An Ode to Saying No to Dowry

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Yet another day in Kerala. Yet another dowry death.

Vismaya, a 23 year old, who died days after sharing her pics of abuse with a relative, has yet again prompted many to chant “A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter.” Her parents were very much aware of the abuse she was going through, so was her brother and cousin, but unfortunately, not one of them could save her. There is no single person to blame here. Almost everyone is at fault, including the society.

I am a divorcee. Fortunately, my parents were super supportive, and gave my safety the utmost priority when I chose to leave my husband’s place after yet another episode of abuse. The day I left home was the day my parents came to know that I was facing physical and emotional trauma over many months. I did not want to worry them. Maybe Vismaya felt the same. The difference was, my parents did not tell me to compromise.

Mine was an arranged marriage. My parents and I were, are and always will be strictly against dowry. We always had made it clear when a proposal came by that no dowry would be given. My in-laws and husband said they had no demands, though traditionally their family practiced it.

On our wedding day, amidst all the flurry of activity, it felt odd when my husband quipped happily “(So and so) told me you are wearing a lot of jewelry; that I am a very lucky guy.” It was a hint of what was to come.

The emotional blackmail began on the first day of marriage. My ex-husband’s old relative, with a full authoritative tone, told me to put my jewelry in a locker at their chosen bank. When I naively told him that we usually put our jewelry in our own lockers, he was adamant that I keep it in a new one at the current location. This was odd to me, because I have never heard of such a thing happening in my family before. The women of the family always kept their jewelry in existing lockers. There was no question of transferring or shifting it to the husband’s place. Plus, it is so redundant – why open another locker when you already have one? There can only be one answer.

I consulted my mother, who panicked and told me not to do anything till they arrived. So I kept stalling their attempts to put my assets in their locker. My mother came to visit soon and took away the jewelry. This angered my ex-husband, and things (predictably) went downhill from then on. I remember asking him “Did you marry me for my money?

Physical abuse soon began. Not enough to get me hospitalized, but enough to give me bruises. “There are so many women getting hospitalized, that’s what real physical abuse is!” – he justified his actions to me. I forgave, but could never forget because he would keep repeating it. At the end, I ended the relationship and walked out. I realized my tears did not matter to him, nor my well being or happiness. I was married for just one year.

To all the unmarried women who are reading this, this is something you should note. You will hardly see anyone talk about this anywhere online – how dowry nowadays is rarely mentioned before marriage, camouflaged and hidden, all ready to make a move on its prey when the time is right. Many predators, cunning to the core, have realized that this right time to get what they are eyeing, is not before marriage but after it – when the woman is the most vulnerable, getting accustomed to a new place, confused and dazed. No one is explicitly going to use the word “dowry” but you will get to know from their actions.

Please remember, your current assets are yours alone. This needs to be strictly mentioned before marriage. You need to underline your deal breakers, so that there is no room for confusion. If after marriage, you decide to mutually hold future assets together, that is entirely up to you. But do not let anyone emotionally manipulate you into gaining access to your safety and security. Once you lose control of that, you lose control of your life.

I survived the worst phase of my life because I had solid support. Whenever I see a death or abuse case, it feels overwhelming. A lot of “if only” phrases come to mind.

  • If only, the family had supported her enough. Instead of telling her to compromise, they had told her to come home or “We are coming to pick you up” instead.
  • If only, the victim realized her life is not meant for suffering, to endure everything in silence. That staying married, even if toxic, is not the ultimate goal in life. Happiness is.
  • If only, the society made it easier for women to call it quits when her relationship with her partner becomes irreparable. Instead, mostly, we are told to compromise and adjust more.
  • If only, all men had the guts to strictly say no to dowry, go against tradition.
  • If only, a man’s parents did not put social status on such a high pedestal.

If only…

Many women, like Vismaya, would then still be alive.

An Ode to Questioning Biases

I have been increasingly questioning my biases lately.

Social Media Bias

How my opinions are largely formed by what the media is showing me. Sometimes, never bothering to look at the “other side.” A kind of blind faith that the news portals will show me only the truth and nothing but the absolute truth.

This belief was shaken up quite a bit when I understood that a lot of times, the media chooses to pick a side and highlight only that part of the story. We never get to know why “the other side” acted the way they did, said the things they did. It is well hidden. We never get to know the full picture. There are times I have made that extra effort to know more.. and have been amazed at how well the media hides bits and pieces of relevant information. The kind of information that wouldn’t have agitated the people so much if it were to be revealed alongside the flustering headline (or at least at the top of the news article). Add to that the social media’s personal opinions, which again, most often than not, do not give the complete picture.

With all this excessive one-sided information, a person who used to feel concerned about the issue in a healthy way before is left extremely agitated, angry and restless in a matter of minutes. The issue won’t leave your head. It stays with you when you sleep, it is the first thing you think of when you wake up. You snap at the drop of a hat, refusing to see any other angles. This keeps happening each time a new issue pops up. Imagine the stress your body has to go through, taking the world’s collective burden on your shoulders. In short, it just messes up your mental health.

