Field Notes – Sample n. 3 by Tommaso Sbriccoli

Interview to B. K. Pinjara – 30/06/12

I am in BK Pinjara’s house, and also his wife is present. After collecting the genealogies and the information about family economy, I ask about marriage transactions and inheritance. Here is how the conversation went:

T.: so for marriages you give dahej?
BK: yes, we give it, but is not too much. If you are rich you give, but if you are poor, what could you be giving?
T: I understand. But you give bartan?
BK: O yes, of course we give bartan, all the kitchen staff, for cooking and serving, and also something for keeping stuff…
T: A cupboard?
BK: Yes, a cupboard.
T: and do you give also a palang [bed]?
BK: Yes, we give a palang.
T: and jewellery?
BK’s wife: yes, a wife get toe rings, and bracelets, and also a necklace.
T: and all these pieces of jewellery are hers or her sasural [in-laws] can take them?
BK’s wife: no, they are hers, her husband can only take one ring [could not get whether as a direct present from wife’s parents or he can take one of her rings]
T: and mahr, do you give mahr?
BK: we have mahr, yes, but we give it only in case of divorce. When you divorce you have to give mahr to your wife.
T: and do you usually give it after divorce?
BK: oh yes, otherwise the wife will go to court, and then you will have to pay also for maintenance, [khana-pina], 1-2000 rupies per month!. And if there are also child you will have to give much more, khana-pina, bimari-dard [disease-pain].
T: and how much is mahr?
BK: it depends, it can be 20000, 50.000, 1 lakh even!
BK’s wife: also I’ll have a mahr if we divorce, 2000 rupies [as she says this she smiles to me, as to say that her mahr is nothing, in comparison to the amounts his husband is saying, and with that she wouldn’t do much…]
T: 2000 rupies, that is not much, but is it because you married a lot of time ago?
BK’s wife opens her arms as to indicate that things go like that
T.: but is there a signed document at marriages stating the amount of mahr?
BK: of course, we sign a document, and then after divorce we have to give the agreed amount.
T: and what about mamera, do you give mamera at marriages?
BK: Of course we do, but wife’s nanial [a woman’s maternal grandparents] have to give mamera, not others.
T.: father’s and grandfather’s sisters do not give mamera?
BK: no, they give ban, that is some money as a gift.
T: and what do nanial give as mamera?
BK: they give clothes, some thousands of rupies, if they are rich even 50000 rps, and also some gold if they want and can.
T: so, about mahr, do talaks sometimes happen?
BK: of course they happen!
BK’s wife: he is divorced! [pointing to her husband]
T: you are divorced?
BK: yes, I had a previous wife, than I took her [pointing to her wife].
T: Did you have any children from your first wife?
BK: no, no children.
T. Why did you divorce?
BK: Problems in the house, I did not like how she cooked, and they way she acted, so I sent her away and took another one.
T: And did you give her mahr?
BK: No, I did not give anything, at those times mahr was not very frequent, and I didn’t give anything.
T: so mahr is a recent thing?
BK: yes, it is recent, before mahr was not so compulsory.

The conversation moves to other topics, that is, what happens in my country about divorce and maintenance, and then I try to go back to the interview.

T: and for inheritance, what do you do? Do you give something also to daughters?
[BK’s wife says something about how they call this process and touches her ear but I can’t get what she is saying.]
BK: yes, we can give something, we can give them their part [hissa]. If parents want so they can also give a small part to daughters.
T: But it is not compulsory?
BK: No, if there is the desire (iccha) so they can give.
BK’s wife: yes, if they want (“agar chahen”), if they have desire (“agar iccha he”), otherwise all is given to brothers.
T: but according to law do you have to give them a part?
BK: yes, we should, but then the daughter writes a letter and signs it, where she says that she renounces to her part, and so brothers take everything.
T: and if she does not want to give up her part? What does she do?
BK: She goes to the Court! But it is not good at all. Then her brothers will break relationships with her (“bhai usko chod denge”).
T: and do any cases like these happen?
BK: Yes they happen, but it is very bad.
BK’s wife: brothers will break all relationships with their sister, they will not play host to her, if she comes back home she will not be given food, water, gifts, anything.
BK: but if she renounces to her share then she will be loved and respected, and when she comes back home she can stay, no matter if she stays one day, two days, or one week, she will have everything, khana-pina, lena-dena, paise. We think that property is of sons, they live here, daughters live far, what will they do with our land then?


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