"I don't want dowry", reads his website name, and 15 years down the line, he is still striving alone.
What's your take on dowry? Well, the parents of the girl send her to a new house where she has to live for the rest of her life, cook for them, bear kids and rear them, take care of their health and wellness, listen to their taunts and lock them under her teeth without letting her parents know about it. On top of everything, she gives money to her husband and in-laws at the time of marriage. If that money doesn't satisfy her in-laws, she will be treated brutally by them. Why this tradition of taking and giving dowry has begun is a question that can be answered later but why should a girl give money to live with someone is the question that needs an immediate answer. She is educated, is independent, financially stable and well settled - still, should she pay for someone to accept her as one of the members of their family? Is it that the man doesn't need her at all? Should the woman go through all the pains of this tradition even today? These questions are answered from behind the silky curtains of 'culture and tradition'. But there's one man from Hyderabad who has been relentlessly striving for over 15 years now, to uproot this tradition from the Indian soil. He is Satya Naresh. His story expresses discontent that though it's been more than a decade of fight, people sign the support letters and give their consent to the fight, but in practice, things don't change. Here's what he has been doing over all these years.
“Everyone wants money. Everyone takes shortcuts. People are greedy,” says Naresh. “It is one of India’s most deeply rooted traditions. This country’s traditions go back centuries and it’s very hard to uproot them. Dowry is no different.”, he says and mentions that the traditions of this country are so deep-rooted that it's highly difficult to wipe them off at one go. "Dowry is no different", he puts it with a heavy heart.
Satya is 50 years old and is a Commerce graduate. He works as a web designer and lives with his parents in Hyderabad. Their family is against the tradition of dowry and they have got his two elder sisters married without dowries.
How It All Began?
When Naresh was in the University, he came to see how his friend was so disappointed that she could never get married as her parents cannot afford to pay dowry. With this anxiety, she ended her life too. While on the other hand, another friend of his, decided not to marry ever, out of the same fear. Looks like he is destined to work for the cause and so, whatever he saw before him revolved around the concept of dowry. At another friend's wedding, the bridegroom demanded an additional of Rs.10,000 just minutes before the wedding and if the bride's father failed to arrange the money, the wedding wouldn't be taken further. "My friend’s father didn’t have it. He had already given so much. My friends and I rallied around and collected the money and gave it to him and the marriage went ahead, but I was shocked at how easily my friend’s future could have been destroyed without that 10,000 rupees,” Naresh recounted.
Man In Action:
After seeing several harrowing incidents around this tradition, Satya Naresh decided to do something about it. It's hard to change the age-old tradition but at least he thought someone should start somewhere. He has been trying to persuade men to stop the wedding customs that give immense trouble and burden to the girl's family. He urges men to affirm and declare, "I don't want dowry". He set up a website in the year 2006 on the same name "I don't want dowry". There's another pathetic thing happening at Indian weddings. Most of them say that they don't want dowry but demand gifts. That's again more than what the dowry is, to the parents of the bride. Thus Satya Naresh urges men not to expect money, motorbikes, sofas, TV, iPhone, gold jewellery or fridge from their partner. Through his website, he strives to get the like-minded people, those who want to marry without dowry, together. He mentions that 50 couples have got married after meeting each other on the site. "Women are better educated than ever before, they are working, some are independent. Women have a voice now. Some have the confidence to tell their father that if a prospective bridegroom demands a dowry, they won’t marry him. It’s a small start but it’s something,” he says.
Seeks Government Support:
Satya Naresh opines that how much ever individual fight people may give, government should also intervene and make sure that it conducts campaigns just like it spreads the anti-tobacco campaign. He mentions that laws wouldn't help unless people are made to feel ashamed of accepting dowry. "Have you ever seen an anti-dowry poster anywhere? We have never had an energetic, determined effort to smash into people’s consciousness. We haven’t had a single TV series tackling dowry that is watched by the masses. Not a single Bollywood star has been enlisted to hammer home the point. It’s no good making dowry illegal without working to make it something Indians are ashamed of accepting,” - his thought-provoking words are powerful that need immediate action. "A governor in Kerala is calling on university vice-chancellors to make students pledge not to seek or pay a dowry, or lose their degree", he mentions - Can this happen everywhere?
A Lonely Battle:
Naresh expresses dispair that though it's the 15th year that he started his fight, he is still a loner. His target of reaching 1,00,000 sign ups by 2020 managed to reach just 10,000. That means only 10k people out of 1.4 billion responded to the pledge. Even after knowing the seriousness of the issue, people still feel that following the tradition is more vital. But Satya doesn't give up. "We have planted a seed. Give the tree time to grow. In time, I hope the canopy of this tree will cover all of India, and protect all its young women,” he expresses hope.
Let's join hands with Satya Naresh and walk with him to make India free from this heinous tradition.
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