Sunday, August 16, 2015

Timeless observations by an administrator of the British Raj in India

"One of the evils which press most upon Indian society is the necessity which long usage has established of squandering large sums in marriage ceremonies. Instead of giving what they can to their children to establish them, and enable them to provide for their families and rise in the world, parents everywhere feel bound to squander all they can borrow in the festivities of their marriage. 

Men in India could never feel secure of being permitted freely to enjoy their property under despotic and unsettled governments, the only kind of governments they knew or hoped for; and much of the means that would otherwise have been laid out in forming substantial works, with a view to a return in income of some sort or another, for the remainder of their own lives and of those of their children, were expended in tombs, temples, sarāis, tanks, groves, and other works—useful and ornamental, no doubt, but from which neither they nor their children could ever hope to derive income of any kind. The same feeling of insecurity gave birth, no doubt, to this preposterous usage, which tends so much to keep down the great mass of the people of India to that grade in which they were born, and in which they have nothing but their manual labour to depend upon for their subsistence. 

Every man feels himself bound to waste all his stock and capital, and exhaust all his credit, in feeding idlers during the ceremonies which attend the marriage of his children, because his ancestors squandered similar sums, and he would sink in the estimation of society if he were to allow his children to be married with less." (Paragraphing mine)

- Rambles and Recollections of an Indian official, William Sleeman (published 1915)

Not much has changed in the last 100 years (1st paragraph), except maybe the reasons (2nd paragraph). The harmful impact continues to be the same (3rd paragraph).

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