Thursday, May 11, 2006

Of Dowries and Gifts

I've always been proud of the fact that my parents' marriage had nothing to do with dowries. But as I grew up, I was told that while this was true, it was not that nothing had been asked for. My paternal grandmother (who was, from all accounts, one of the nicest people ever, and certainly not the money-minded type) had hoped my mother would bring some furniture with her, apart from the regulation bed. Not because my grandmother wanted stuff for herself, but because it would show the respect and love her son would recieve from his in-laws. I can understand that, but the question remains, where does one draw the line? In this case, my grandfather, a barrister and a gentleman with very strong views on everything, scolded her and said that gifts had nothing to do with affection etc. So my mother brought with her only as much as her parents felt they could give.

I always knew the issue of dowry would never arise in any marriage of mine. So I smirked when when V's mum proudly told my parents that I was to bring nothing apart from the regulation bed. I got upset when my parents tried to buy me jewellery -- if it was expensive it would sit in the bank locker, and what good would that do me, pray? -- and generally ticked them off for trying to buy me other stuff (kitchen stuff blah blah) till my mother got good and mad and told me it was her daughter's wedding and if she felt like a grand do it was her business and none of mine and would I kindly shut up now, I was being a colossal bore. Or words to that effect. (Now I think back, I know, it was stupid, but back then, it felt really scary, having folks give you so much. And jewellery-wise, I was proved right. It all went into the bank and will stay there till I force it on my poor daughter. Who will then have to pay locker-rent for her life-time. And thus the saga continues...)

Anyway, you get the idea. And as you may have read in my earlier post about the stuff V and I did get after all, one could hardly say that we were stinted. So imagine my utter shock when I realised that the mother-in-law did harbour a vague resentment on the grounds that her son wasn't given gifts as grand as the stuff given to her daughter-in-law. Heh heh... imagine V's state of mind if my parents smilingly told him that the mamarbari money was not to be directed towards his baby (the Mac he drools over every night. Even after 3 months. I hate it) but to, say, something along the lines of rings and jewellery. Even I wouldn't do that to him, not even at the height of a fight. Or, that instead of model cars, they would prefer to give him a, I dunno, what do sons-in-law get traditionally? Say more clothes.

I don't get it. If her son's happy, he must have a reason to be happy, right? And you can't deny his happiness when you see him set out his silly cars (well, ok, they are actually quite hot but they detract attention from ME and that's always a bad thing) or fiddle around on the Mac (which I admit gave me some ecstatic moments too, but I'll deny that if you ever say it in front of V). And it all brings me back to what I was saying earlier about dowry. Part of the reason I didn't want all the stuff my parents wanted to gift us was because I felt V was being bloody bribed to marry me. Me! I'm incentive enough to marry me, any day. Not some stupid Mac. Even if it is a darn handsome machine.

Now the thing is, officially, my marriage was as free of dowry as any other. But I got more as gifts than most brides get as dowry. How does that figure? It makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but then I remember the wedding was also about my parents doing something they had waited 23 years for, and they definitely had ideas about how they wanted to do it. They only spent what they could afford, I do admit that, and gave nothing that they didn't want to, but...

I guess V is right, I do think too much.

I think I ought to focus on 2 points:
1. Nothing was asked for, therefore all gifts were given with love.
2. My parents enjoyed the shopping so much, I did feel bad about playing spoilsport. Ever seen two 50 yr-olds gleefully go over the crockery they have bought -- and which they don't have to carefully clean and maintain -- and which they would never buy for themselves but can totally justify buying now since it's for somebody else? My mum actually did that for the dinner set and the Tupperware while my father did as much over my laptop (a gift I try not to talk about, since it kinda undercuts my grousing over the Mac) and its accessories.

I really ought to have brought my parents up to listen to me more. Now it's too late.

17 comments:

WishfulThinker said...

*Trying to be as dignified as possible while screwing eyeballs back into his sockets and walking away without saying anything*

roli said...

hi.. am a frequent visitor here. could relate to this post like any other girl would who has fought with her parents over these `love-soaked' gifts. just dont understand why parents refuse to see reason. guess, we will know better when our children get married.

Sue said...

Wishful - Maybe when you're in the same position you'll understand better. Your eyes stop hurting yet?

