian sub-continent .

And most of the people are okie with it .

Jagan said...

I forgot to mention - I personally know guys who wanted to get MASTERS degree bcos it meant better "deal" .

Dhanush said...

I think some where during our evolution as a Keralite, we have lost it. Earlier, it had got reduced during our parents growing up, but now it is a matter of 'prestige issue' of about how much they have given. Its really a hard thing. And I am not meaning anything here, but if you have written this based on the Xian Community, I guess there it is more. In Hindus, especially in the thick communist populated Malabar, its much less. But then there are people who show off their might. Somewhere an educated and cultured Malayali groom and bride(like Anita), needs to stand up and say I am against this and would prefer to be single. Lets hope that minority will turn to a majority.

silverine said...

Mind Curry: I am looking forward to your post. And like most of your issue based posts I know this will be thoroughly thought out too :)

More than the harshness it is the stark coldness that takes my breath away. A relationship starts off as a transaction.What can be more stupider than that? :(

Jagan: I really cannot speak about other parts of India.And yes I have heard from my gult colleagues that their dowry amount is the highest in India.

Dhanush: I dont know how prevalent the custom is among non Xians. But among Xians it is very prevalent and considered very natural, as natural as childbirth :)) Anita is a minority and most girls just accept the fact. It has to be the guys who have to take the stand. To be fair to our Xian guys, there are guys who are willing to marry without dowry but these are exceptions.

Alexis Leon said...

Yes, what you had said is true. But it is still in practice and there is no question of avoiding it. Earlier it was the groom’s family who had the upper hand in the bargains or negotiations. But now the situation has changed a lot. Now with the once wealthy families becoming not so wealthy (due to various reasons like lack of education, poor performance in the agriculture sector, and so on…), they only have their family name—belonging to an ancient xxxx family (like the one’s you see in the Malayala Manoram classifieds) and the family tree going a few centuries back.

Now with the boom in the healthcare industry and the huge demand for nurses, home nurses, and other paramedical professional in US and Europe, the lower middle class a few decades back are the rich now. I know several families in my village, who were just surviving on the wage of the head of the family, who owned nothing but a few cents of land, now becoming very rich as most of them had 4-5 daughters in US, Europe, or Middle East working as nurses. With the number of elderly people in the developed countries on the rise and the lack of willingness of the young people there to enter the nursing profession, the demand for nurses and other paramedical professional is rising.

So marrying is a nurse is sure ticket to US or Europe and more importantly money. I wouldn’t call it a reversal of the situation. But now the bride’s parents have the upper hand. And the deal is not bad—it is a win-win situation. A respectable family name for the bride and money for the bridegroom. And without any armed revolution there is social equality—the former landlords and their former workers are now sharing the same table. I am reminded of the “I have a dream” speech of Martin L King Jr. “…the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…” :-)

Thanu said...

Dowry is so huge in our mallu community. I think its only gonna end when our generation become parents, or may be not then either :(

Dr. Pissed said...

And that comes from the most educated state in our country! Pfft!
And here we are, living the 20th Century life eh? So much for progressing India.

I've been single for a while and I've been loving it to bits.

D said...

Quite an interesting read, I must say. Well, I blv that this "Trading-off", happens all over the country, at least i can say this so for the eastern U.P. belt. Surprisingly, the trend is prevalent among all religions. May be govt. should come up with a reservation bill on this too or perhaps corporates can put up with some financing schemes. Till then "Cheap subsitutes", like me will enjoy their luck!!!

silverine said...

Alexis: It was a boast by a girl whose Dad had got her a groom at a heavy price in front of a girl from one of the ancient Tharavadu that triggered this post. The girls who are able to buy grooms make no bones of it. And I know several grooms of Nurses siting at home in the UK or US looking after the baby :) But you are right roles are getting reversed. However the plight of non nurses i.e. the techies and others are the same.Martin Luther King must be smiling up there :)

Thanu:It will definitely end, but till then girls will suffer :(

dr pissed: It is true da. Behind the smiling photos of a mallu bride and groom a lot of negotiation would have taken place. I wonder why they go through the farce of a Church wedding. When you have so coldly transacted the deal, then why not ink the papers in a Regsitrars office?

D: In Kerala the 'trading-off' is more efficient than in UP. Which is why you dont see bride burning etc.

Leon said...

True.. I never could understand the money/goods exchange before marriage but I've seen it happen to my own relatives..

Expecting 50 "pauns" (I don't know how to spell this) of jewels is very common and is supposed to reflect on the prestige of the family.. Crazy..

More than the harshness it is the stark coldness that takes my breath away. A relationship starts off as a transaction.What can be more stupider than that?

My sentiments exactly..

Paresh Palicha said...

Nicely written. Though I have not encountered dowry-related issues directly, I've seen people planning their life after marriage on the amount of dowry they can get. So marrying against their parents' wishes is a strict no-no for them.

This aspect should cheer you up:D

Jiby said...

its everywhere in india not just among mallus...i know gultis who studied with me wanted a master's degree from the US coz then they get 1 crore dowry...the figure the guy casually mentioned made my eyes pop!!!

some people in kerala use the derisive term "merkettilekke njan erangi" phrase to say they are eligible...and i even heard a friend who studied with me use it and i was shocked...i guess even with education when this medieval situation doesnt change, nothing can!!!

Ganesh Ranganathan said...

yeah, grooms are sold to the highes bidder...SICK

>|' ; '| said...


bottomline - never marry

mathew said...

uh..its business as usual!
But situation is not as bad as a few years back..
And finally in the albums u see two men smiling..

1)Grooms dad for making a fortune out of the deal
2)Bride's dad grining(for the sake of a nice snap) with a "How-am-I-gonna-pay-back-the-loans" look..!!poor soul!!!

Alit said...

Happy to have discovered your think pad... wasnt aware this existed!

silverine said...

Leon: You are here at last!!! :) Marriage is more of a business deal in Kerala :(

Paresh: LOL Thanks for the 'cheery news'.

Jiby:It wouldn't be fair on my part to speak of the Gults. I can only speak of things that I have seen happening in front of my eyes :) But I feel bad for our girls who have to buy a groom.

Ganesh: It is SICK grrrr

Poison: Kiddo it's not time for you to think of wedding and stuff. Enjoy your student days :)

mathew:And finally in the albums u see two men smiling..
for a moment I thought your were talking of gay marriages LOL
But what you observe is so true.

Alit: Welcome to my Think Pad :)

venus said...

dowry is another cancer in our society..

no one wants to change or break the tradition, everyone wants to play safe for their daughters.

guys or their parents should take initiative and stop taking dowry. But when money comes into picture, they also set their sons for sell in the market, and go for the highest bid! and they call themselves 21st century humans!!

Harjee Kapur said...

sab ganda hai par dhanda hai yeh....

silverine said...

Venus: In Kerala the dowry system was an effort to secure the girl a share in the property. Somehwere it went horribly wrong and became a bargain tool for the grooms parents. I have seen love marriages too that did not escape the dowry menace.

Harjee: True....