Wednesday, April 11, 2007

20 sovereigns of gold and a vehicle

My maid is my lifeline. Literally. She looks after my baby responsibly and conscientiously while I am out at work from 10 to 7. She's been with us a year now. And I am very happy with her. (Maybe the fact that my neighbours would be even happier with her contributes not a little to the happiness). She comes in between 7 and 7.30 and stays on till around the same time in the evening, till either my Hubs or I get back from work. She works from 7.30 to 10, sweeping, swabbing, cleaning vessels. And then from 10.30 to 1pm , now that school's closed, she looks after my lil version of Dennis the Menace. She sleeps (when he does) from 2 to 5, then again plays with him till we return. She is clean, responsible, hardworking, always smiling faced, doesn't shirk work... (she has her irritating ways, but that's not the subject of this post)

The last month, she came in late for 3 days consecutively. The first day, I didn't bother. The second day, I took notice, but let it go. The third day, I reprimanded her. The fourth day, when she came in at 8.45 (I have to leave by 9.30) I lost my cool and gave her a talking to. Which was when she said that she was sorry, but she would be late tomorrow too! I was taken aback. Not at all like her to talk back like that. I enquired into matters.

Apparently, they were looking for a groom for her. I knew this because she had earlier taken some vrath where she would eat nothing the whole day, for a whole month, I think(!), to negate some dosham she had in her stars.. And this running late was on account of the groom's mother(the family were some far relatives ) having come to stay at her house to 'see' her. My maid stays with her sister who's married and who has the extended family of her husband staying with her, but all the same, I was a bit taken aback at the prospective MIL staying in her prospective DIL's house to 'assess' her suitability for her son.

That day I reported to Hubs that matters were not good. I mean, I am all for young women getting married and having families of their own. I especially liked my maid and was sure that she would be a excellent home-maker to whoever married her. All our best wishes are with her , for her to live happily with a man from somewhere close to our place so that she can continue in our employ. But this was worrying, unsettling.. The guy was from Salem or somewhere thereabouts and would definitely whisk her off after the wedding, leaving us high and dry..

The next day found me anxiously waiting for my maid. She arrived late again. I smiled at her, 'MIL gone?' I asked.
She nodded and said, 'Yeah, finally'.
Something about that did not bode very well. 'How did it go...?' I asked. 'you liked him?'
She said that she had not seen the guy. That he hadn't come.
Oh! Anticlimax. I mean, which MIL would stay a week(?) with distant relatives, without having the boy and girl even meet? 'So what did MIL do all this week,' I asked.
'They were negotiating money,' she said.

I paused in my work and looked at her. 'You mean.., you have to pay dowry?' I asked. At her nod, I continued, 'What do they want?'
'20 sovereigns of gold and a vehicle,' she said.

I stopped my work. '20 sovereigns of gold and a vehicle!' I exclaimed.

My maid is a very presentable young Tamilian lady of about 23-25 years, she earns 2100/- a month, and is quite accomplished in all the household arts. It is my take on the matter, that she would be an asset to whichever man got her. (She gives me a complex sometimes at the way she manages to keep an eye on everything going on in my home, better than I do.)
But wait. Maybe the guy was an equal gem, a splendid 'catch'. 'What does he do?' I asked. That he was a farmer or kept a grain shop or something like that, was what I gauged from her reply. Apparently he would earn about 300/- per day. My maid earns 70/- per day. Did the disparity merit 20 sovereigns and a vehicle? And was it all about the money?

I come from a community in N. Kerala where dowry in taboo. The girl's father decks his darling up in jewels, and conducts the wedding with pomp, as per his budget, but that is it. No sovereign tallying, no vehicle, no bank balance, no land, no negotiation, nothing! After my initial indignation, I kept quiet. It was not wise to interfere in matters I could do nothing about. After all, I knew this system was till prevalent, despite laws passed against it....

A few weeks down the line, I enquire into further developments...? She said her sister had negotiated the amount down to 12 sovereigns and utensils. No vehicle. ( they'd wanted a two wheeler) No news of them after that, till date.

I hope my maid gets married to a good guy, who can afford to buy a two wheeler on his own, to take his wife round to see the sights. And - hopefully, if a little selfishly, to someone close to my house , for above mentioned reasons.


Hip Grandma said...

Sad but true.Certain Tamilian communities that were not accepting dowry earlier are now starting the trend.My servant's son who belongs to such a community wanted a fair wife and a maruti van.He was a sixth std.failed candidate who earned his living as an auto driver.He got both plus a bonus in the form of a smart wife.but the wife extracted a price from him.She took him away from his family and makes him dance to his tune.

Usha said...

OH god, I hope this girl has the strength to refuse guys who are socgreedy. what is the guarantee that he wont harrass her for more after the wedding. She is capable of managing well without a Man to cause trouble. I hope you can have a talk with her.