A Drop in the Ocean
I do not personally consider myself a reformist or activist of any sort. However, I have always attached a very strong sense of immorality and unfairness to the patriarchal practice of Dowry in our country. So, as a part of what I jokingly call my ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, I used to take it upon myself to raise this particular issue in all institutions I happened to lead or influence over the years. The idea was to create general awareness amongst our younger colleagues, many of whom were of marriageable age and coming from strata of society where such customs are still rampant.
I found the ‘Bada Khana’ event in the Airmen Mess an appropriate occasion to talk informally on this subject with my men due to the high attendance. In fact, after my customary address, I used to motivate and coax (read force!) them to take a pledge that irrespective of the pressures applied by their families back home, they will detest from taking dowry. Not having much choice in the matter, all bachelor airmen present used to participate vociferously in the pledge-taking.
Obviously, I could not do any further follow-up on the issue. In fact, I was not even sure if the youngsters would remember any of it after the sumptuous lunch leave alone recall their anti-dowry vow at the time of their marriage. Nevertheless, as is my wont, I used to carry on with my efforts unfailingly with a fond hope of making a difference sometime.
And so it was somewhere in September of 2015, it had been a rather busy day in for me in Bangalore. As I came back from flying late afternoon, my PA Narsiman informed me that Warrant Officer Yadav, the catering In-charge at the Airmen Mess had come over thrice to meet me. I was faintly surprised as catering matters were looked after by my admin officer. “No Sir, it is some personal matter,” Narsiman said. Sure enough, Yadav trouped in a few minutes later.
At first glance itself, I could make out that Yadav was bursting to share some good news. “Sir, you will not believe what happened,” he said.
“Tell me please, I would love to know,” was my reply.
“Sir, I have just come back from leave from my hometown. With God’s blessings I was able to find a suitable match for my son and was also able to marry him off.” He offered me some sweets that he had brought along from home which I graciously accepted.
“But Sir, you still don’t know the best part,” he said. “Sure Yadav, I won’t till the time you tell me,” I replied amusedly.
Yadav continued, “Sir, the best part is about when the time came to settle the match, I stood up and announced in front of our ‘Samdhis’ that we have only one condition. That condition is that we will accept the girl only if no dowry is given. Sir, in our society, dowry is absolutely compulsory. If someone like me is not asking for dowry, people assume that there must be something wrong with the boy. But in my case, that was not the problem since my son is well educated and working as a bank officer.”
“That is interesting Yadav, please continue,” I said.
“Sir,” he continued, “There was such a commotion in our household. Even my own parents called me aside and admonished me. My wife was quite puzzled because last year we had spent a great deal for our daughter’s wedding, a substantial part of which had gone towards the dowry. Only my son who was getting married, supported me whole-heartedly. Needless to say, the girl’s parents were literally shocked with ‘tears of joy’ rolling down their cheeks. This was a most unexpected gift for them. They have two other daughters to marry”
“Sir, my son’s marriage became the talk of the town. So many friends and relatives came across to congratulate us on our initiative which was almost historic in our family. Only a man in uniform could have broken this taboo, they said. Sir, I tell you the happiness that I have derived ever since that spontaneous announcement of mine has been un-paralleled.
“And has the lucky couple settled well?” I asked.
“Well is such an understatement Sir. She is such a wonderful girl. She has become a part of the family in no time. She knows that she is loved and respected in our home.”
“But tell me Yadav, how did this idea come to you?” I asked with curiosity.
“Sir, if you remember you had come to the Airmen mess on Independence day last month. I could not join you in the dining room as I was overseeing the cooking in the kitchen. However, I happened to listen to your speech through the PA System when you were encouraging the young lads to abandon dowry. It is at that moment a seed got sown in my mind that when it comes to my son’s marriage, I will not become greedy. And when the time came to speak up in that gathering with everyone around, my conscience felt it was just the right thing to do.”
“I joined today morning but just could not commence work without having shared this joyful incident with you,” a very happy Yadav gushed. I congratulated him profusely, especially for his courage and conviction and he cheerfully went off to resume work.
Yadav’s heart-warming story gladdened me throughout the day.
As I hit the pillow that night, I knew my efforts over the years had just been a drop in the ocean but that one drop had blessedly been enough to quench someone’s thirst somewhere.
First published at seekmediation.com on 06/07/21
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