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Dowries
in India: Tamara’s story

Written by Smitha Devadas, 2 years ago, 2 Comments
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While illegal, the practice of dowries in India is a serious problem that still affects women from all levels of society. Worldette writer, Smitha Devadas, tells the story of her close friend Tamara Nair, an educated and affluent woman who thought dowry was an issue that would never be a part of her life. Sadly, this turned out not to be the case.

“Rising number of dowry deaths in India”, “Bride burning”, “Girl commits suicide due to dowry,” are just three of the gut wrenching headlines reported in India today. Behind these captions are the stories of real women who have undergone immense pain and brutality.

Dowry is the practice where the bride brings in money or property to her husband’s house, with its value demanded by the groom and his family and often accompanied by ill treatment of the bride if the demands are not met.

Under the 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act, offering or accepting dowry is prohibited and is a punishable act that calls for imprisonment up to two years. Yet the practise continues throughout all tiers of society and sadly affluence and education has still not combated dowries in India.

Affluent Indian families

Amongst the literate and the affluent communities of modern day India, dowry is not an acceptable norm. The era of forced arranged marriages are giving way to a more liberal process. A girl can choose her partner and neither the bride-to-be nor her family see the need to offer dowry for a good marriage alliance.

There are families who reject marriage proposals that seek a dowry; this is now possible as the modern day Indian girl is highly educated, independent and has the freedom to choose her groom. However this does not completely protect all young brides from the consequences of the dowry.

READ MORE: Worldette Heroine: Nasima Rahmani

Tamara’s story

Tamara Nair (name changed to protect the identity) is a 25-year-old modern girl raised and educated in the metropolitan city of Mumbai. Her parents are educated, affluent and belong to the upper strata of society. Like you and me she has dreamed about her wedding day since her adolescence.

She dated a guy and decided to get married to him with the blessing of both parents. The matter of dowry was not discussed as the girl and her parents considered it to be a vicious practice. Her parents sent Tamara to her husband’s house with the conviction that their daughter will be treated like a queen.

A week later, Tamara called her parents and reported that her husband was acting strange and was expecting money from her. As time went by the help calls increased and so did the severity of the torture.

Physical and verbal abuse and mental manipulations followed entwined with spurts of romance and fun become part of Tamara’s daily routine.

Two years into the marriage things got increasingly difficult to handle. She spoke to her parents and expressed her wish to end the marriage. But there is a stigma attached with divorce in Indian society that education and wealth has not been able to overturn. Her parents asked her to give it one last shot.

Tamara is a dear friend of mine, and the consequences of her decision are very clear to me, how I wish I could intervene.

Every girl in this situation should be able to take a stand and have the courage to walk away. What good is independence, education or liberation if you cannot do what is right?

I leave you with this poem written by Paulette Kelly, I Got Flowers Today, which may be apt to demonstrate what goes on in the hearts and minds of the modern day Indian brides who try to battle dowry related tortures.

I got flowers today.

It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day

We had our first argument last night.

And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt me.

I know he is sorry and didn’t mean the things he said.

Because he sent me flowers today. 

I got flowers today.

It wasn’t our anniversary any other special day

Last night, he threw me into a wall and started to choke me.

It seemed like a nightmare

I couldn’t believe it was real.

I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over.

I know he must be sorry

Because he sent me flowers today. 

I got flowers today,

And it wasn’t Mother’s Day or any other special day.

Last night, he beat me up again.

And it was much worse than all the other times.

If I leave him, what will I do?

How will I take care of my kids?

What about money?

I’m afraid of him and scared to leave.

But I know he must be sorry.

Because he sent me flowers today. 

I got flowers today.

Today was a very special day.

It was the day of my funeral.

Last night, he killed me.

He beat me to death.

If only I has gathered enough courage and strength to leave him.

I would not have gotten flowers…today.

If you’re someone who has been effected by dowries in India, or anywhere in the world, we would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below.

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About Smitha Devadas

  1. AmyeeApril 17, 2012, 2:01 am

    We all know that throughout history these things happen to women in almost every culture, but in the modern day even though there are talks of attempts to keep traditional cultures alive, these sort of behaviours shouldn’t be one of those ‘traditions’ to keep! It makes me wonder what factors make some societies evolve faster than others, and I just hope that in the near future, India (and other similar cultures with similar practices) will soon catch up.

    Reply
    • SmithaApril 19, 2012, 1:21 pm

      yes Amyee,it is hope that keeps us striving for change. I do believe that only individuals can change this collective vice … it breaks my heart to see that many educated and able women in my country are going through this…things are much better than what it used to be… only if there was a way to expedite the entire process though!thanks for our interest in the article.

      Reply

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