Satya and Esther

“My father always held the opinion that the practice of taking dowry is ‘inhuman’ and needs to be addressed. According to him, if the bride’s family has to ‘pay’ for the groom, he should work for them as a ‘slave’. My sister got married to the son of an old friend of my father. When they asked for dowry, my dad unflinchingly broke off the relationship.”

What do both the spouses do? How long have you been married?
Satya:
Well, both of us are social entrepreneurs and are engaged in creating development models. Moreover, we are partners in designing self-reliable cooperatives in Uttarakhand. We have been married for 12 years now.

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 the decision?
Satya:
My father always held the opinion that the practice of taking dowry is ‘inhuman’ and needs to be addressed. According to him, if the bride’s family has to ‘pay’ for the groom, he should work for them as a ‘slave’. My sister got married to the son of an old friend of my father. When they asked for dowry, my dad unflinchingly broke off the relationship.

From what all quarters did you face opposition?
Satya:
A huge opposition was posed by my relatives. They had brought me proposals from families who would have willingly given me a humongous dowry as there was a deficit of educated boys in North India. So, the pressure was great.

Were her parents willing to give dowry? Or was it the same on their side too?
Esther:
My parents, especially my father was dead against getting me married into a family which would place a demand for dowry. I do remember a couple of them brazenly asking for dowry in the form of a house. Even though these were proposals of well-qualified and well-settled boys, my parents starkly refused.  

Do you know if they had doubts about you expecting a dowry?
Satya:
I remember when my father-in-law came to meet my father, a few of my relatives subtly suggested that anything that the girl’s side would be willing to give as dowry would be welcome. My father-in-law felt pretty uncomfortable, but then my father intervened and put a stop to such discussions. He then told her dad that he need not worry about anything as the only thing he wants is to get his son married.

So, he was prepared to give, but then he was happy to get a son?
Esther:
My father did share this incident with us. He was delighted to have met someone like Satya’s father. He came back with a reassurance that I was marrying into a family which had such good values and ideals. If my father-in-law had not clarified his stand, I am definite that he would have backed out of this match.

After your marriage, did you face any obstacle due to your decision?
Satya:
Never.

So have you both discussed this issue of dowry between the two of you?
Esther:
We keep discussing about this issue because my sister has to get married and I cannot find anyone who does not want a dowry. However, she has a staunch stand against this practice.

So, are you willing to root against dowry for your daughters too?
Satya:
Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I?

Most of the youth these days believe in similar ideals, but their parents think that giving or taking dowry is normal and part of a ritual. What is your advice for the youth? How do you think they should handle opposition?
Satya:
I do not believe that the situation would be that difficult to handle if the youth decide to hold their ground. They need to understand two things- firstly, if they decide not to take dowry, nobody can force them to demand it against their will. And secondly, if they go against the social current, there will be risks which they have to be ready to take.

Esther: My sister is well-accomplished at 30, but still unmarried because all the proposals that come our way demanded money. Our father wonders about the prospect of her marriage. When he had made such decisions for me and my other siblings, he was much younger. Today, he is aged, retired and weak. But, this is actually the point where my sister and I need to talk to him.

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