Shalem and Kim

“I never liked the idea of having a monetary transaction in a marriage as it is not a business deal.”

How long have you been married? What do you both do? Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
We’ve been married for about two months. I work with Made to Create (A project of Art for Change Foundation) and she is from the public health background.

So, how did you both meet?
We met in church.

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?
It has always been like that; I never liked the idea of having a monetary transaction in a marriage as it is not a business deal. And, if money does come in, it should be in the form of gifts. It should not be forced or demanded.  She is from Manipur and there they follow a custom of giving a ‘bride price’.  It does not involve money but something else like a certain number of animals are given. Even though it is strictly practiced, in our case this was not done. Both the families came to a mutual agreement that there will be no transaction in the form of money or anything. Call it what you want, ‘dowry’ or ‘bride price’, we could not agree to any.

Why do you think you have this idea that it is wrong to pay dowry?
I haven’t really given it a thought. I think it is probably because of my upbringing.

From what all quarters did you face opposition?
Actually, none.

What about your extended family?
No, not really.

Did they not have a say when you both got married? Or is it because you people migrated from Kerala, and hence they did not have a say?
Even in my extended family I haven’t really heard of anyone taking a dowry. So no one objected to me not taking it.

So, not taking dowry is ‘normal’ for your family?
Yes, something like that.

And if gifts are exchanged, do you think that is alright? If it is not forcefully done, that is.
In my marriage, we had an exchange of gifts. We gave gifts to some of the elders of her family and they gave gifts to some of the elders of my family. Then when we got married, her parents gave us gifts to start our life or home with. But, it was neither expected nor demanded.

Did you always have it in your mind that when you get married, you would not take dowry? And was she staunch on the decision that if someone asks her for a bride price, she would not go for that relationship?
Yes. For both of us dowry or bride price was never an acceptable practice.

After the marriage did you continue to face them or find new obstacles in your way due to your decision?
Question not applicable.

Do you think your decision altered your marriage for the good?
Question not applicable.

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?
Yes, it is difficult for them to stand their ground because a society like ours is very family-oriented. However, one should always stand for what one believes in, even if it is difficult.

Have you heard about any case in the context of dowry that you’d like to share? Have you come across anything that you’d like to include in your interview?
You keep hearing about people taking dowry and others demanding dowry, but you also hear about instances where dowry is not taken or demanded.

So, you’re saying not taking dowry will work out in our society? Stories like yours?
Sure. It will work out. I say that because we have been successful in fighting against practices like sati and child marriage. Even though we might still encounter cases concerning them, they have definitely gone down; so will the practice of taking dowry.