Dowry Calculator app: How much for an arranged marriage?

Dowry Calculator app: How much for an arranged marriage?

App inventor Tanul Thakur spoofs an antiquated, outlawed aspect of arranged marriages
Dowry Calculator
Activist Tariq Dar, dressed as a groom, symbolically begs for money from a pedestrian during an anti-dowry campaign in Mumbai in December 2010.

On May 6, Tanul Thakur, a 23-year-old Indian electrical engineer living in Colorado, launched a satirical joke on the traditional Indian arranged marriage.

It promptly went viral, to the count of 65,730 Facebook likes, 66,000 Facebook shares and 997 Tweets in a couple of weeks.

Thakur's Dowry Calculator, a simple online form shared under a Creative Commons license, estimates a groom's monetary value after 10 questions.

The ballpark figure asked of the bride’s family is based on the groom's age, profession, caste, salary, father’s profession, skin tone, height, previous marriages and whether or not he went to Harvard.

Answers sound like this:

"Congratulations! Your current dowry rate is 1 Crore. Besides the cash amount, you are assured a lavish wedding, land property (given you negotiate your price well), hefty and expensive jewelry, and even a foreign tour with your wife -- all with your in-laws' hard earned money. The day has arrived. All these years of hard work, and investment in education has finally paid off. You have made your parents proud. Bravo!"

It’s a parody, of course. A way of demonstrating what today's young generation feels about a practice outlawed in India in 1961, but still prevalent in lower-income strata in which women experience harassment over drawn-out dowry payments.

According to women's rights groups, 7,000 cases of dowry deaths occur every year in India.

It's not unheard of for so-called upper-caste Indian "aunties" to be curious about the tangible assets a bride will bring with her. Some going so far as to ask outright.

Thakur dedicates his web application to them. To “all the match-making aunties who think it is their moral responsibility to decide everything for the younger people in the family," he says.

Some get it, many don't

"There are things in our society that beg to be satirized," Thakur says. "Our obsession with IIT-ians, skin color, judging someone by their salary and so on. The main point was to show how our society can, at times, treat human beings as mere statistics.

"A lot of people get the sarcasm and the puerile parameters by which we judge people in our society and are happy that someone is making a mockery of the dowry system." 

One South Indian television news channel missed the punch line, according to Thakur, and called for the cyber police to ban the Dowry Calculator.

Guess they weren't too happy with the results.

Sita Wadhwani is CNNGo City Editor in Mumbai.


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