The best part of a wedding is the peek you get into what is probably the most inflated market in India. Directement zero to those who hollered “Real Estate!”, as what I’m referring to is the Saree market.
As a groom-to-be, one is always hanging around in the periphery of shopping campaigns launched successfully by the bride-to-be and her relatives. A typical campaign involves departure at 9 in the morning to the four biggest Saree shops in Cochin (Seematti, Jayalakshmi, Kalyan Silks, Alukkas Wedding Center. No, not Chennai Silks. They suck, they should go back to Chennai.) and stepping out of the fourth and final one with a bunch of bags full of sarees, free keychains and wallets. There are lunch breaks involved if you cry a little. Else the womenfolk continue their shopping with Amazonian fervour.
I went as a keen observer on several such shopping trips, and the learning curve was rather steep as far as the several sub-genres of the Great Indian Saree were concerned. I now know exactly what “Verticals”, “Album” and “Bandhani” are. Tie and Dye? LOL, past master at it.
Anyhow, I had just returned to my office in wintry Gurgaon after the wedding shopping when I encountered a colleague, let us call him Dowriprasad Mishra for propriety’s sake or the lack thereof, by the Ol’ coffee machine.
Dowri’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw me, and I could sense the little grey cells working overtime in that nimble brain of his. He was moving his fingers in a weirdly cyclical fashion as I approached him, somewhat reminiscent of the way the lightbulb distributors in Surat (from my sales stint) used to count the money stored in their lockers.
“Hey, how are you buddy?” Dowri intoned, in tune with the gurgling coffee machine, which was merrily processing perfectly normal coffee beans into a fluid which tasted as if it was manufactured by Sri Dhanwantari Matam, Kochi – 682020. Google for more information.
“Positively brimming with exuberance, my dear Dowri.. Lovely morning, bubbling coffee, chirping birds and all that sort of stuff. In fact, even my chair feels strangely more comfortable today.”
“Ah, you went wedding shopping eh?”
“Precisement! But how did you work that out, Mr. Holmes?”
“Your chair is more comfortable, no?”
“Indeed. But how come the chair benefited from my shopping?”
“Think about it this way. Shopping. Empty wallet. Back pocket. Chair. Comfort”, Dowri looked slightly irritated as all great men do while explaining their trivial leaps of logic to normal human beings.
I was flabbergasted. Once again, this Dowri has struck me blind with the sheer force of his mammoth intellect. I felt somewhat like Sachin Tendulkar’s helmet after being slam-banged by a couple of Shoaib Akhtar bouncers (Will this blog attract hate-comments for that simile? Social experiment.)
“In any case”, Dowri continued, “I wanted to ask you something specific..”
“Shoot Mr. Mishra”, I muttered in a hushed tone, still impressed by the man’s reasoning skills.
“So… How much is being transferred?”
I was momentarily confused, but only momentarily, before my own nimble intellect kicked in. Masking my confusion with the utmost ease of a pro, I replied, “Ah, a mere 39 bucks. I will buy you lunch today, and that would be 50, so then you would owe me 11.”
I smiled, clearly having impressed Dowri with my efficient settlement of accounts from the last time the fellow paid for my CCD donut and half a samosa. (Half because I’m cutting down on oil, in order to avoid being fat for my wedding. Donut has no oil, you see. Only yummy chocolate cream.)
“Oh no no no.. That is all Ok. You give me whenever you have money. I was talking about the Gold, Naga!”
“Au?”, I noisily grunted.
“Indeed – Au. Gold.”
If there’s one thing that has always been said about me in various circles, it is that I don’t stay confused for too long. This is also a very useful corporate strategy. You are asked a pernacious question to which you do not have an answer, because you have no idea what the question is about. What do you do? Lesser mortals might hang their head, droop their shoulders and walk a walk of shame, but not real men. Real men give the MBA answer. Which is what I did.
“Hahahahahahahah, the Gold. Of course. Absolutely. A very valid point. Core competency. The big picture. How pitiful that the mortgage foreclosures have now led to quantitative easing! Hahahahahah.”
“Wow, you gave me the MBA answer.”
I had realized a second too late that Dowri also was immensely proficient in giving the MBA answer to all and sundry. During one of our induction sessions last year, he had single-handedly convinced a sales chap that our product mix needed a bit more core competency. The sales guy immediately asked his boss for some core competency training. Epic day.
“I sincerely apologize for underestimating you, Dowri. But I have no idea what this gold is which you are referring to.”
“Dude, you are getting married right?”
“Indeed I am. Grihasthashrama and all that jazz. Sounds fun…”
“And I’ve heard”, Dowri interrupted me, “that Malayalees transfer the dowry in Gold. I have been trying to value you for a couple of days now. An excel-sheet might or might not have been prepared in the process. But I must admit that it’s difficult. Your education and height is evenly balanced out by your crooked smile and your humming. I could not work out whether grey hairs were a pro or a con. And I don’t know whether you snore. So yes, how much did they value you?”
I stood flummoxed there, not knowing what to say. I briefly thought of humming, but even that did not materialize. Dowriprasad Mishra had well and truly rendered me speechless, with his nonchalant attitude towards the D-word.
So ladies and gentlemen, this undoubtedly is a rather sensitive subject to broach, as even the most educated, intelligent and socially powerful in India happily give and receive dowry with much pleasure and merrymaking these days. And the pleasure is not limited to the boy’s family, as even girls’ parents seem to take a lot of pride in marrying off a BMW, 2 crores and a farmhouse in Delhi to a well-educated MBA boy with an MNC job. Oh, and they throw in the girl too, as an afterthought.
But broach I must, because I have a fundamental question to ask the Dowriprasad Mishras of this world.
Dowriprasad Mishras of this world, why do you not get disturbed, sleepless and confused by the thought of being traded like cattle, wheat, rice, IPL players, government ministries etc?
For the mathematics is clear. In this complexly structured Indian marriage market, the underlying equation is evidently,
x*Money = y*Boy, where x and y are variables signifying an amount of money and the awesomeness of the boy respectively.
Some claim that the equation is actually,
x*Money = (y-z)*Boy, where z is the awesomeness of the girl.
Clearly, boy, you are selling your awesomeness or incremental awesomeness for a particular amount of money, right? Selling, trading, whatever it might be called, it sounds quite degrading whichever way one looks at it. Strangely, many boys still find it absolutely acceptable that they are sold for money. Or Toyota Corollas. Such is the shameless social equation in a ‘typical’ Indian marriage.
As per sources, certain top secret documents are also floating around nowadays, giving an accurate indicator of the pricing structure that boys’ parents need to follow –
Coming back to Dowriprasad, I spent a few minutes explaining to him how the families concerned are absolutely against the system of dowry, how the communists had successfully controlled it way back in my part of the country, how it’s a social evil and how several sections in the Indian Penal Code go on and on about the imaginative tortures they shall inflict on both the giver and the receiver of dowry.
But to no avail.
Dowriprasad remains convinced that I’m deliberately hiding the transferred gold which shall soon be diverted to my secret offshore account in the Caymans. And he has promised to ambush me in the car park where he expects me to turn up soon in a Honda City, 2007 model, which is what he has finally valued me to be worth.
Quite insulting, goddamnit!