A mid the daily dosage of accusations, counter accusations and character smearing hurled freely in the political scene, last week saw two news stories that must have caught the attention of more ordinary people, the people who do nothing else but wake up in the wee hours of the morning and go to their workplaces so as to pay their bills and raise families.
While these stories made it only to the second half of most newspapers, the fact that they went “viral” on the Internet suggests that the issues behind the news were of more immediate public importance.
While one read of these stories may attract ridicule from readers, the real issues that formed both the news has a lot to do with the fundamental state of society itself.
In an incident that happened in, of all places, a mosque somewhere in the city’s outskirts, two families who were there to witness what was supposed to be a joyous occasion — a union of marriage — got into a fight instead.
Apparently, the groom failed to fulfil his promise of making available an agreed sum of dowry to the bride’s family. According to reports, when pressured, during an heated exchange of words, he was left with no option but to leave the mosque where the solemnisation was to take place.
His action angered the bride’s family and a free-for-all ensued, resulting in both parties lodging police reports. The marriage did not take place in the end and there is the likelihood that whatever love they both shared before had just had to end.
Another incident happened several days later and this one not only ended up with the police, but went as far as to the court. A male youth in a southern state had made plans to marry the love of his life and, just like the earlier incident, was expected to come ready with the dowry when the big day arrived.
Unfortunately, and for reasons only known to him, the youth failed to make the sum available. With the day fast approaching and with his back against the wall, he concocted a tale of being robbed of all the money that was meant for the wedding. He went as far as filing a police report, and when his tale was discovered, was charged in court and ended up being fined. No word has been heard since about his planned wedding.
These were real happenings, not some perception building stunts to make what was black seem white. While many may grin on reading these stories, what led to both incidents was unfortunate, to say the least.
Both had to do with money, or rather society’s attitude that, when it comes to legal tender, no amount is ever enough. From another perspective, they perhaps reveal society’s state of financial readiness amid the ever challenging economic environment.
Provision of a dowry has somewhat become a tradition in a large part of our society and the amount seems to follow the bride’s standing in the community as well as being in tandem with the country’s economic development.
The amount may range between a few thousand ringgit to as incomprehensible as the sky, the moon and the stars. It is not inconceivable that in the not too distant future, the bride’s family will include even the Goods and Services Tax in arriving at the final dowry amount.
Generally, for a man, the dowry is perhaps the second biggest stumbling block he must deal with after softening the hearts and minds of his lion-hearted prospective in-laws.
Then, there is the marriage feast which again requires expenditure. This is the norm in society nowadays. I have come across many instances where people have had to resort to borrowings to finance their marriage.
It is an unwise move as one’s entry into a new phase of life should preferably be free of debts. Moreover, when the reality is such that, whether we like it or not, a marriage also marks an end to the courtship days of building castles in the air and the beginning of real commitment, and of even more real commitments, much of which requires nothing else but money.
Society must understand the bigger picture in a marriage, that what happens after the wedding must be accorded equal, if not, more importance, than the one-day of festivities.
While we may never eradicate the practice of dowry in our society or to always win the battle against the urge for a grand wedding celebration, the expenses involved should not be prohibitive or worse, one that will start the union of marriage with the incurring of debts.
But that, however, must not take away the need for one to be financially prepared before taking the plunge in the first place. Indeed, the dowry is but a fraction of the marital commitment itself. Bigger challenges, many of which are financial in nature, lay ahead.
Mustapha Kamil is the newspaper‘s group editor. The profession has taken him to all corners of the globe