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Of dowry and weddings. And rugby.

December 2, 2011

My boy Sliga, the chef of THE kitchen cabinet, recently got married. Judging him by his standards, I’m yet to come to terms with the act. Anyhow, having grown up being ardent rugby supporters, it was only fitting that we modify a rugby cheer song in honor of him and his new wife Nelima. We would sing happily:

Ningekuwa mvulana, nitake mi kuoa

Ningefurahi sana, kumuoa Nelima

*grabs green weave from NonieMG and assumes Haka position*

Kila siku LIMA LIMA!, usiku LIMA LIMA!,

Tuzidi KULIMANA, asubuhi LIMA LIMA!!

Anyhow,  what is of particular interest in the run up to the wedding was this thing called dowry. Kenyans are crazy about dowry. I remember the Saturday afternoon when the negotiations for Nelima took place. Sliga was like a sat-on cat tail. Broken. The sums I heard being exchanged were almost derogatory. I could see the veins on the lead negotiator’s temple. Luckily for the boy, Nelima’s old man, my good friend, was extra lenient on the man and we left having been granted a wife for Sliga. I remember us unleashing the only Latin we knew after the event, ‘Habemus Mulier’!! (We have a wife!)

The issue of dowry is an interesting one. Relatives sort of feel it is time they got repaid for the ‘good work done in raising & educating the girl’. Talk of the plight of the boy child. Never mind he too is educated. Girls’ families in more cases than few end up harassing the suitors’ folks to the skeleton of their pockets. In the process people tend to form stereotypes about you. Now imagine one time we are having a family get together in shaggz and one of my favorite cousins walks in and declares he was getting married to a girl from Kiambu. The awkward silence told it all. He went ahead to explain how she is a doctor. The quiet murmurs of ‘Ghai, auuuuu!’ were all too loud. The ancestral ka-protti had to be sold.

I’m even informed that in the Kikuyu culture, there are several goats that have to be slaughtered. One of them is called the goat of  ‘wiping s**t’ and is eaten to compensate the dirty work of cleaning the wife in her babyhood days.

Folks need to go easy on the business of selling your daughter to the ‘other’ family. Here’s my argument, it’s not that I’m taking your daughter away from you. I’m just taking all the headache she’s been giving you away with me, and in addition I’ll give you grandkids with her genes powerfoamed by mine. Thus, don’t sell her to me, at those notoriously exorbitant bride prices, whether or not she’s been to school. Otherwise, in the case I pay the full amount that you asked for, you realize she won’t be coming over to visit you anymore because she’ll have been bought out. You never see Beckham going back to play or Man U, do you?

Parents, encourage your daughters not to get money minded when getting married, because men are becoming shrewder by the day. Take for instance the case of Yvonne. The sound-mind looking lady takes a studio image of herself and puts it in the local dailies, looking for a suitor. Qualifications of the suitor; a stringent ability to cough out 1.2M Kenya money with a smile. Caused quite a vocal stampede of this manner…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH  SSSSSSIILLLLLLLLYYYY!!

…with the conclusion that no Kenyan bachelor, even in a drunken stupor, would produce even a post-dated cheque of half that figure for the pleasant Yvonne. Case closed. The jury had Yvonne condemned to becoming somebody’s second wife.

Dowry, while good in enhancing and resolving politics between two families, more than being punitive should just be a case of the said families getting united through the concerned couple and sharing. In our parents’ era, a dowry of five cows and 10 goats would be paid over a lifetime. Sort of hire purchase. You were guaranteed of allegiance by a son in law especially if he could not meet his installments. This was so seriously taken that in some cultures, if you had not finished paying up for your wife by the time your daughter gets married, then her dowry goes to your wife’s folks straight and untouched.

Prior to Kip’s wedding in Tot, Marakwet, we had taken him to ELD to negotiate for his bride price. I can never forget what those Pokot wazees told us. After negotiating for about 2 hours, they said that we had to produce 500K for their daughter. And that was not it. That was to be according to the Kenyan culture. In addition, we were to fulfill the Kalenjin culture which was to produce 10 cows and 60 goats. As we left that evening there was only one other alternative:  eloping.  Had we not played flanker that boy today would be living in sin. Amen.

When my two friends, Ram, a Kenyan of Goan origin and Njeri , who’d been dating for 2 years decided to get married, it was a real scrum in the mud. His folks, according to tradition wanted dowry. Her folks, according to tradition, also wanted dowry. Now we have a real dilemma. One side wants he cows, the other she cows. We wait to see how that ends. All in the name of dowry.

After dowry is paid comes the wedding. While I’m not exactly a big fan of weddings, I have attended quite a number, some of which I have even ‘stood on’. But I guess it is a necessary evil of life and with fellows like Hilum  …

“Tunaye Mburu aaah Mburu, tunaye Mburu, Hamtamweza!!

… recently married and looking happy, I take it is a great beginning to the married life. However, I have noticed something interesting in the Kenya weddosphere. People are competing to have glamorous weddings. Yeah. I’m seeing lots of young (and embarrassingly old) people running around fundraising for a wedding. Some even go the extra mile of having a minimum contribution amount for their friends. It’s as if you are being sold shares of the honeymoon bliss.

I’m of the opinion that people, in addition to spending within their means, need to be who they really are. I think your wedding should be a demonstration of how you lived before the day and how you’ll live after. A big wedding in Blixen then you return to Gataka in KarenView (wadhi wa Rongai) afterward really beats me. Be yourself. Matrix, are you suggesting a small wedding? Like hell yeah.

I think it is beautiful for men to make commitments to the women they want to have succession planning a.k.a offspring with. And what better way to do that than walking her down the aisle? Now, if all the festivities that play wingman to the aisle will leave me with a loan to be paid by my last born I’d rather not bother. But give me an option for a small wedding that is cost efficient and bam! You just won me over.

The case of our (me and Roomthinker’s) friends S and B was a perfect example. With inflation propping the cost of living to unbearable levels these two extremely pleasant characters nonchalantly had a small wedding. Church Mass, photo session, cake & tea. Then in the evening we had a gruesome party at a Brazilian restaurant that reeked of nothing but awesomeness. Total budget – well, let’s just say they are now living in a house they have purchased. While a good number of big (borrowed) wedders struggling with rent. I think people need to evaluate themselves to do what they can.

As for Nelima and Sliga. Here’s my wish to you; have a wonderful honeymoon! Work off that baby fat!

6 comments

  1. I am of the idea that anyone who contributes to the wedding has bought shares and as a result should get benefits all dependent on the amount contributed such as
    1. Ability to randomly drop by for meals
    2. Hangout at the house
    3. One night with the bride or groom

    etc. People need to understand that weddings are not an investment neither are they emergencies, plan, save, do. * climbs off soapbox*


  2. I am for no elaborate wedding ceremony’! Just like a tiny thingie Max 20pple to make each other honest people before God. Gowns, flowers, sijui color theme,ten-tier cake.. the whole process just freaks me out!! At least you ‘stand in’ weddings🙂
    And who are the Goan people? Never heard of them!


    • It is highly likely any DeSouza you know is a Muhundi originally from Goa, southern part of India.


  3. LOL! Dude you got me🙂. I think the most important thing is preparation. Its not a spur of the moment thing, it has to be a deliberate plan with a specific course of action. The ideal situation is have 90% of the budget then family and close friends can chip in but harambees/fundraising are a no no. So you have to save for it. In laws also help if they don’t stress you, you will be good.



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