Raaj and Geeta

“I remember telling Raaj, ‘If your family asks for dowry, I’m not getting married.’ And he said, ‘If my family asks for dowry, then I’m not getting married!’”

What do both the spouses do? How long have they been married?
We have been married for 20 years now. I have been working in the field of development for the last 20 years and continue to serve with a NGO.

Geeta: I am leading an organization called Ashish which works for children with special needs, mainly autism.

What made you decide that you will not ask for dowry? Do you think some factor in your upbringing has brought about this view? Or has somebody inspired you towards this decision?
It was nothing that revolutionary; just an ethical thing for us. I remember telling Raaj, “If your family asks for dowry, I’m not getting married.” And he said, “If my family asks for dowry, then I’m not getting married!” So, it was just something we felt strongly about.  Maybe we were influenced by JNU. Or maybe, the fact that we never had this practice in our family moulded us such.  

Raaj: And, in our family, at least that I know of, there is no practice of anybody asking for dowry, especially among Christians. So, that is how we have grown up.

From what all quarters did you face opposition?
Geeta: My side of the family was more than thrilled! (Both Laugh)

Raaj: My sisters got married just a year before me and we had not given any dowry. Because it has never been a practice on our side, we never considered giving or taking dowry.

Geeta: But I have some relatives who had asked for dowry after the ‘pheras’ (the seven rounds around the marriage-fire) had taken place. They said that until they received dowry, the bride would not be taken home. So there have been some incidents in the larger family but not within the immediate one.

Were you staunch on the matter?
Geeta: Yeah, I was. My dad was equally firm and bold.

What is your advice for the youth? How do you think they should handle opposition?
Geeta: I feel they need to take a strong stand. It is very easy to fight the world but very difficult to stand against your parents. They should understand that their parents share a different set of worldview; in their time, taking dowry was deemed normal and a part of tradition. The youth need to talk to their parents that it is not the norm anymore, and, above that, it is morally wrong. Sometimes, for parents, it is easier to say that their son does not want dowry than to say they do not want it. Such is the clutch of traditions that it becomes a tough decision for them to break away from it.

Raaj: Today, the pressure has increased for the youth. Even if they do not want dowry in cash, they have become very desirous of getting big cars and flats. It is related to the materialistic and consumerist ideologies that have been shaping their minds since childhood. Therefore, it has become harder to reject incoming offers of dowry because it is like swimming against the current. However, it is not absolutely impossible to do so. It is about how you want to live your life. I personally feel that if more people decide to marry a person whom they love, regardless of their caste or cultural background, the issue of dowry can be substantially resolved.

Is there anything extra that you would like to share?
Geeta: I came across one particular case in which a boy claimed that he had not taken any dowry. In reality, however, he had not demanded dowry in its traditional form but had asked his in-laws for a house, a car and funds to cover his tuition fees for his studies abroad. So, dowry needs to be redefined. In the South, the clutches of dowry are stronger. It is passed off as the daughter’s share.

Raaj: Even in her clan, the culture of dowry is slowly taking root. I say that because in a wedding we attended recently, they had displayed the luxury car which they had given as dowry at the venue. Part of the culture in the city is to spend lavishly during weddings, and by that I mean celebrations running into crores. This leads to a nonsensical competition among people to show off during weddings.