The Devil's Price

Written for the Sunday Mini-Challenge on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. 

Poetic Form - Write a poem that is 14 lines long.


Dowry is a medieval, derogatory, discriminatory tradition that is still practiced with impunity, even pride, in India. 

Dowry is the price that is demanded by the groom and his family as a forced "gift", sometimes even compensation of sorts, for taking the bride in and assuming the responsibility of caring for her for the rest of her life. 
The groom's worth and standing in society is often judged by the amount of dowry he is able to garner. 
The bride's family has to assemble the dowry, no matter how large or beyond their means even to the extent of steep loans and bankruptcy, if they are to preserve the marriage, their honour, and their daughter's life.

In cases where the dowry demands are not met satisfactorily, the rest of the bride's life may not last long enough to justify the dowry. She is liable to be sent back to her parents, abandoned, raped, beaten, burned, tortured, kept as a slave, sold or murdered by her own husband and his family. 

A fallout of the dowry system has been female infanticide, the selective abortion of female foetuses. As a result, the sex ratio in most parts of India is abysmally low, to the extent that there are now entire villages where there are no girls.

Even though it is prohibited by law, dowry continues to flourish in India, because a girl's honour and place in society are dictated by a satisfactory marriage, preferably arranged by elders.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the birth of a girl-child in the more impoverished parts of our country are met with condolences than celebration.

Yes, India is changing. But it isn't changing fast enough for us girls.

The arrival of a daughter is not welcomed with a prayer
But mourned, as though a curse has come to life
From the day she is born, every morsel is counted
And accounted for, For she will have to get married some day

Yes, it won't come cheap, the purchase of a suitable boy
Disguised as a favour bestowed on the girl and her family
If she's lucky, she will be asked, but let's not make it a necessity
Leave it all to those who have to pay for her wedding and the jewels

And the TV, the fridge, the furniture and the utensils
Everything a house needs, maybe even the house itself
And livestock or a vehicle or both, depending on what the demand is for
Unless it's all paid in full, she may not live to use them anyway.

Yes, the arrival of a daughter is not welcomed with a prayer
It is met with laments, and wishes they'd "caught" it before she was born.








31 comments:

  1. As the mother of two daughters, I find such attitudes abhorrent - and wonder how such societies imagine to continue without women in them. Thank you for highlighting the issue of misogyny. It is only through knowledge that change may happen.

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    1. It is hard to understand even for the Indian youth, those of us who belong to the current generation, who are educated and a lot more enlightened. The sad part is the amount of dowry commanded by the groom is viewed as a sign of prestige and pride. Because of this perverted view, young men and their families still demand dowry, even though there is no justification or actual financial requirement.

      Things are changing though... but they need to change faster...

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  2. Sigh.
    Aren't things changing yet?
    How saddening, but how wonderfully depicted in your lines.

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    1. Things are changing Aprille, just not as fast, and not to the extent that is expected of a growing, so-called progressing country as ours. Education and affirmative action are bringing about a transformation in the way we as a society and a country think and do things. But full emancipation is still some ways off..

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  3. SO sad. Thank you for sharing the under-belly of this tradition that is so confounding. Well done employing the form as well.

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    1. Thanks Hannah, for reading and thinking about this issue. Some traditions die hard. Sadly, they're the ones that should be done away with at the earliest.

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  4. Its sad that this situation is still going on strong...the cultural and family ties can kill the woman ~ I am not surprised that Indian families migrate abroad, where choices and woman's power is treasured, rather mourn like a curse ~

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    1. Grace, it will shock you to know that sometimes even non-resident Indians (i.e. Indians settled abroad) are rigid about upholding "traditions". You may have heard cases of honour killings in the UK, Canada and even the US. The misogyny and male-dominant mentality persists, especially among the older set of migrant Indians.

      As things change in India, so do Indians worldwide. Here's hoping for the best.

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    1. It is sad and shameful. And these are issues that are incomprehensible in a civilized world. Thank you for reading this Gail!

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  6. how precious each is... your pain reads through the lines... may God protect you

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    1. I am one of the lucky ones - my parents gave me a great education, I was always independent, and I married my boyfriend of five years (naturally without any dowry)

      More and more educated young people are choosing their own life-partners, thereby putting an end to this cycle of asking for dowry, and paying dowry in turn for their own daughters. But there's still a long way to go!

