A scale balancing money and love

By all accounts, it was a beautiful wedding. There was chicken and rice for 40 and a great local band. Guests dressed in their finery and celebrated the whole day through. At the end of a happy day, Kamala Rani of Bangladesh had provided her daughter a wonderful celebration. In addition, Rani racked up $320 in debt and was compelled to borrow a gram of gold from a relative for her daughter's dowry. It was clearly worth it, even though Rani's daughter now lives in another village, and saving for the three dollar round trip bus fare to visit her a couple of times a year is a feat.

14-Hour Days

Rani makes the equivalent of $1.50 a day by U.S. standards. The 48-year-old woman typically works a 14-hour day, depending on how much work there is at the market, where she sorts vegetables, and on what jobs she can get as a house maid. Rani was profiled in a recent article on NPR. The interview was conducted by phone. Rani told reporters that she is still paying off that wedding feast, which is worrisome, as in another eight years, her younger daughter will be of marrying age.

Cultural Tradition

Rani belongs to the Rishi caste, broadly understood to mean the "downtrodden." Rishipara, her village, may be loosely translated to "untouchable neighborhood." Available work for people in this caste usually consists of the dirtiest jobs. Rani is currently the sole source of income for her family. They share a tiny one-room house made of corrugated tin, with no bathroom facilities. Despite the level of poverty that Rani faces, she is determined to find a way to manage a second wedding when the time comes. In fact, as she told NPR, she does not have a choice, " because that's what a marriage is."

Raising the Wedding Funds

To raise the money to pay for her eldest daughter's nuptials, Rani applied to an NGO for a microcredit loan. She also practiced a bit of banking herself, lending out her own savings to other people in the neighborhood, who paid it pack with interest. According to NPR, borrowing and lending money is common practice in the village, with or without interest.

Crushing Poverty

The United Nations reports that there are close to 1.5 billion people in the world who live in abject poverty. One U.N. representative from Nepal said that, at current conditions, it would take 88 years of reform to lift people out of extreme poverty. Bangladesh is one of the most critical areas of concern. The General Assembly of the United Nations has been considering the following factors in raising the standard of living in the most affected countries:

  • Human resource development
  • Eradication of poverty, with an emphasis on hunger
  • Women in development

For What Its Worth

Ranis' situation makes clear that no matter what the level of resources, or lack thereof, cultural standards and obligations remain. It is unthinkable that one of her daughters would not have a proper wedding, complete with guests, a feast, entertainment and a dowry. To most Americans, who have grown accustomed to hearing about elaborate events, and even comparatively humble events, that cost tens of thousands of dollars, Rani's efforts may seem superhuman. The social and cultural impulse, however, may be very similar. After her daughter's celebration, Rani knew she had given her daughter the best start she could and had invited family, friends, and neighbors to witness the milestone. While she states in her interview that that is just the way it is in her world, one gets the impression that she feels that somehow it is all worth it. The effort seems to reach beyond mere obligation and speaks to the dignity inherent in providing for one's children and their future.

Category: Get Ordained


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