Roli - Hello. I guess, as I said, it's my parents' wedding more than mine. Like theirs wasn't theirs really. You know what I mean?

Ankit said...

first girl i ever came across who is not happy with the jewellary.
n abt the basic furniture thing to show respect..smhow doesnt seem logical to me

Sue said...

Ankit - Like I said, since it's the expensive stuff, it lies in the bank locker. What's to be happy about?

As for the furniture thing, it's the mindset of the older generation. All parents are weird by definition, you know :-)

Grafxgurl said...

My mac always gives me ecstatic moments... sigh.. i heart my Mac!!

*oookok snapping out of that*

err.. umm.. i had no dowry..
i just got a husband...


AND LOADS OF FRIGGIN BEDLINEN!!
well. the egyptian cotton was AMAZING..but yeah .. other than that.. i forsee.. ohh... tons of laundry!?

Sue said...

Grafx - Lol, I sympathise. I know it'll all come in useful eventually but I too was given masses of linen. People gave me bedcovers like there was no tomorrow...

Anonymous said...

Interesting! What is a regulation bed?

Bishu said...

Two rants about Bong wedding gifts:
1.The good-for-nothing female relative sitting beside the bride with a hand book to register all the gifts presented.

2.When it comes to unpacking the gifts you realise sadly that all the gifts are either for home decoration,kitchen stuff or exclusively for your wife only. Nothing,not even a single tiepin for the new hubby.

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dreamcatcher said...

My house became a battle ground when my sister got married ..(a) she hates gold jewellery and (b) she wasn't going to wear it for the wedding either. ma resorted to the ohforgodssakeshutup and when that didn't work plain and simple emotional blackmail. It now lies in a lonely locker in the U.S.
However there is really no reason for you to feel any twinges of guilt if you have received more gifts than V. You're living far away from your parents and home to be with him (read doing all the sacrificing). My cousin and I figured it out long ago - the bride must be pampered and showered with gifts. It is her day. And like you said he's getting you, does he like need anything else :D.

ichatteralot said...

My MIL was VERY clear about what gifts she wanted for her son, herself, her daughter and her husband. She said that please dont bother to buy undies as it can be embarassing but rest is all OK. I still feel like kicking her :)

Sue said...

Anon - Apparently, when Bongs get married, the girl's parents give the couple a double bed. Which the girl's family comes over and decorates for the 'first night'.

Bishu - No way can V say that. He got quite a lot of things, including shirts, Asterixes blah blah. Follow the link in my post, you'll see whta I mean. The lion's share was for me, yes, but lots for him too.

Dreamcatcher - I put it to him that way, and he said, I'm getting him, so what else do I need? Obviously, that started me off on all the things that I still wanted in life (including solitaire diamond earrings etc.) and that shut him up.

Chatty - One day, you and I must meet. I have a feeling this is going to develop into a deep and beautiful friendship based on a lot of mutually shared points of view.

Rohini said...

As long as it wasn't asked for or expected, it's a gift. And gifts are always nice.

I agree with you on the jewellery. I hardly ever wear mine. But even worse are the saris. I told my mom I didn't want any and she convinced me that she would buy me just 5. And to cut a long story short, I actually ended up with more like 25 which I NEVER wear! Atleast, jewellery has some intrinsic resale value!

Sue said...

Rohini - I asked for, and got, a lot of sarees. Now, I am fond of wearing sarees, so that wasn't an issue. But I've outgrown almost all my blouses! And I haven't had the time to open the seams of more than a few. Sighh... you just can't win.

once again said...

damn ! its so funny as I was just gonna type up something similar to this. Being from a 'sindhi' family does have its share of 'dowry issues' and 'market value' and I just learnt a cuz of mine, getting married early next yr, the budget for her wedding is 75 lacs !!

woah ! I fell off the chair !! to which my father in true sindhi spirit said .. whatever makes u think, weddings come cheap. honestly, i think its all just a waste of money [tho yes, the gifts sound lurvley] I want a new sony vaio too ! * bawls *

Sue said...

Once - I thought mine was pretty big by middle-class Bong standards, but now I see it was tiny. I believe the budget for mine went between 8 and 9 lacs.