O Dowry! Kill no more

There were more similarities between these two families  than the dissimilarities.  Friends Ravi and Shiv headed these families. Their financial status was  marked  by limitations, they both worked in the same  organization with equivalent office positions, with little difference in their total income.  They each had a son and a daughter with slight difference in their ages, ranging between 4 or 5 years.
The attitudes of both these persons towards life in general were not far away from reality. Both were God-fearing and determined to help each other in case of need.
The stinking dissimilarity  was however conspicuous when a comparison was made between the wives of Ravi (Rani) and that of Shiv (Sita).  While Rani was simpleton, Sita was quite aggressive in her dealings. Her husband counseled her frequently  to improve her behavior but she always  took offense at his advice.  However, these two women would not criticize each other in the open. Sita would still fill Shiv’s  ears with all kind of unwelcome remarks  about Ravi’s family, but fortunately Shiv ignored them as rubbish.
On the other hand, these women were darling aunties of their  children and their relationship had developed so close that children of one would not complain to the mother of the other. For neighbours children behaved as if they were brothers and sisters of each other. Each family whistled life away in prefect contentment.


A search had already been initiated to identify boys for both the daughters. On several occasions Ravi and Shiv shared particulars of boys with each so that if one did not find one boy suitable for whatever reasons, the other family could consider. Modest financial condition of fathers and positions they held in the office that were not even of middle level, invariably came in the way with disappointing results of their efforts. These factors had become a sort of irritating impediments and their removal did not lie in their power. Since these  unfavourable circumstances would not improve  much in the foreseeable future they were getting worried.
In the absence of their children both the families used to meet occasionally. One day the subject  of their daughters’ marriage came up for discussion. They were indeed saddened at their inability to identify suitable matches for their respective daughters.  They  agreed  that the matter is both urgent and important and brood no further delay.
A suggestion was mooted by Ravi that they should  consider exchanging girls with boys. There was a spontaneous  positive response from  Shiv.  Shiv, however, felt that a bitterness of negativity  had crept into Sita’s face.  Both the husbands satisfied that a calm and premeditated  prudence had put this idea into their heads for active pursuit. Finally it was agreed that the opinion of children should also be ascertained before sealing this idea with the consent of all. When there was unanimity, calmness seemed to have settled on the face of even Sita. Children were advised to appraise this proposal with  freedom like a ceaselessly fleeting cloud. and they should be brave enough to express their  considerate opinion with courage of  conviction. They asked for time and it was granted.
Next Sunday, fixed for further discussion, arrived. The primary reasons which had prompted parents to go in for this arrangement were reiterated threadbare. It seemed children had among themselves decided that  one of them would convey their opinion together with other essential conditions which both the families must adhere to. Sons were not in a mood to see their parents continuously worried any more on this account. They were also  aware of the fact that the factors which  other people considered  in relation  to their sisters were very much in existence and might continue to cause their rejection in future also. They therefore finally assented to the proposal.
Ravi’s son, Rajinder took the floor and spoke in a tone which invited their serious attention. “We have unanimously decided to agree with the proposal.  There are other points for which there was complete unanimity among the children, and these were: “Marriages should be celebrated with simplicity, no wastage of money, and of all the most important thing being that no party should now and ever in the future make any demand for anything whatever reason.


Parents of the families heartily welcomed these suggestions, though for Shiv the silence  on the part of Sita was uncomfortably ominous  because she nodded mutely. So long she sat there she was eyeing her husband with frosty cold.
During the next six months or so, marriages were accomplished. The next four months passed away peacefully. There was an atmosphere of serenity and families were proud of their considered decision.
One day Sita broached the subject of starting a side business by her son and the need of some finances for the purpose. “We will also help him financially but  this help would have to be supplemented”,  and here Sita invited her daughter-in-law’s attention. She would always emphasize the point that this unanticipated development was not foreseen when decision was taken to fix marriages.
On two or three occasions Ravi met their demands with the help of his son. But when their rapidity increased and quantum of the amount enhanced,  Ravi declined to accept any them. Their financial status was  marked  by limitations, they both worked in the same  organization with equivalent office positions, with little difference in their total income.  They each had a son and a daughter with slight difference in their ages, ranging between 4 or 5 years.
The attitudes of both these persons towards life in general were not far away from reality. Both were God-fearing and determined to help each other in case of need.
The stinking dissimilarity  was however conspicuous when a comparison was made between the wives of Ravi (Rani) and that of Shiv (Sita).  While Rani was simpleton, Sita was quite aggressive in her dealings. Her husband counseled her frequently  to improve her behavior but she always  took offense at his advice.  However, these two women would not criticize each other in the open. Sita would still fill Shiv’s  ears with all kind of unwelcome remarks  about Ravi’s family, but fortunately Shiv ignored them as rubbish.


