Breaking taboos

As Kashmiri Pandit youth venture outside the state to study or for better jobs, there is a rising trend of marrying outside the community, which was almost a taboo until recently. Sonika Raina reports

Shally Dhar, a young and ambitious Kashmiri Pandit girl in her early 30s, married a Marathi IT professional, who was planning to move to the US. Despite some initial opposition from parents, she married him. Now, she sends the photos of her newborn child to her parents, who have never seen their grandson.

“Marrying outside the community was considered a taboo among the Kashmiri Pandits (KP) but the mass migration has drastically changed that,” says Makhan Lal, a septuagenarian KP living in New Delhi.

The youngsters have broken the tradition of marrying only within the community. “Today about 20 to 30 percent of Pandits are marrying outside the community, with economics and emotional compatibility playing a major role in it,” says Lal.

After the centre and various state governments reserved quota for Kashmiri Pandits in various professional courses, a large number of Pandit students ventured out of the state for want of better education and jobs.  

It was a major shift, as generally in the past KP parents were not generally inclined to send their children away from their protective sphere. “They were asked to study and later look for a decent job from the secure and protective environs of home,” says Lal. But now the trend is fast changing. Over the last decade, the youngsters of the community have not only ventured out to study in the educational and professional institutes across India, but now they’re also working in the distant cities, and even abroad.

 “What is bad in marrying outside the community?” asks Sujata Bharti, a BPO trainer. “In this increasingly globalized world, you cannot force anybody to confine within his limited circle,” she adds. “Today it is compatibility – physical, economic, and emotional – that are the deciding factors.”

Pandit matrimonial ads in the community journals show that Pandit youth are not only marrying late but they also have a fascination for foreign countries. Many a times, it becomes the sole criteria for marriage. “Boy in US, marry her”, seems to be a simple marriage mantra for many.

Many parents among KPs agree to compromise with the long marriage rituals and go for what the boy’s side wants.

“There is no doubt that migration has changed the perception of our elders. I feel this is because our society is in a great transition right now. If we don’t move ahead and go on sticking to our worn out taboos, we may even perish,” says Sarita Koul, an engineering pass-out who returned to her parents after spending five years in Pune. On parental insistence, she stayed here for a year and worked in a small organization, but found it frustrating. “I am going to Delhi, where I can get a job of my choice which has a growth,” she adds.

Engineer Poet Anshul Aima, the author of “Moods”, a poetry collection that conveys the poetic perspective of a Pandit girl on the changing socio-economic realities around her, says, “Poetry was my way of reacting to the changing values around us. Sometimes I feel like sand is slowly moving out of our close fists”.  

The generation that has come up in the last 21 years in exile has somewhat mixed ideas about their land of forefathers, making it, at times, difficult for them to gel with their traditional ethos.

“It makes me very sad to see our younger generation talking to us in Hindi or funny Kashmiri accents and our girls and boys marrying non-Kashmiris,” says Arvind Jawahar Pandita, an employee in a computer company in Delhi. “This is the situation just after 21 years, imagine what will happen after 30 or 50 years,” he says.

Many girls, who have returned after completing their studies outside the state, told Kashmir Life that earlier they could not understand what fast life means to the youngsters. But back in Jammu, they have found life amazingly dull and boring. Having got used to a fast life, with no major restrictions on timings, they feel stifled here.

“There is no nightlife here, it is just limited to few jagratas,” said Koshni Sharma, who works in a MNC and was used to nightlife during her five year sojourn in Pune and Delhi. “Sometimes we want to go out in the evenings and enjoy the night breeze with friends. But that is not the case here,” she adds.

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