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  7. What?!? This is infuriating. It is women who make life worth the living. The idea of being so undervalued that a girl's family should have to pay some man to take her on is insane. And the violence is beyond insane, it's not even human. I've heard about the burning. I'm horrified; it beggars belief.

    Sometimes I think certain words ought to just be taken and thrown out. Words like "honor" and "pride", because they are so often twisted and used as badges to justify things that are clearly wrong.

    I read a book once that was written by a Saudi woman, and she made the point that when men treat women as property, as less-than, they injure not only the women, but themselves, because no true, natural connection is possible within that framework. What loneliness.

    I was mystified when I started my blog and I got a certain number of male Indian commenters who seemed to think they were doing me some big favor by taking notice of me. For some reason they never liked my replies.

    Keep shining a light, Mixi!

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    1. Thank you for reading and feeling so strongly about this Fireblossom. I have often found that women in western cultures find it very hard to understand or even believe that things like this could be happening in the world. Yet, patriarchal societies form the rockbed of many countries around the world. Total emancipation is still a goal that needs to be achieved.

      I agree completely with you when you say that injuring women hurts the men too, even though they don't see it themselves. As I mentioned, because of the way women are treated, there are now entire villages that are bereft of female members.

      Hope you spread the word. Education is the key!

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  8. Patriarchal religions are terrifying to me, and the extent to which they order societal situations like this is frightening--I don't understand how men can view their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, in this dehumanized fashion. I applaud that things are changing, and hope that change can be escalated through education and peer reappraisal. A vivid explication of the inexplicable, Mixi.

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    1. Thank you for thinking about this, hedgewitch. I have tried to present a simplified version of this issue for the benefit of the Toads, most of whom have been raised in western cultures. Male domination runs so deep that it is not easy to understand unless you've seen it first hand.

      I hope I've been able to shine some light on the need for gender equality, not just in my oountry, but everywhere in the world.

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  9. This is a very sad situation, in a very cruel world. You did well with this very important piece, however.

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    1. Thank you for reading this Ann!

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  10. So very sad that the arrival of a daughter is not greeted with as much happiness as the arrival of a boy. I am very familiar with the dowry system and also the fact that some of the young women end up dying in 'cooking fires' somehow if the demands for good from her family are not met. What a tragedy. You are lucky that you were raised by parents who allowed you to marry a boyfriend of your choice and also to get an education. Yes, education is key. I am glad that this dowry system is changing in India; and I hope within my grandchildren's lifetime girl babies there will be welcomed as happily as boy babies by everyone...not only the educated.

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    1. Thank you for thinking about this Mary. Yes, my generation has been more fortunate in its upbringing and freedom than those before us, but the way ahead is yet to be paved. We all hope that the next couple of generations will put an end to these medieval practices.

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  11. my first grandchild, a beautiful daughter has just arrived, and i'm not all upset about it...we all are celebrating her existence and beauty.

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    1. And that is how it should be :) Thank you for reading and sharing this!

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  12. This is horrifying-so sad! How can one decide what a life is worth...or not?!
    Thank for you for this brave poem and being honest! It raw with emotion and shocking, this exist in our world! Education as you said, is key!

    I'm sorry! Yes, the light needs to shine and the stories told~
    (((hugs)))

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    1. Thank you Ella for feeling so strongly about this. Isn't it unbelievable the depths of depravity to which we humans can plunge?

      Spreading the word will help! (((hugs)))

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  13. Mixi...This is sordid and a grim picture but a true picture, which is apparent from the innumerable dowry deaths we see in our news channels. What a curse for Indian women!!
    Being a Mom of a daughter, who married off her daughter without dowry makes me feel proud. In fact, the educated girls are also alert these days and have started raising their voice against the immoral practice.
    Heart touching piece. Awesome write up!♥

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    1. A lot of young people from my generation have been lucky to have been brought up by parents like you, but there are still many who are stuck in the archaic Middle-Ages. I fear that those who have been corrupted by this thought in our generation will pass on the malaise to future generations. Though there is more awareness now than ever before, the momentum has to be upped.

      Thank you for being one of those who made the world a better place for their children.

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  14. I fear much hardship and martyrdom must occur before change is made... sends shudders through me.

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    1. Hoping for the best here, Margaret. Thank you for reading this!

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  15. This is so sad. Writing and speaking about it will hopefully provide a change.

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  16. Your 14 show the thinking of too many still. A terrible attitude to have on what should be a blessed event. I pity the poor girl and her parents.
    ..

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  17. The truth in this is heartbreaking...

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

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