Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Case of The Missing Husband

No, this is not one of those Agatha Christie-ishtyle mysteries where the suspicious wife murders and buries the philandering husband - not this time. The husband is (just) missing, or rather, he deserted her - with all her jewellery. And, of course, a vast sum of dowry.

The beginning was all hunky-dory, though.

The girl was doing her post-graduation, and her fiance - handpicked by her parents, of course - was well-placed (purportedly, he was a professor at IIT-Delhi). The girl was all misty-eyed after a couple of conversations with the chap, typing away furiously into her mobile phone (which, by the way, was forbidden within college campus) all day and geared up to take the sacred pheras. With the support of her fiance, she quit her course midway and joined LIC (which was what she had wanted to do anyway). All the girls in her class were green with envy.

She got married. A lot of of her classmates attended the marriage. She looked radiantly in love, and blissfully content.

Four months later, the husband went missing. Along with a sizeable chunk of jewellery, and a vast amount of cash. She was distraught, and frantic with worry. Until she came to know that he had done it before - thrice. Absconded, that is. The third time, IIT-Delhi had booted him out of their teaching program. The first time he'd decided to go missing was when he was in college (at some other IIT), and he returned a full 6 months later.

My point? His parents knew about this peculiar characteristic of thier beloved son. The bride obviously didn't. More importantly, nor did her parents. And I am sure, with some discreet enquiries, they could (should) have found out. They, like many other middle-class parents of their ilk, were lured by the prospect of an IIT-suffixed son-in-law, I presume - despite the dowry and other demands.

The tale above is not a figment of my imagination; it actually happened to a friend of mine. To her credit, she picked up the threads of her life, filed a lawsuit against the parents of the bridegroom (and got her bloody dowry back), got a divorce and is now coping up well - hopefully. Hopefully - because, if I know her correctly, she must have grown weary of all the brutal sympathy that must have been directed at her (and the unsaid accusations, of course - anything bad has to be the bride's fault). Perhaps that is why she is now in Calcutta, not much in contact with any of us. Hope fervently that she is alright.

Why this rant all of a sudden, you might be tempted to ask. Nothing in particular, was just amazed at the sheer nonchalance with which something as important as marriage is decided. I should know; 'processes' are going on in my household too.

Take my case, for instance. I am in this remote corner of NY, where it'd be pretty difficult to investigate my character/drug habits/drinking habits or whatever it is that'd be investigated as a matter of course (of course, knowing the proliferation of Indians, and esp Mallus, all over the world, it's certainly possible that the gal's second cousin's aunt's younger brother could be my roommate). I could be a drug-pushing, wife-beating deranged alcoholic, for all somebody in India knows (Gals reading this, I am not any of these ! Nor am I a habitual absconder, btw). And an unsuspecting girl could well end up getting married to the hypothetical me. Sad, but true.

There have been a couple of articles about this, and how to be careful and protect your daughters, and stuff like that (read one here). But the truth is, there is no infallible plan against this sort of thing - a terrible thing to say, but true neverthless (Why am I in a particularly pessimistic frame of mind, I wonder !!).


Bharat said...

Here's the reality:

Pradeep said...

I fully agree with you. I won't call it pessimistic (your last para), but realistic. Forget arranged marriages; things have gone horribly wrong with couples who have known each other inside out for many, many years. Only way out: make a well-considered decision on marriage, decision based on good reason, based on practical realities, rather than on tags.

Ranjit Nair said...

Bharat, dude, I have no clue what you are talking about - Women Misusing Dowry Laws ? Well, first of all I am sceptical about how common an occurence that is. And then, even if it is true, all I can say is that after years of harassment maybe they are getting their own back at us.

No, but seriousy, I am not sure this is a serious issue in India today. At a time when dowry deaths still number in the 1000s per month (even in the so-called metros), I am not sure what credibility a movement such as the one you propose/advocate would incur. Speaking for myself, frankly I am not overwhelmed by the need of such a movement either.

Ranjit Nair said...

Pradeep, You have a valid point when you say that things go horribly wrong with 'non-arranged' marriages too. I didn't mean this to be an indictment of the arranged marriage system per se either. Frankly, I was just wondering on this system of enquiries that an arranged marriage entails - enquire about the guy/ gal, his/her family etc. Frankly, what exactly do they enquire, other than whether the family is well-off ? I have no goddamned clue.

MumbaiGirl said...

You're right to be pessimistic and you're absolutely right to make the point about the the dowry deaths. A few women may abuse the system (which law isn't abused?) but the vast majority of women are still suffering.

aniket said...

just another post with anti-IIT leanings... What's this fixation of non IITians trying to denigrate IIT anyway????

Shruthi said...

Aniket, I don't think the point of the post was to put down IITians - I think Ranjit was just trying to say that some parents have this obsession with the IIT-tag, and they just close their eyes to everything else and go and finalize marriages, just based on the IIT-tag.

Ranjit Nair said...

Mumbaigirl, absolutely agree with you, and that is the point I was trying to make in my response to Bharath.

Aniket, as Shruti says here I have nothing against IIT (or IIMs, for that matter!). Was just trying to reiterate that often, the very mention of an IIT, an IIM, or even an esteemed MNC employer is taken as a major plus point, rather than estimating the person concerned for his or her characteristics. Am not sure abt the 'non-IITians badmouthing IITans' funda you mentioned, though - maybe its plain old jealousy ;) !

Shruthi, you hit the nail on the head (though I didn't mean to 'fixate' on IIT) - thx.

Anonymous said...

80% of section 498a cases are false. The real victims of dowry do not go to police. Supreme Court calls this "Legal Terrorism" by women. Biased Indian Media does not write about it.

If you feel, Indian Media is great, then do not visit....
Save Indian Family

Ranjit Nair said...

Anon, my response here is pretty much identical to what I had to say to Bharath. While there might be cases of women misusing the anti-dowry laws, I believe that genuine dowry-related incidents would, to put it mildly, outnumber such fraudulent representations.

As for your statement that the Supreme Court refers to dowry-related FIRs filed by women as 'legal terrorism by women', I beg to differ. It is not the Supreme Court per se, but a certain Judge J.D.Kapoor who made this (unfounded) allegation. Perhaps, despite being a justice of the highest court of the land, he was as misguided as you seem to be - the thoughtless and unequivocal sweeping-under-the-rug of the efforts being made by women's organizations throughout the country for the past 30 years (as well as the physical/mental harm caused to thousands of women) certainly seems to indicate that. Judges are not infallible, my friend.

As for the Indian media, they try hard to say the truth as they perceive it. And pray, which form of media is not biased? A journalist too has his/her own likes and dislikes, which is bound to reflect on the pieces her/she writes. I have nothing against the so-called 'Indian Media' - indeed, my sister is part of it.

I did not intend to be harsh here. But nor did I mean this post to become a debate on dowry, though it certainly is an issue I feel strongly about. Seems to be going that way though, sadly enough !

Bharati said...

AS per statistics I beg to differ because if men were causing grevious harm and causing the death of women in marriages the rate of sucide by married women would have gone up post marriage. the reality is that it doesn't

IF wmen were causing mental agony to men in terms of lifestyle demands then one would expect that rate of sucide by men would go up and in reality it does by a whopping 50%

Also to note that Karnatka judciairy cam eup with stuidy in 2000 anbd found 44% fo the so called dowry death cases were thoroughly baseless