Home Alone

A number of Kashmiri girls marrying outside the state find it hard to adopt and embrace new culture, food habits, customs etc and end up back home. Saima Bhat talks to three such girls who after struggling to cope up with their new lives flock back, bruised     

A Kashmiri bride. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

(A Kashmiri bride.Pic: Bilal Bahadur)

In 2005, Sheeba, then 20, was married to her cousin, who was residing in Pune. It was her parents’ decision but after living a different lifestyle and trying to fit in a different culture, she feels strangulated every day. Every day was a new challenge for her.

In Kashmir, intra-cultural marriages were mostly preferred, but post 90s it changed. However, Dr Bashir Ahmad Dabla, a sociologist says, “The trend of inter-cultural and inter-caste marriages started long ago, before 90s. It started when Kashmiris went to places like Kolkata for trade and other Indian states for education.  It is not only girls are getting married with Kashmiri boys but some girls are getting married outside the state as well.”

Sheeba’s father Ghulam Mohammad, a Pashmina trader started moving outside the state for his business during late 70s. But soon after, he fell in love with a Muslim Bengali girl and got married to her. The couple was blessed with a daughter and a son and they started living in old city of Srinagar.

One day, Sheeba’s maternal aunt, who was residing in Pune, sent a marriage proposal of her son Adil, an Engineering student. Sheeba was studying in 12th standard then.

Initially Sheeba’s father was reluctant but he had to surrender before his wife’s wish, who was excited about the proposal. And within no time, Sheeba and Adil were married.

Sheeba couldn’t complete her studies but Adil did his engineering and got a job. “All these years I remained busy in kitchen and forgot myself. I never complained of adjustment problems at a new place or of leaving my studies. Even after all these compromises I am not happy,” says Sheeba.

“Life is better there but I am not comfortable. I have been brought up in a conservative society and more than that I belong to 90’s generation so you can imagine how my thinking will be. It can’t be alright if my husband comes late in the night, mid-night or goes for official tours with his colleagues for a week or so. Late night parties, different social gatherings, I am not comfortable and I can’t change my thinking. Nobody understands me.”

After nine-years of marriage, Sheeba feels that nobody cares how she is sacrificing every single day of her life to make things work. “I have to search the internet to know the exact prayer timings as there are no mosque around in Pune where I lived. It has been a while since I have heard Azaan.”

Even festivals like Eid are just holidays in Pune, without any fervor or excitement. “In Kashmir, Eid is celebrated in such a fashion that you remember it for months to come,” says Sheeba.

It was only after a year of her marriage that Sheeba came back home forever, leaving everything behind. But after her mother and aunt’s assurance that things will change for good, she returned to her husband.

“When I saw her after a year, Sheeba was looking pale and her sunken eyes spoke of her pain. That beautiful and most lively person was lost,” says one of her cousins. “But she went back and we couldn’t do anything for her.”

Presently Sheeba is living a lonely life. “After all these years of marriage, I am still uncertain about my future. Ironically, now my husband has started complaining about my qualification. And he keeps on roaming around with his female colleagues. He is more comfortable with them. My privacy has been breached and I feel isolated. I can’t discuss such things with my aunt or mother because I fear it may strain our relation further. I am living a relation of just compromises.”

Dr Dabla says that inter-cultural marriages have their limitations as well. The people start getting problems while comprehending an alien language, cultural patterns, accommodation, social-setup and life style. “It is both way process; non-Kashmiri girls get married here and Kashmiri girls marry outside. And this we call as indianization, social integration which gets stronger day by day.”

Muslim-Wedding-CoupleHe says there have been many cases where Kashmiris went to Russia or America for their studies but end up marrying there. They settled there, fearing the social adjustment problems.

In 2012, Shazia, 19, felt lucky when her parents found a suitable match and married her in the same year. By the same year, when all of her friends were preparing for their senior secondary examination, she was excited to get married in a high profile Muslim family from Mumbai based in UAE. Now, after two years, she is back in Kashmir along with her one-year-old daughter. She is not willing to go back to her disputed relation.

Shazia along with her parents had gone to Mumbai in 2011 to see their relatives. One day the family decided to have dinner in a hotel but destiny had some bigger plans. While having dinner, a lady sitting on the other table got attracted to Shazia’s beauty and she started conversing with the family. It was on the same table the lady ended up offering a marriage proposal for her nephew, Amir Ahmad.

