Sep 17, 2011

Of a Mizo woman and her (complicated future) bride price.

A friend of mine here in Delhi often declared that she didn't want a bride price when she gets married "Kei chu cheng za li leka hralh chi ka ni lo". A well-educated modern girl, a self-proclaimed feminist with a well -to-do background refusing to have a bride price. 

I recalled an incident with a distant relative. The wife was one such woman who refused to have a brideprice. The couple got into a fight one fine day and the husband called her " Man pawh man zo lo nu". She went to her brother's house and refused to come back. They reconciled later after her family demanded her brideprice all over again!!

I must say I am a feminist too! (Sheesh! What woman wouldn't be after reaching University?). But I am not a man-hater, I celebrate womanhood. 

Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. 
Yet, God saw that he was lonely. 
Therefore, he created a woman. 

Yes! I am proud to be the woman that God, in all his wisdom, created. Yet, I know I will never be equal to a man. Wait! Hear me out before you call me incompetent. I believe there's a reason why God made sexes and genders. We were made to compliment each other. Even our areas of expertise are completely different. Talk about the bad driving of an average woman, and an average man lost in the names of different colors. There's a reason why we are different right from the chromosomal level. We aren't meant to be equals, we're meant to complete each other. 

I also know that with being a Mizo woman, comes my culture and my tradition. And tradition, lost in colonial misinterpretation, claims that when I get married, my brideprice will be Rs. 420. Wait!! No, I am not of the Lusei clan, I am a Lai. Which means the my brideprice is more than that! 

But if I have to be finicky, exactly how much am I worth? No... let's rephrase that. You can't put down a human being's value in terms of currency. What's my brideprice? According to the standard Lai brideprice, it's Rs. 1500 (at least in India). 

12 years ago, my cousin got married in Sangau, a little village in the South where my Dad proudly hailed from.  Her brideprice, I remembered, was Rs. 8000 excluding all other tokens in the form of animals or other heirlooms. 

I remembered my Dad saying that my grandfather gave instructions that none of the women in the Hranglung family should not be 'sold' for more than Rs. 60!!!!!!! (What???!!!!) Dad later explained to me that there used to be instances of people who wanted to but could not get married because of the high bride price (Rs. 420, a hundred years ago, was a lot! Rs. 1500 can financially cripple you for life.)  My Grandpa, seeing the thing that kept many people from spending their lives with the ones they loved, decided to lower the bar for the bride price at least for his family. So Grandpa, being an elder of the village and married to the chief's sister, decided that brideprice was just a token and gave such instructions to his family. 

Inspite of all the instructions, my cousin was 'sold' for such a hefty amount. The reason was that a girl's bride price was decided by her maternal uncles. Ah!! The complication!! So much for being a Rs. 60 worth Hranglung!!  

I also remembered when my mother asked an old uncle about the codes and norms of the brideprice. The uncle, who stayed with us for medical treatment was a proud old uncle Pu Pak Er better known as  Cithang-pa.  Well, in the South, people are better known by their  eldest children's names. Note to self: Should give my eldest a really pleasant name if I marry in the south. The old uncle listed down the brideprice. I didn't see the list, but my mother exclaimed as she read  "Ka pa, if this much is the bride price, no one will ever marry our daughters."

Later I learnt that the list he made includes 4 mithuns, a dozen of copper vessels, a gun and a lot more. And that is excluding the Rs. 10000 cash. That old uncle may be a little bit too much. Before he passed away, there was a joke going around with the young men in Sangau, a rather morbid one "No one should marry a Hranglung girl before Cithang-pa passed away". Him being the eldest living Hranglung in the village, his words were always heeded obediently especially when it comes to norms, codes and ethics. Brideprice being one of them.

You see how much can a brideprice differ even in one family even though the brideprice fixed today for a Lai girl is Rs. 1500. 

Sounds complicating does it?

Well, getting out of the whole mess, the point I'm trying to make here is that a brideprice is just a token of cultural practice and tradition. Who can ever chart out a human being's worth in term of money?? Even if you do so, I don't think even the richest man in the world would afford it so. A human's life is worth more than anything.

And lately, did I hear about the MHIP deciding to raise the fixed brideprice?? To what?? Where do you draw the line?? How much, would you compromise, a woman is worth if you decide that the 420 token is not enough?? 

As for me, let my brideprice go according to what my family decides. After all it's just a token of culture and tradition. I respect tradition enough for me to have a brideprice. I am definitely not my feminist friend who refuses to have a brideprice. I will not enter another family without going through the traditional norms and ritual of a brideprice. I don't really care if I go for 60 or a Lusei 420 or the Lai 1500 or the hefty 10000. A brideprice, I repeat, is after all just a traditional token, still nonetheless necessary.

So than 10 years from now, when I fight with my husband (hopefully!) he would never use the man man zo lo line on me!! I'm just kidding of course. But on a serious note, for the non-Mizo reader, if you think of ever 'buying' yourself a Mizo girl with the literal traditional token, I will hunt you down... Personally!


Anonymous said...

It's 22:00 here in Spain and I'm supposed to be watching a music show together with other guests. Indeed I'm in front of the stage with my iphone and a cold beer, but I'm reading your beautiful post instead! Your advice to your non Mizo reader is indeed precious and relevant. I would never pay money to marry the woman of my life! WAIT! That's crazy! Of course I would pay for such a woman! And not in your Rs, but in dollars, euros, pounds if necessary! Love knows no boundaries and no currencies! Cheers!!!! lol E

Senmami said...

Yes... of course.. the note is for you and a handful others who, I know, will pick me mercilessly after reading this!! Enjoy Spain... hope the grrrr's aren't permanent! :)