Customs, traditions and rituals are threads that have connected humanity throughout generations irrespective of culture, religion or ethnicity. Not only do rituals aid us in building families and communities as they mark significant events in one’s lifetime but also create and reaffirm our identity, both personal and cultural. Initially, rituals were a reflection of the society and ideally, as people and in turn, the society is in a process of constant evolution, these rituals should also adapt to the new age and new thought process. Rituals should mirror one’s belief system that has been conjured as a result of their education and experiences and this is where most rituals fall short.
A Wife – Completely reliant on her husband for food, clothes and their decisions in life?
Right off the bat, the ritual of “bhaat kapor” is characteristic of a Bengali marriage. An extravagant and delectable meal is prepared exclusively for the bride on this occasion. The bridegroom now hands over a sari and a tray of goodies, and he is required to promise that he would provide food and clothing to his wife for the remainder of her life. Even though on the surface it might appear to be a sweet gesture, if you are one to enjoy being pampered and all, it comes in lieu of a condition. The condition being, the wife is to perform her “wifely duties” with utmost obedience and loyalty. This ceremony provides some social and financial stability to a girl who is completely reliant on her husband. How is this relevant to women who are financially stable and make equal contributions to the family budget? Do they really need to be dependent on their husbands for food, clothes and their decisions in life? How about, the promised clothes and food is replaced with respect, love, affection and loyalty?
The Husband Footing all Expenditures – The Traditional Gender Paradigm
The traditional gender paradigm of the husband footing all expenditures is repressive to males as well. A man should be able to rely on his wife too for financial support. He does not need to be at his workplace labouring day in and day out so that he can amass enough to provide for his family. If his job tires him out and displeases him, he is allowed to call it quits and consider an alternative. A marriage won’t be a burden to either if both parties cater to the financial needs and have enough time to spend with each other and build a home. The male ego needs to be reigned in and sedated. Men can drop the mightier than thou act and live a life filled with love instead.
Swapping of Wealth and the Daughter – A Deal?
Gifting away the bride to the groom’s family for charity is as low as the position of women in this society can stoop to. It’s awful enough that a woman is forced to give up her entire life to care for another family simply because she was born a woman. But it is outrageous that today’s men and women tolerate considering a woman as a commodity to be given away. However, certain optimists might argue that the woman is treated not as a property but as the father’s precious daughter who just wants to ensure that she will be taken care of by the husband. It is not a one-way road and technically both the husband and the wife should take care of each other.
Let’s not forget, the kanyadaan is carried out by the male members of the bride’s family. In the absence of the father, the ceremony must be performed by the next closest male member. So basically, two men meet, swap wealth, and one of them passes over a daughter, adorning an expensive saree and bedecked with equally expensive jewellery, to the other. Looks like they have a deal! Are you still going to turn a blind eye to these abhorrent practices masked by the idea that these are auspicious and crucial to make a marriage work?
With Bidaai, it is saying goodbye to the house and people, the bride grew up with and also to the very teeny weensy bit of respect dangling by the thread. She is on her way to her new place, sasuraal which is technically her father in law’s. So, a woman has no place of her own. She either stays rent-free at her father’s house or at her father-in-law’s. Before you pop a vein, let it settle that prior to leaving, she must throw a handful of rice over her head as a symbol of repayment for the “debt” she incurred at her father’s house. Sorry to break it to you, but you are paraaya dhan, it is not even your family. It’s someone else’s property. Say, how do parents accept this? Was their ‘love’ conditional? Seems to me, your fate to be given away and to be gotten rid of was decided on the very day you were born.
Women don’t stop becoming daughters once they are married…
Women don’t stop becoming daughters once they are married. A woman is not a commodity, and don’t even try to sugarcoat it by calling her a treasure. She is a human being and deserving of love and reverence. Women don’t need somebody to take responsibility of their clothing food. She can do that for herself. Women of today are educated, smart and intelligent and can land jobs for themselves. It is time these rituals are at least transformed if not abolished. Let marriage be a sign of companionship and not mere subjugation. As long as you endure these practices, you are supporting and promoting it. It is not the sole responsibility of the women to stand up against these practices, the men to need to realize that patriarchy and ignorance is the roadway to doom.