Of Traditions, Conservatism and Giving…

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Indian weddings are a spectacular show of wealth, wedged in traditions, rituals and extravagant customs.

They appear to be blissful happy occasions of celebration…till you peep behind the drapes!

Recently I had to be an obligatory part of all this razzmatazz, watching and wondering…when will we get out of these age-old cultural compulsions, which have been imposed on us.

“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy.”—Matthew Scully.

Traditions are woven into the web of our life, I know, but I always thought and convinced myself that they evolve with time.

How utterly…extremely erroneous were my thoughts, in hoping for brighter times!

The brides in India still belong to antiquity!

They may be highly educated, having the best of job placements, sometimes even earning more than the prospective grooms BUT…

They HAVE to bring along unlimited amount of gifts, which are all given by her father, rich or poor, all have to follow this tradition.

On the receiving end are the brazen parents of the bridegroom, whose mouths, as wide open as that of a crocodile, remain open!

They don’t have to give anything in return.

Traditions blind us, compel us to keep honoring them due to societal pressures but aren’t we part of the society?

Isn’t it our responsibility, especially that of the younger generation to break away from those norms which almost choke us, make us bankrupt, kill and burn our brides?

Yes, the youngsters do break some norms only when they want to!

But they remain mute spectators to the age-old system of giving and giving and giving….when they receive along with the bride!!

The Indian tradition of giving a daughter away is, in itself, an incomparable generosity in global history. She is expected to be a part of groom’s family, perform all household chores, bear and rear children, respect all the whims and fancies of her in-laws and stay away from her own parents and siblings.

She has to become a channel of continuous flow of money and gifts from her parents, who are expected to keep on giving, all their life!

All this in the name of traditions!!!

“Tradition is the prison where change is detained… To make a change, you need to agree that you are not going with the statement “this is how we do it”! Yes, that was how it was done, but what next? Agree to change!”—Israelmore Ayivor

When will we free ourselves from these age-old shackles?

When will we free ourselves from the fear of such a despotic society?

The historical significance of the so-called dowry should have faded long ago when laws were framed against this system.

“Dowry was prohibited by law in 1961 with the purpose of banning the demanding, giving and taking of dowry. Although providing dowry is illegal, it is still common in many parts of India for a husband to seek a dowry from the wife’s family, in some cases leading to extortion or violence against the wife.”

Not that I was unaware of this, not that I have never complained or criticized this type of blatant one-sided giving.

Recently I witnessed this tradition of giving and expecting unlimited gifts, which gave me a feeling of revulsion, almost to the point of revolt.

Shouldn’t educated and socially aware couples rise against this?

Isn’t it discrimination to expect gifts only from the bride’s family?

Why are we so helpless? Why are we enslaved by traditions?

Why are we expected to follow such an oppressive dogma of giving a daughter away?

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Balroop Singh.

Picture credit: Etawau.com, elegantindianwedding.com

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Of Traditions, Conservatism and Giving…

  1. Hi Balroop,
    I had no idea this is the way thing were in India. With the brides family having to give and give and her more less giving up her family. Here when a couple get married it is usually up to the brides parents to pay for the wedding and the grooms parents to have a big dinner for the bridle party a few days before the wedding. However when our girls got married we gave them each a certain amount of money for the wedding and if they went over that they were on there own. The cost of weddings over here as totally got out of hand. Anywhere from 25,000 thousand and up.
    What does happen to a couple if they decide to break tradition?

    Thanks for sharing, because i always thing it is great to hear how different traditions are in different countries.
    Have a great day,
    Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Isn’t it so strange that living at the same globe is so different for people across the countries and communities? It is good that you have no idea about such oppressive and despotic norms of patriarchal societies…you can’t even imagine!! I have used very soft words to convey…the truth is much more harsher.

      I can understand giving to your own daughter out of love but giving to all the members of the family and their extended families and that too gifts of gold and silver!! And not out of choice but compulsion! and expecting even after that…at all occasions!

      No wise groom thinks of breaking the tradition…who doesn’t like gold and cash? And girls don’t have much say in all this system. Even if they protest, their marriages get jeopardised. Even those who fall in love prefer to get their marriage arranged…to reap the harvest, in the name of traditions!

