What does the string of mock dowry calculators reveal to us?
The satirical apps were a gentle reminder of the fact that dowry menace has persisted in India for decades now and is still nowhere under control.
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Last week, some of us frantically logged in to Shaadi.com – the matrimonial site. Not necessarily with an intention to find a life partner, but largely out of curiosity. We logged in to check out the dowry calculating slug to get the worth of a well-settled doctor/engineer/MBA groom settled in India or abroad. This led us to the grisly statistical reminder that 91,202 dowry deaths had occurred in India during 2001-2012.
The shelf life of the website page was not more than a week, since it immediately got journalists/bloggers from New York and London a chance to blast out at the big fat Indian wedding, arranged marriages and regressive mentality upholding the menace for the umpteenth time.
The satirical calculator was just a gentle reminder of the fact that dowry giving and receiving has persisted in our social system for countless years and is still nowhere under control despite the Anti-Dowry Act. Dowry deaths, harassment and bride burning/torture continue to haunt us till date just like they did several decades back. It may not necessarily make it to the front page always since other equally monstrous issues such as acid attacks, honour killing, rape, sexual violence and more are routine features that hog the page one of almost every newspaper, consigning dowry demands to the inside pages.
Tanul Thakur, a graduate from Illinois University, founded DowryCalculator.com in 2011 when his relatives made scathing remarks about his "market value". Hailing from Jharkhand, where dowry system is most prevalent, Thakur devised the calculator to comment on the despicable system without being preachy.
Some cryptic messages/apps/websites on the internet highlighted that a section of our society, though fed up of the rotten system, is still unable to discard it downright. Take a look at the dowry menace viewed from different prisms:
#Shaadicares-dowry calculator: The calculation on the basis of a groom’s educational qualification and financial status led us to a disturbing statistics of dowry deaths. The social initiative by Shaadi.com on ‘How much dowry are you worth’ was played in 195 countries, which ended with the appeal –“Let’s make India a dowry-free society. Be the change. Make the difference.”
#DowryCalculator.com: Founded by Illinois grad Tanul Thakur, in 2011, the website was dedicated to all the “match-making aunties of India.” Thakur questioned what was wrong with the Indian middle class as the dowry system not just “commodifies women but also men.” In the light of this argument, Dowrycalculator.com says, “Not only were brides being ‘sold’ but grooms were being ‘bought’”. Equally funny were 670 reactions on the website, where aspiring grooms were amazed to find their calculated fetch price ranged from Rs 65 lakh to Rs 3 crores!
#AngryBride App: A poor take on Angrybirds, the app AngryBride was launched by Shaadi.com, to rip off shameless dowry seekers. Making reference to multi-tasking women, the home page displayed an Indian woman clad in red sari in a Durga-like avatar with eight arms. The caption read: “A woman will give you strength, care and all the love you need… NOT dowry.”
#Dowrycalculator.in: This dowry calculator avoided any form of subtleties and offered a disclaimer: “This calculator is to poke fun at Indian marriage and dowry system. Users are advised not to confuse this for a genuine or true website.”
#Dowry Chest: The chest with an antique look was highlighted as the India Dowry Chest, which was expected to fetch $1000 in an online bidding. Instead of highlighting the features of the product, the portal mentioned glaring facts about dowry system. For instance, Fact 3 states, “In some cultures, the dowry must be returned to the family if the bride dies soon after marriage: an incentive for the husband to treat the bride well.”
#Alibaba and dowry shopping: The fast growing online shopping portal Alibaba.com has a section that targets the aspiring brides and their lovable parents who are ready to spend their hardearned money on dowry shopping. For convenience, one can visit the products at that lures in customers to procure some eye-catching products, must-haves in your dowry collection!