On the Craze of Awunpot Among Contemporary Manipuri Brides

Is awunpot the weigh-oh-meter of a successful married life of a Manipuri bride? Does Awunpot really play its role in winning love and affection from the new members of Nupamayum for the bride? Is the culture of giving expensive awunpot in our society encouraging? Is there any ill effect of Awunpot culture among contemporary Manipuri brides? I am leaving all these deliberations to be discussed by the would-be brides from our society who would sooner or later tie their nuptial knots. As for my personal opinion, I am occupying the remaining part of today’s column with my own thought salad on the awunpot culture that prevails in our society.

Dowry system is encouraged to a new high in our society. Whether we admit it or not, most of us directly or indirectly become a part of this not so fascinating practice. Earlier, the concept of awunpot or awong awun tamba used to be a fond practice in our community in which parents affectionately gifted their daughters with what all things they could afford. Today, it has become more of an evil practice.

For today’s parents’ marriage of their daughters means quite a huge investment for which they have to save up a handsome amount. For instance, parents who have three daughters need to save up at least 30 lakh rupees just to buy awunpot (if it accounts to 10 lakh each for one daughter and the calculation goes on). So, that’s it? Parental love is measured in terms of awunpot or what? To the rich lots, it would not be a problem but what about those middle class families and those who hail from poor income group? Are they supposed to join this marathon like race of taking along maximum awunpot at Nupamayum? It’s quite a crazy practice I must admit.

‘Thangnabagi Thambougi machanupidi gari achouba unli, akhoi ebema gisu achouba natrasu macha amadi haapisi’- Is it a kind of competition or a quest to popularize oneself at one’s leikai by gifting one’s daughter or sister with maximum awunpot? I really do not think/consider so. Love, affection, understanding and respect for one another in the family mean much more than those chunks of unwanted items, expensive jewelries or electronic goods. How many times do we need to remind ourselves that relationships cannot be weighed on any ground?

If the bride wants to be financially independent even after her marriage, it’s better to have a big fat bank account rather than investing all her lifetime savings on the not so required awunpot. I have this suggestion that every bride should have an open and sensible choice- the lifeless brands or the precious relationships, a good amount of money in her bank account or chunks of unwanted yet expensive electronic or lifestyle items that would lie unattended at some corner of the Nupamayum.

By and by, it’s the high time we also stop poking our noses on whose mamounupi brings how much awunpot. Let us stop giving importance to those lifeless washing machines, refrigerators, LCD television sets and blah blah. We do need to evolve out from the typical rusty mindset of considering marriage as a burden. A marriage is not at all a burden; it’s a beautiful ritual through which a bride and her groom are united in front of their loved ones. A mere washing machine or refrigerator cannot weigh the love between the bride and groom.

Another luhongba-centric (yumfam yaodaba chatnabi) that pesters me is our craze for many things that are imported from other Indian cities especially from Delhi. To cite an example, there is this particular bed sheet exclusively meant to be used on the luhongba day. My sister even keeps on asking me to purchase a few pieces for her. Guess what? This in-demand bed sheet is sold at Imphal market at double the price as compared to its market price in Delhi. While the Delhi Karbarwaalas are booming with the business of this particular piece of cloth (adorned with some glitzy designs), our local weavers/designers who have the same potential to produce many innovative designs and samples are almost crippled. Most of the traditional wedding related attires have also been replaced by swanky imported garments. I cannot help considering it as a death blow to our cultural norms- the same cultural norms about which we pretend so hard to preserve- eh?

It’s very funny to admit that just for some bling bling factor (what I would call Kok Yaodaba Thouwong) we are crippling our local weavers & designers by relying heavily on various imported pieces of garments from other cities. The market in our state is comparatively petty as compared to the thriving market in Delhi. If Manipuris do not buy those bed sheets or clothes, the Delhi karbarwaalas won’t have much loss. But have we ever imagined the impact on our local weavers? Are we not crippling them day by day? On one hand we talk about change, reconstruction and progress in our society. On the other hand, we cripple all the means and measures of bringing change or progress in our society. It’s like looting with the left hand and repaying with the right one.

All in all, there isn’t a single reason why we should encourage the practice of dowry system in our society. Besides we should also have a check on our fascination with imported swanky attires or accessories from other cities. Awunpot never measures the amount of love and affection that parents have for their daughters. And there is no such evidence that a bride with truckloads of awunpot will win the award of the best ‘Mou’ of the year or so. So, dear would-be-brides from Kangleipaak, please be a little sensible and start evolving from the mindset of taking along as much awunpot as you can. Let us try to abolish many unwanted chatnabis that soil our society. I have this firm belief that this can be a collective effort among us.
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