On the other hand, these women were darling aunties of these  children and their relationship had developed so close that children of one would not complain to the mother of the other. For neighbours children behaved as if they were brothers and sisters of each other. Each family whistled life away in prefect contentment.
A search had already been initiated to identify boys for both the daughters. On several occasions Ravi and Shiv shared particulars of boys with each so that if one did not find one boy suitable for whatever reasons, the other family could consider. Modest financial condition of fathers and positions they held in the office that were not even of middle level, invariably came in the way with disappointing results of their efforts. These factors had become a sort of irritating impediments and their removal did not lie in their power. Since these  unfavourable circumstances would not improve  much in the foreseeable future they were getting worried.
In the absence of their children both the families used to meet occasionally. One day the subject  of their daughters’ marriage came up for discussion. They were indeed saddened at their inability to identify suitable matches for their respective daughters.  They  agreed  that the matter was both urgent and important and brooded no further delay.
A suggestion was mooted by Ravi that they should  consider exchanging girls with boys. There was a spontaneous  positive response from  Shiv.  Shiv, however, boticed that a bitterness of negativity  had crept into Sita’s face.  Both the husbands realized that a calm and premeditated  prudence had put this idea into their heads for active pursuit. Finally it was agreed that the opinion of children should also be ascertained before sealing this idea with the consent of all. When there was unanimity, calmness seemed to have settled on the face of even Sita. Children were advised to appraise this proposal with  freedom like a ceaselessly fleeting cloud. and they should be brave enough to express their  considerate opinion with courage of  conviction. They asked for time and it was granted.
Next Sunday, fixed for further discussion, arrived. The primary reasons which had prompted parents to go in for this kind of arrangement were reiterated threadbare. It seemed children had among themselves decided that  one of them would convey their opinion together with other essential conditions which both the families must adhere to. Sons were not in a mood to see their parents continuously worried any more on this account. They were also  aware of the fact that the factors which  other people considered  in relation  to their sisters might continue to cause their rejection in future also. They therefore finally assented to the proposal.
Ravi’s son, Rajinder took the floor and spoke in a tone which invited their serious attention. “We have unanimously decided to agree with the proposal.  There are other points for which there was complete unanimity among the children, and these were: “Marriages should be celebrated with simplicity, no wastage of money, and of all the most important thing being that no party should now and ever in the future make any demand for anything for  whatever reason”.
Parents of the families heartily welcomed these suggestions, though for Shiv the silence  on the part of Sita was uncomfortably ominous  because she nodded mutely. So long she sat there she was eyeing her husband with frosty cold.
During the next six months or so, marriages were accomplished. The next four months passed away peacefully. There was an atmosphere of serenity and families were proud of their considered decision.


One day Sita broached the subject of starting a side business by her son and the need of some finances for the purpose. “We will also help him financially but  this help would have to be supplemented”,  and here Sita invited her daughter-in-law’s attention. She would always emphasize the point that this unanticipated development was not foreseen when decision was taken to fix marriages.
On two or three occasions Ravi met their demands with the help of his son. But when their rapidity increased and quantum of the amount enhanced,  Ravi declined to accept any demand and warned the family that if this situation continued, consequences could be unrelishable.
Tension started gripping the two families quite fast. Hardened attitude of Shiv’s wife had already  vitiated the atmosphere of peace. She would not listen to somber advice of her husband  or son. She described them meek,  lacking strength to deal with the situation commanding masculinity. In fact she herself suffered from womanly fickleness and caprice.
One day after taking their breakfast, Rajinder, Ravi’s son, asked other  members to accompany him to his sister’s house. This step put others on  alert but they followed him as requested, they were worn to shreds with anxiety
With big bang he opened his sister’s door and entered in it. Her family was stunned. They had no advance information about their visit.
“You are demanding money for starting a side business for your son. You say you never anticipated this development before marriage. We have done enough. We cannot accede to any of your demands in future. I am taking away my sister, and leaving behind your daughter. If you promise to behave decently and make no demand on us in future, I can change my decision, otherwise not”, roared Rajinder. His timely effusion of tearful sentiment had an electrifying effect on Shiv.
Shiv held the hand of his daughter-in-law and spoke with a sense of responsibility as the eldest member of his family: “My daughter-in-law will not go anywhere. Past shall  not be repeated”.  
Ravi’s family members stood up to return home. The strident discord  seemed to mock at most among the present there.
“If the past is repeated, I will not allow my sister to live under a roof resting on walls made of dishonesty and treachery. Such walls may fall any moment and  the ceiling when it falls down upon those below it will smite them to death”, Ravi  blasted with anger. Torturing his sister had boiled Ravi’s blood and nothing less than a cordial settlement of everlasting duration was acceptable to him.