I have had to log out of my social media accounts multiple times in the last one year just to calm myself down and to dissociate from all the noise. During such moments I often think, is social media a boon or a bane?

Information Bias

A large number of social media influencers (the ones who review movies) are largely influenced by critics and the media. If the critics say it is a good movie, they will say it is a good movie. If the critics thrash a movie, they will say it is the worst movie of the decade. I was so caught up in this information bias, that I was afraid of saying that I liked a movie that the majority hated. I was also afraid of saying I did not enjoy a movie that the majority liked. Because then, the movie shaming begins. Your taste in movies is questioned.

It is the case with almost anything, not just movies. If the general review of a product is positive or negative, you are expected to have the exact same view. Herd mentality in such cases is encouraged. If you step out of the box, you are questioned.

That was until I got out of that zone and said to myself “You know, I laughed watching this movie. It is funny. It worked for me. Why should I ashamed of something that kept me entertained throughout?” I started being open about liking the movies I really liked (even if they weren’t critically acclaimed) and not liking the movies that I truly did not (even if they were liked by the majority). I was being true to myself and that felt good.

I realized there were more people like me out there, shying away from voicing their true likes/dislikes, when I started getting messages (in private) that they liked/hated the same thing too.

Halo Effect

When you admire a person (it could also be a celebrity, politician or government), you tend to believe that everything the person does is justified – whether good or evil. We refuse to believe they are human after all – prone to mistakes. We forgive and forget. This is a bias I am trying to overcome as well. Trying consciously to notice and acknowledge those errors even if I like the entity very much. To hold them accountable if feelings were hurt, and not to give them the status of a superior being who is incapable of mistakes.

I have been reading up on biases and media bias is something that struck me the most. When you seek more information about something, weirdly enough, you start noticing these little things that you used to ignore before. You become aware of the biases that are now part and parcel of your daily life.

It is a scary thought to reflect on, that you can be manipulated into believing something that is constantly thrown in your face, as if there is no other truth.

An Ode to Not Being Positive All The Time

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Covid anxiety is real.

As the number of cases in India continue to increase, it has induced a sort of panic attack in most of us in the country.

Needless to say, I have been posting available resources (oxygen cylinders, beds) across my private social media accounts so that those who need them can utilize the info. All this fact sharing does not make for entertaining, positive, motivational or inspirational viewing. No one is going to feel happy seeing such posts.

But somehow, when you can’t really do anything else, all this resource sharing matters a huge deal for someone like me. That hope that maybe you will be able to help at least one person is what keeps you going.

Take a good look into Indian Twitter, and you will find many doing the same. Everyone wants to contribute in a way or other to help out. It is heartwarming and sad at the same time. Heartwarming because people want to help, sad because of the unending doom.

We keep seeing quotes similar to “share only the good news, share only positivity, see only positive things” but I wish we could see posts on how we need not pretend to be fine all the time. Let’s normalize NOT being positive 24×7. It’s okay to vent out. I hope venting out gets normalized.

I know happy posts (song, dance, smiles) generate a lot of positivity but I know many like me who are suffering along with the country and do not feel like indulging in entertainment as such. There’s a word for this: languish. It borders between happiness and depression and that’s what exactly many are feeling at the moment. For us, too much positivity can be draining and to be frank, slightly annoying.

If you are feeling it all way too intensely, it’s fine, as long as you are in control. If not, please reach over to a professional! Friends & family might not always give the correct advice in dealing with the situation whereas a professional is trained in handling such matters.

Stay safe and don’t forget to mask up!

An Ode to Unknowingly Being Productive

By Squarecomics

I often wonder why people complain, “I haven’t done anything productive today.”

It is practically impossible.

Why? Let me explain.

What is productivity? By definition, it means, causing or providing a good result.

Anything and everything you do is productive because unconsciously, we are all learning and evolving from even the smallest tasks that we do.

Yes, we are always learning. And learning is productive. I’m not talking only about creative classes or actively honing new skills for work. Those are the things we take up consciously. The visibles.

I am talking about learning from things around you. The invisibles.

  • Learning a different perspective, a different way of looking at things. This could be from books, even a show you randomly watched, or some random post on the internet including a meme!
  • Learning how peaceful it can be to sit and stare at nature for a while
  • Learning to forgive and/or forget
  • Learning to solve your issues
  • Learning your family’s needs
  • Learning how to interact better
  • Learning to step back a bit and breathe
  • Learning new ideas

The list goes on.

Jennifer Aniston had famously quoted “No regrets, only lessons” indicating we learn even from our mistakes, if not today then tomorrow.

But the point is, to many of us, these little things don’t count. Probably because these changes are not happening aggressively, screaming for our attention. These changes are very silent. And peaceful. But the thing I find most astonishing is that over time, they compound. Each little change is like a building block, contributing towards forming the person that we will eventually become.

It is only years from now, when you look back, do you realize how much you have changed in this process of learning from everyday things.

You have evolved. That I think, is a beautiful thing to reflect on.