      Thanks for expressing your valuable opinion…always appreciated.

  2. —–I’ve read a few books about INDIA. For example The God of Small Things is in my TOP 10 books of all time. Have you read it?
    So, these traditions are true? Interesting.
    This post made me think of A Thousand Splendid Suns, which was set in Afghanistan… the main character says something like “We can change laws, but that is not enough; we need to change the way people think.
    Excellent post, as usual.

    1. Hi Kim,

      I had to drop ‘The God of Small Things’ unfinished as I lost interest in it half way, finding it too elaborative and irritating at places but I enjoyed reading all the three books of Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, being the best, according to me. Yes, he has painted a very grim picture of Afghanistan in his novels, especially the plight of women which is horrendous and what he has written is no fiction!

      And yes, such traditions are very much a part of our life…even highly educated, sane individuals follow them.
      Thanks for your kind words. I am glad you found this interesting.

  3. It’s interesting to read about your traditions Balroop. It can be hard for us to understand them and accept that this is still how people live at the other side or the world.
    Tradition is still very important for so many people. But yes it’s sad to see that we follow them without finding them right for us.
    The change must come from within. We need to change our perception of life. We need to say “no more of this” or “it’s not right for us anymore”.
    Stay well dear.

    1. Welcome Marie…I am glad you found this interesting. I know, those who have never seen or heard about such traditions find it difficult to believe but we grew up with them and they are too deep-rooted to change…also many people don’t want to change them for they reinforce their superiority over the so called ‘weaker sex’!!!

      Thank you for standing by and giving your precious time, greatly appreciated.

  4. Everything you’ve written is true, Balroop, but not sure what can be done to undo these traditions. Family name, prestige, traditions and our extremely persistent culture which abhors change continues these archaic traditions. Although brides and grooms of today might have changed, their elders and the traditions themselves certainly have not.

    Traditions give us a comfortable sense of our own self-identity and our place in the world. It preserves something special that is passed on from generation to generation. Unfortunately, when some traditions should no longer continue, they do because they are so strongly ingrained in the culture.

    I think the primary and most helpful thing that can be done is to acknowledge this issue, like you have in your post. Only when we continue to shine light on what the problem is can we start the process of rectifying it.

    1. Hi Vishnu,

      I like your positive way of dealing with this unwritten demonic law which is camouflaged with the name called ‘tradition’! BUT unless the younger generation rises against it, nothing can be done to eradicate it…as you know very well, the laws have failed so miserably. Alas! they have chosen to shut their eyes, probably because of the ravenous human nature, so difficult to change!

      The one in myriads, who tries to make a difference meets with a lot of criticism and even has to face ostracism from the society.
      Thanks for adding that valuable point of shining a light, Vishnu!

  5. Hey Balroop,
    I am glad you raised this issue. I have seen some so-called ‘responsible’ citizens who are ever ready to deliver lectures on dowry, women empowerment etc But when it comes to their own house, they seem to promote these things instead. I wonder how an educated, independent groom succumbs to the atrocities of his family. Instead of protecting his wife he goes on to support his family!
    I am sharing this, because I feel this issue needs to be shared.

    1. Hi tuhi…welcome! Thanks for understanding the mentality of such people, who actually promote these traditions. The hope lies in persons like you…if the younger generation tries to understand the gravity of the burden that falls on the shoulders of the parents who have to bear debts to carry out such a tradition…only then can we wipe it out!

      Thanks for standing by…greatly appreciated.

      1. I am looking forward to your future posts! Being an Indian I am proud of our culture and traditions, but it is true that there are a number of flaws which need to be discussed.

  6. Hi Balroop,
    I wrote a post a short while ago about traditional thinking. I think it a fundamental flaw in humanity when traditions take precedence over individual rights, where personal freedom is curtailed in the name of cultural identity, and any human being is treated as chattel. It is unfair, and if I read you properly, that is the hue and cry of this post.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Many such hues and cries have been made a myriad times and much louder…this is just a whiff as compared to them but nobody wishes to rise against such trampling traditions. My hope lies in the younger generation…only they can make the difference but the greed devours their idealism!

      Thanks for reading these cries, Bill. I think they make a lot of sense to me, having lived with such a tradition and seeing it never wane.
      Have nice day!

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