Daughters’ intervention  brought some relief and  soothed the heightened atmosphere.  Ravi departed on a note of hope and full cooperation between them. Even the neighborhood heaved a big sigh of relief that the girl would not be harassed and troubled from time to time.
A few months passed  without any untoward incident. Everyone prayed for prolongation of such an atmosphere.
One morning Shiv and his son had gone somewhere. Sita and her daughter-in-law, Vimla, were at home busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  Work was almost finished. With lightning speed Sita reentered the kitchen, put a heavy duty industrial tape on Vimla’s mouth, spread kerosene oil on the floor and sprinkled some on Vimla and then lighted a match. From outside Sita latched the door. After about a minute, she  opened the door herself and cried for help. The scene in the kitchen likened to the one we witness when the sun goes down  in flame on the horizon.  The neighbourhood was stunned, the police arrived, Vimla was moved to a hospital, and Sita was taken under police custody after Vimla’s first information report. Even at the police station Sita had an air of restrained fury. The peace of the house was completely shattered with this criminal act. After a few months, she was convicted and awarded severe life imprisonment. Nobody at home had the least desire to go in appeal to the higher court to mitigate the punishment awarded. Sita was completely isolated.
One day waving away the scars of rancor and remorse and yielding to a wave of pity, Vimla expressed a desire to meet her mother-in-law in the jail. Shiv and his son took her there. She stood before Sita with folded hands and then uncovered her unrecognizable face. Shiv said: “It is Vimla, your unlucky daughter-in-law, victim of your inhuman  act.  Your wantonly and detestably unkind attitude towards her have destroyed her life”. Sita kept quiet like the surface of the vast sea but her repentance had pierced so deep into her heart that the blood that oozed out inside her body came out flowing through her warm tears. Shiv was greatly touched with this scene but time was over to reverse the recent past.  
Shiv asked Sita if she required anything for her. She  asked him to bring one new blade because her nails had come up quite sharp and needed to be trimmed  otherwise when they touch the skin of her legs they prick.  Handing over the blade to it, Shiv and Vimla departed for home. Tension of struggling  tears srove for an outlet but they refused to fall down; maybe Sita  was not yet reconciled fully to accept her guilt.
Two days after around six in the morning, there was a ring at the door. Shiv woke up his son and his wife and they proceeded to a place which he did not disclose till he reached the destination, but his sixth sense had warned him of the presage of disaster which was in the air.  It was a hospital where they found Rita lying in the mortuary. Her death caused by suicide  was confirmed by the postmortem report.


Look at the irony of fate of the family whose majority of members were nice, but one of them was haughty, non-cooperative, and audacious and always bent upon to prevail her unsound opinion on others. She was solely responsible for spoiling family’s peace.  Her last demand was for rupees ten thousand to which she got shut-up response, and finally lost her life through her own action.  At her cremation, hardly twelve persons were seen. The very silence of the place was a source of peril.  Within  a month when all the essential rites were over, no family member remembered her  and for Shiv the past slowly drifted out of his thought and she was consigned to oblivion. Copyright © R.P.Puri
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At the hands of greedy members of the family,  young wives are made to die which they would not like if they could solve the problem. All born want to live their destined length of age. Evidence abundantly shows that in all such dowry cases either marriages end in divorce or in deaths.

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