My friend’s son plays with his neighbor every day and has for years. My friend is rich in comparison to her neighbors. This particular neighborhood boy’s father is a ricksha-puller and his Mom is a house-helper in two different homes. But the family is hard-working, honest, and polite. These two very different boys have played together for years. But just this week, the little neighbor boy told my friend that he was moving the next day to live about 6 hours away with his grandparents. He plans on studying in the morning and working at a brick field in the afternoon. This little boy in ten. He looks like he is eight.

The reason behind the move is that his sister is fifteen. She is beautiful. As a ricksha-puller’s daughter, there is not much protection against men taking advantage of her. So they want to get her married off, and fast. They have found a good husband for her, but the dowry is 50,000 tk — about $600 . It’s a big sum for someone who might earn 4,000 taka ($48) a month if he works hard enough. The wife has 30,000 taka from her own inheritance, so they have to scrounge up the rest. With their young son working far away, it’s one less mouth to feed and one more income. So the mother is asking my friend — will she help give some money towards the dowry?

My friend said that the dowry system is bad, so she won’t give money towards that. She asked why a dowry is needed. The mother explained that she could marry her daughter off to a ricksha puller, but what kind of life is that? She herself has had the type of life, and she wants to give her daughter something better. This family is wanting a dowry, but they have land, they only have two sons, and she will be marrying the older son. It will be a better life.

In getting to that better life, the path seems all sad.