Author Note: Some readers could infer that this piece is justifying dowry or lynching. This is , as i see it , the effect of the binary thinking that western universalism forces – respecting one God leads to disrespecting other gods and vice versa. Non-westerners also imbibe the western way of thinking through education or media. Hence, criticizing one person’s behavior can lead to the inference that it is supporting someone else’s behavior. It would be more appropriate to consider all aspects and not live in binary-loka.
#TKTSKK = #Tuada_Kutta_Tommy_Sadda_Kutta_Kutta
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Some days back, I attended a theater festival. It was a series of plays being performed and the reactions coming from the audience were quite perplexing. Let me share my experience ..
The first play was about a wedding in India…. Both the families seem to be excited about the wedding. The rituals are going on and then there is some gift exchange. Now suddenly, the groom is all upset. He has not been gifted with enough gifts. He wants to call off the wedding. The bride is crying and begging him to accept whatever gifts have been bought.
The audience around me, started booing. “This is a case of dowry” they said, “Dowry! Dowry! Injustice, emotional blackmail!”
“What if the demand continues even after marriage?”
They said they cannot tolerate this story. You cannot show a crime taking place in the play. This will encourage more people to demand expensive gifts. They insisted that the play be “cancelled”
The organizers apologized for selecting the wrong story and assured that the next one would be better. While the stage was being set up for the next play, I checked my phone for more information on dowry and found this definition – “Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly – (a) by one party in marriage to the other party in marriage; or (b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to marriage or to any other persons; at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal law applies.”
The curtains opened … A beautiful garden in the US. A couple in a romantic mood. The girl is hoping that her boyfriend proposes to her. But she is waiting for him to pop the question. And then he pulls out a diamond ring and pops the question! Great!
Surprisingly, the girl looks all disappointed. She gives an angry look and says “how can you buy such a cheap ring for me? This would not cost even 1 paycheck of yours. Is that what I am worth?”
Due to the previous drama, I had learnt that it is a crime to demand expensive gifts and such a story should not be shown lest it encourage others to do the same. I thought I should speak up now and ask this drama to be stopped as well. I wanted to act like the intelligent people around me and so I shouted “Dowry! Dowry! Injustice, emotional blackmail” But the audience made me shut up. “Don’t you understand? They are so much in love with each other?”
I was puzzled “But she is demanding an expensive gift as a precondition for the marriage!” Somebody from the audience was annoyed with my ignorance “Don’t you know it is a norm in the US that the guy needs to buy a diamond ring at least worth 2 paychecks of his? The price of the diamond is an indication of measure of the guy’s love for the girl!”
It made me blurt out “So what if the Indian groom demanded a gift worth 2 paychecks of the bride? Would that be considered dowry? And how about demanding a gift that costs 2 paychecks of the bride’s parents?” The audience gave me a nasty look. I immediately apologized and promised to correct my understanding of dowry. #TKTSKK
The drama was still going on. The guy was trying to convince the girl that he had bought whatever best he could, but the girl went on lambasting “Is this how you will treat me even after marriage? Do you even know that a second diamond must be gifted to reaffirm romance later in marriage?” …. I was reminded of the question “what if the dowry demand continues even after marriage?” but my difference anxiety took over and I decided to keep the question to myself.
Now that I was learning some new concepts, I started taking notes –
Brown couples do not love each other, they are very greedy and materialistic, but white couples are so emotional and in love. When a brown man is demanding an expensive gift, it is called dowry which is a crime. If a white woman is in the same situation it is unarguably because of “love”. But what about white men receiving dowry? For example, when a Portuguese princess gets married to a British king, who gets entire Bombay in dowry? Is it a crime as well? Not sure, maybe I need to study this topic more.
We had a short break and then the curtains opened for the next play..
The stage showed a rural area in India. The play begins…. A person sends out a message on social media accusing a man of some crime. People in the village are all scared that their family could also suffer if the accused roams around freely. Then one of them spots the accused and calls out to other people. They try to get hold of him, but he tries to escape, it leads to a scuffle. Hearing the commotion, more people gather, and the accused is beaten black and blue.
The audience around me is all agitated. “How can anyone do this to the accused? These people are so mean! Uncivilized!”
“Was there any judicial trial? He is not proven guilty. The man could be innocent. What about his life? What about his family?”
“And think of the mental trauma, he is barely able to speak. He is scarred for life. This country lacks humanity!”
Then the curtains drop. Next story with a new setting….
Someone posts something on social media accusing a man. Lots of people read it, they get emotional and start castigating the accused. Then someone says, “we can’t let him go unpunished, you never know the next victim could be one of us or a family member”. More people are outraged, they use lots of offensive words for the accused. That seemed like a case of mental lynching.
During the previous play, I had learnt that it was inhuman to punish someone until proven guilty, so I want people to stop accusing the man before the judicial process is completed. But the audience is all excited. They cheer the crowd “Go for him!”
Surprised? Oh, sorry. I forgot to describe the setting of the story…. This is a western country and the person posting on social media is a woman saying, “Me Too!”.
I asked them “Shouldn’t there be any judicial process? How can you be sure that he is guilty? The man could be innocent. What about his life? What about his family? And think of the mental trauma, he is barely able to speak. He could be scarred for life.”
By now the audience is totally exasperated by my questions “Didn’t you hear what she said? She said ‘Me Too! Me Too!’. It is our duty to support the accuser even if there is no judicial process. You need to learn humanity.” #TKTSKK
The festival is about to end. I hurriedly tried to take some more notes –
Accusing someone on social media is OK if you are a woman from a western country but not otherwise. In other cases, people need to be civilized enough to go through the entire judicial process. Mental lynching is helping the society reform, but physical lynching is regressive. In India, the life of the person being accused matters but in case of Me Too, the person doing the accusing is more important.
This series of plays continue, but it has left me wondering , as to why the audience is so confused. Can you please help me understand ?