Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year Observation

On a new year day, it is customary to write about past year's glory and disapoointments and is fashionable to make new resolves . So, I had decided not to write yet another of those new year articles.

As luck would have it - On the 31st Evening, I travelled from
Indore to Mandsaur on a meter gauage train(yes, you read that right - in this part of MP - one still finds those lazy meter gauage trains, which will take 7 hours to travel a distance of just 250 km). This patience testing 7 hours that too with eight other passengers in a cramped compartment, made me write my first post in the new year.

Four fellow passengers - two males; educated, muslims, mid-40s and their wives so obviously illiterate (or at best primary schools dropouts) discussed a host of topics which dominates typical middle class muslim households in this part of the country.

Some snippets
** Marriage is a business {they said its true of all communities not just ours(muslims)}. A female born in a family would mean planning for a few lakhs of rupees for her "dahej"(dowry) while a male child means a cheque to be encashed in 18-20 years. They referred to cases where the parents of grooms look for "eklauti aulad" (only daughter) as a match for their sons.

** Some sure signs of changes in the muslim mindsets
They shared that we(muslims) now have "parichay Sammelan" (a confrence where prospective grooms & bridegrooms are paraded for possible nupital tie ups) once every year & the trend is catching on. There were initial resistence - people claimed it to be wrong, against their religion - however economics finally won over.

It was simple & almost inexpensive for parents - just for Rs. 1000 (may vary upto 3000) they meet so many prospective candidates and sometimes "nikah" (marriage) happens on the spot. For Rs. 10, a book carrying the phone numbers of candidates is available for later conatacts. Lunch is made available by the organisors & even "Kazi Saheb" (religious guru who formalises the marriage) is made available by the organisors.

Ofcourse - the change comes with restrictions - female & male candidates in seperate halls - only "valdayien" (mothers) allowed in the female candidates' hall.

** There was a surprising trend visible in their discussions . There are cases galore where the boy wants to marry a girl who is at best "dasvi pass" (studied till tenth class only) while he himself might be a graduate or more and comes from a generally educated family. Egs. were sons of the two families I referred to. While one can discuss the root cause but a more important fact is that these boys are finding it difficult to get a match. Yes because generally the girls "BA ho jati hai" (they generally complete BA). The mother added "hamne samjhaya ki BA ki hui ladki bhi rotiya banati hai - magar manta hi nahi hai" (I explained that even girls with BA degree will cook but he fails to budge). Could this be true - female education seems to be catching on faster than male among muslims.

** In fact the parents seem to approve of a "padi likhi Ladki" more as she comes in handy in a lot of places - writing/reading for the largely uneducated older female population

It was amusing, the straightfordness with which they discussed it all - I sat wodering how much more will every new year surprise me.