Mumbai: 'There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there are in-laws'. It is a phrase which might talk about the contemptible concept of dowry but it is also ironical -- the more educated you are, the more dowry you get. Blending these two unrelated worlds, A 23 year-old electrical engineer from Jharkhand, currently works in Fort Collins, Colorado, has created a website named Dowry Calculator.

The site seeks to help all the Indian aunties who love matchmaking by calculating the dowry worth of every groom. With just 10 questions about caste, age, job, education and father's profession, the site comes up with the net worth of a prospective groom. Meant to be a satire on the system of dowry, the website went viral just a month after it was launched. It became a top trending topic on Twitter India, with over 1,000 re-tweets, and over 67,000 people sharing it on Facebook.

Excerpts from an interview with Tanul Thakur, the creator of www.dowrycalculator.com.

Creator of the Dowry Calculator Tanul Thakur says he has designed a souvenir for the website, a T-shirt that will be up shortly. 'There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there are in-laws' reads the back of the tee.

What were your reasons for creating Dowry Calculator?

It was a combination of three things. Firstly, the concept of dowry is despicable. It is not only sexist and treats people as numbers, but is also ironical -- the more educated you are, the more dowry you get. Secondly, if you leave morality out of the situation, the model of dowry is interesting, mathematically. Most of the time, it's a function of the groom's age, salary, country where he is working, etc, and these things do change with time. So, I wanted to develop a mathematical model that could predict an individual's dowry worth at a particular instant and be able to change its value as the parameters in the groom's life changed. Lastly, the prospect of blending these two unrelated worlds was a fascinating proposition.

How long did it take you?

The idea came to me in the last week of February this year. It took me around one-and-a-half months to write the code but that's mainly because I knew zilch about coding. Finally, it took me a little over a week to research the different castes that exist in India, and the specifics of different dowry amounts.

Can you elaborate on how you came up with the different parameters?

The parameters are a satirical take on some of the things our society is fixated on. People are bracketed and judged based on how much they earn, which college they graduated from, etc. So, the main motive behind the different parameters was to showcase the shallowness of our society.

How have people reacted to it?

I have been quite humbled by the overwhelming positive feedback. Dowry Calculator became one of the top trending topics on Twitter India within a couple of hours of going live. More than 67,000 people have shared it on Facebook, and more than a 1,000 people have retweeted it on Twitter.

But one news channel took offence to it because they thought I was trying to encourage dowry. They wanted the website to be banned. I was a little perplexed by this because I didn't think it was that tough to detect sarcasm.

What is your opinion on the dowry system existing in the so-called educated metros in India?

It was one of the prime motivating factors behind the Dowry Calculator. I was appalled to see educated people indulging in the practice. It is depressing because it annuls the whole purpose of education.

What do you plan to do next?

The next obvious step would be to make a bride's version, which many people have suggested I do, but I have not really thought about it. I think Dowry Calculator had something concrete to comment on, and it is out in the open now. Anything else on similar lines would be a bit redundant. Also, I wanted to keep something as a souvenir for the website, so my friends and I  have made a Dowry Calculator T-shirt, just for kicks! I will put that up on the website shortly.

How much are you worth on the Dowry Calculator?

This information should be confidential, and to be shared with my future father-in-law. I have signed a non-disclosure agreement with him!

Oh girl, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

While the interviewee did not share his dowry worth, this humble writer will. Among the many parameters, one all-important one is that of caste. The website has an exhaustive list of the various castes in India, but

I could not find one that suited my Tibetan Buddhist origins. Thus, I went with Kshatriya (I supposedly belong to a warrior community in Tibet). If you are not an IIT plus IIM graduate, or worse, belong to neither, you are a loser. Plus, I am a lowly hack, and not foreign-returned. On the saving side, I'm fair, and have never been married. So what's my worth? Only Rs 35 lakh. According to the website, "It is a decent amount, but who wants to settle for decent when there is an entire range of awesomeness available?" So I am going to do just that. Wait for my awesome dowry. To misquote Janis Joplin, "Oh girl, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz".

 

Courtesy: Mid-Day