Arranged Marriage: Jul. 20th
Calamity has befallen Jude. Sue, Adhi, and I are stunned. I am simultaneously angry and sad. I am also totally helpless.
The negotiations for the marriage of Jude’s sister have gotten ugly. The potential groom for Jude’s sister has two sisters. The family want’s Jude to marry one of these sisters. By so doing, the dowry is kept in the family so to speak. If Jude does not agree, his sister’s marriage will be broken off. This would leave a "stain" on Jude’s sister. A boy can break an engagement many times, but a girl whose engagement is broken, will remain without a husband for the rest of her life. If her engagement is broken, the community will regard the girl as having something seriously wrong with her. If the engagement was broken so soon, it means she must have a serious personality or physical disorder. Brides whose marriage or engagement fails often commit suicide.
Stunningly, Jude’s father does not view the threat of dissolution of his daughter’s engagement as blackmail. Instead, he and Jude accept it as fate. Clearly the other family will not have to pay a large dowry, and most likely the blackmail will succeed. "What can I do, sir?", he says. "I give up my life for my sister’s life.". I have asked him, how the family will treat his sister, knowing that her life will be miserable. "I can treat their daughter badly, sir", he replies. I know full well that Jude is much too sweet and kind to do any such thing, and he admits that it is not in his nature.
The shame of having a "fallen" sister is too great for Jude’s father too bear. Jude, who has obeyed his father with the usual Indian devotion, cannot argue. There is nothing I can do to help Jude. I cannot pay 60,000 rupees to erase the engagement. It has happened and money will not solve the problem. Strategies such as making Jude out to be a poor husband will not work. Neither will economic pressure on the groom; I could use my power to try to get his government contract canceled, but it would do little long term good, and would only hurt Jude’s sister. The best I can do is to aid Jude in finding a decent job that would allow him to take care of a wife and the children to come.
Two days ago Jude asked me if Sue and I had a "love marriage" (as opposed to an arranged marriage). I have always accepted arranged marriages as culturally reasonable, believing that a culture built on devotion and faith can have two people live together in harmony. I tell my American friends that they willingly love and accept a child, without regard to the child’s personality. Acceptance of a bride or groom is a similar act. But today, I don’t know what to believe. I can only hope that there is no dowry harassment.