The book "Nectar in a Sieve" takes place in India, where the practice of giving dowries is extremely common. A dowry, in Indian culture, is a sum of money attached to a woman of marrying age to be given to her husband/husband's family when they get married.
The larger the dowry the better, because more respectable and promising men tend to receive the brides with the largest dowries. However, if the woman is exceptionally attractive, they may still be able to catch the eye of the more promising men. In the novel, Rukmani describes herself as having no dowry and having little beauty. Because of this, she ends up betrothed to a poor farmer, and her prospects are extremely limited. Her daughter, Ira, however, is able to marry significantly above her station, as she is considered very beautiful.
So, in most cases, a dowry will determine your fate and how well of a life you will be able to live later on. In some cases, though not often, you can rise above this fate.
A dowry is often of great...
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