Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The death of dowry

If you don't think I'm on tsunami overkill, read on.
This story appeared in the Thanjavur-Nagapattinam edition of The Hindu on February 12, 2005. When I wrote it, I thought the story's significance stretched beyond the assuarance of life after death. Life goes on, indeed, but not as a cliche.
But then my thoughts are mine; you don't have to listen to me. Go on, read it and come to the same conclusion all by yourself.

* * *

Unbeknown to herself, Valarmathi of Samanthanpettai in tsunami-ravaged Nagapattinam district, has led a renaissance. By merely getting married.
It is the circumstance of her current position that makes her act a trail blazer. Valarmathi approached the district administration with a unique problem: Her wedding, fixed with Kalaimani of Kallar, in the auspicious month of ‘thai’ could not take place, for obvious reasons. Her mother, whose body was the first to be recovered in the village, had been swept away by the sea, along with the dowry of Rs. 30,000 and 15 gms of gold jewellery.
Kalaimani, a fisherman, too lost his belongings in the incident of December 26. Marriage, therefore, was not on top of his mind.
However, for Valarmathi, it was. Which is why she met District Collector, J.Radhakrishnan with a plea: to facilitate her wedding in the auspicious month of "Thai" itself. "Since a wedding is another symbol of return to normality and a new beginning, we were also keen that this wedding take place," Dr.Radhakrishnan said. However, Kalaimani, unshaven and unkempt, mourning the loss of his boats had to be convinced to forget the dowry amount and encouraged to go ahead with the wedding. Convinced, he turned up the next day, shaven and clean, expressing his desire to marry his betrothed and forget all about the dowry.
And today, on an auspicious Friday, in the Tamil month of Thai, Kalaimani knotted the ‘thali’ thrice around the neck of an ecstatic Valarmathi. Word got around and seven other couples, from the tsunami-hit villages of Nagapattinam -- Akkaraipettai, Nagore Pattinachery, Seruthur, Aryanattutheru -- solemnised, in the presence of the district officials, their marriage vows in a simple ceremony that symbolised hope, and in the strangest of ways, the death of dowry.



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