“It was just in ten days that marriage got finalized and we returned home for the preparations. Both the families decided all marriage functions will be held in Kashmir. Everything was just perfect. No more exams. I was soon going to land at a new place. That feeling was just awesome,” says Shazia.

All marriage functions were held in both tradition Kashmiri and Mumbai style. The ceremonies lasted for a week in Kashmir’s five star hotels. “My make-up artist was from UAE. All of my wedding outfits were imported from there. I was just feeling like a princess. It was like a dream come true for me,” recalls Shazia.

Everything was fine between Shazia and Amir till she delivered a baby. “In that one year we mostly remained outside the country, visiting different places. I missed my family but then I was far away. I couldn’t visit them frequently. Every girl has to do so. But once our baby came in this world, I preferred to remain indoors.”

As Shazia started getting busy with her motherhood, Amir’s job started getting hectic and more demanding. “He was the only replacement of my family. But when he wasn’t able to spend time with me, I used to get irritated and fight on small issues. After all, I had left my family for him; he was bound to do what I wished him to do. We were living in a joint family but he was my only hope as all others were busy with their lives. And moreover he started complaining that I am beautiful and I am cheating on him. How could he ever think of that?”

Shazia feels late night parties, different food style, different culture and lavish lifestyle can look tempting from outside but once an ‘alien’ enters into that world, it becomes difficult to adopt. “I tell you mine example; I couldn’t keep pace with the speed of that country. I couldn’t manage it for long. So I decided to come back home.”

Back home in Kashmir Shazia is feeling the peace has returned in her life. “Here I feel everything is normal. Sun rises and sets on time. Life is normal as I wake up on proper time and sleep at proper time which otherwise was like a dream only. I don’t want to go in that life where I have to find myself.”

But for thirty-year-old Iram, getting married outside the state turned out to be an unending nightmare. Her case was different from Sheeba’s and Shazia’s. She had married a Hindu boy without the consent of her parents.

After passing her 12th Standard examination Iram, then 18-years-old, got admission in Bachelors of Technology in a Delhi college. It was there, she got into a relation with a Hindu boy, Anil. Being a Muslim, Iram was aware of her parents’ reaction over her relation, so soon after completing their graduations, both decided to get married.

Before deciding to meet Iram’s family in Kashmir, the couple spent a month with Anil’s family in Delhi, who too were reluctant to accept the marriage. But both Iram and Anil had already made up their mind to face any consequences.

Iram being the only child of her parents was sure that once she will be married, her parents can’t do anything and they will be bound to accept their marriage. But she was wrong.

“They did just the opposite. After marriage I went home to meet my parents but we were both beaten up. I was locked up in my room and Anil was thrown out of the Jawahar tunnel. Initially I thought they might have killed him,” alleges Iram.

While Iram was wailing over her husband’s supposed death, one of her cousin informed her that Anil was sent home and not killed. “That was a relief, at least he was alive.”

After six months of struggle, Iram’s family motivated her to file a case in district court for divorce. She agreed. But once the judge asked Iram why she is seeking a divorce, she broke-out before him and narrated her ordeal.

“The Judge ordered my family to send me to Delhi to continue my married life. After that my parents couldn’t do anything but they broke up all the ties with me. That too was horrible but I didn’t want to live without Anil, so I decided to go back to Delhi,” recalls Iram.

Once back to Delhi, Iram was excited to meet her husband but the things had changed, and so was Anil. They started living together but the attitude of Anil’s family had changed towards her. “They would torture me mentally. Keep me without food for days together,” alleges Iram. “But what pained me the most was Anil’s attitude towards me. He was not even moved by what his parents were doing to me. I asked him a number of times that we should shift to some other place but he would not listen. I am giving him time because he too is angry for my parents’ behavior.”

With nothing going right in her life, Iram found herself sliding into depression.

To ride through this difficult phase in her life Iram decided to work again but the fear of going home was ‘haunting’.

“I couldn’t live separately because my husband won’t like it. Neither could I return home. Life is horrible. I cry a lot to unburden my heart. It is my only solace now,” feels Iram.

“I have ruined my life. Irony is I don’t have any place where I can go. I am frustrated and isolated.”

(All names in the story have been changed on request.)

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