Sometime ago, Reliance and actor Aamir Khan had scripted a TV series to highlight the social evils that plague our country. One of them was on the dowry system, the deep-rooted scourge of our country. Using real life incidents taken from the length and breadth of the country, it exposed the macabre events that follow when dowry promises are not fulfilled, ranging from maltreatment, mental and physical torture to acid attacks and even coldblooded murder.
While watching it, I wondered why they did not show the flipside, a patch of land in India still untouched by thecurse of dowry. I proudly refer to my district of Kannur, Kerala, where thedowry system has been non-existent from timeimmemorial among the Hindu communities indigenous to its soil. In fact, the practice is abhorred and held in utter contempt. No Hindu male in this district accepts dowry in exchange for a marriage partner —to him, a bride’s credentials and hierarchy are worth more than pieces of gold, silver, land or cash. Given that dowry is still rampant among the other communities there, to have remained unaffected in their midst speaks volumes for their moral fibre.
Traditionally, the Kannur bridegroom has to do quite the opposite of accepting a dowry. He has to provide the entire bridal wardrobe, which includes formal wear, casual wear, home wear and even innerwear, all packed in a trunk and presented to her by the groom’s sister and close relatives in a small ceremony a few days before the wedding.
Kannur District has many other claims to fame. It is the birthplace of cricket in India and Kalaripayattu, the mother of all martial arts. It is the homeland of the circus in India and the place where the first cake in India was baked over 200 years ago! The laygrounds of Kannur have churned out scores of footballers toregularly feed famous lubs like Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting in Calcutta; Tatas , Caltex and Mahindra in Bombay, not to mention the Services football clubs all over India. The absence of the dowry system means the evils closely associated with it, like the killing of infant girls and female foeticide— rampant across the rest of India are unheard of amongst the Hindus of Kannur District. On the contrary, the birth of a girl child is cause for jubilation. Admittedly, the district is politically hypersensitive, and frequent bizarre murders often put the district in the news for the wrong reasons. ‘Kannur Syndrome’ could well be a cliché for violent political murders. But the underlying, inherent glory and unique bigness of Kannur must also be told.