The virtual media has gone so real that now youngsters make their choices about their life partners on no-cost social media platforms. The trend has literally erased the distances and the cultural issues. Raashid Andrabi and Insha Shirazi met the Kashmir couples who met on various social media platforms and are happily married
When Fardeen, a resident of Anantnag, and Haris, a young man from Srinagar city started following each other on the social media platform, Facebook last winter, they clicked immediately. After weeks of nonstop conversations, they felt a sort of infatuation for each other. They finally decided to meet face to face.
“In the first meeting with her, I just told her how I felt differently about her, but I was immediately rejected,” Haris said. “I was taken aback by this; I had not expected such a prompt rejection.”
Harris took his own time to understand the unreality of the virtual world. They were connected with each other, exchanging lines of the public platform and perhaps required some more time to understand each other better. The sentences may convey emotion but cannot display it.
“It had only been a week since she had rejected me, but I contacted her again, this time considerably more skilfully,” Haris confided. “I sat down on my knees and spoke out my heart. She smiled. At the very same time, I was both astonished and pleased.”
Haris and Fardeen have been married for eight months now and are having a wonderful time. When Fardeen was asked if she expected Haris to be the same in real life as he was in virtual life, she said certainly. “I did not anticipate him to be so humble in real life,” she said, “but it is rightly said that everything happens for a reason.”
“We’re still amazed,” Haris, 34, admitted. “We will sit and stare at each other, still astonished that we have found each other.”
Haris came upon Fardeen’s Facebook account in January of 2019, where she was frequently publishing images of her writing. He began following her after “liking” one of her posts – a piece of poetry. She reacted instantly, and the two were soon sending messages and flirting in the comments sections of one other’s posts.
Harris recalled his initial impression of her as “simply super witty” and spontaneous. “All she did was make me happy,” he said. “I could tell she was a nice person who cared about other people.”
After it got too tiring to type messages on their mobiles, they decided to talk on the phone. “Our words were flying at each other, and we just talked for three hours straight,” Haris said.
Any questions they had about each other and the authenticity of their Facebook personas rapidly vanished after the protracted voice calls. They began interacting on a regular basis, sometimes for hours at a time, and sometimes falling asleep on the phone together.
“Without letting more of time waste, we talked to our families and they agreed about us getting married. It was easy, I felt like nothing was going wrong until her father asked for a government job before marriage” Haris said. After assuring her father that I work in a renowned IT Firm and earn more than a government employee, he somehow agreed.
This is the new reality of the virtual world that many people think is unreal. Now people choose each other on social media, almost the same way they would like each other on streets, family functions and while travelling.
It is no surprise that somebody’s innocuous post or a photograph may encourage a complete stranger to leave a comment or like, which eventually can mark the beginning of a relationship and a marriage. The love, at first sight, is fading and paving way for the love at first click.
Regardless of what people say about virtual life not being real, the border between the two parallel universes is becoming increasingly blurred every day. For many people, that line has vanished, and they are at their most authentic when on social media. Love has found some of these kinds of people.
Strange Ways of Love
“I requested for a tranquillizer, and he ended up giving me his heart,” Danishta recalls, about a fairy tale love story between two different nationalities, separated by culture, faith and cotenants.
Sajid, a Kashmiri, and Danishta, a Canadian national, travelled to the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar before their May 2021 wedding, equipped with the gaming app PUBG. That is because it documented their whole relationship from the minute they met – online. It appears that even in a violent game where the last person standing is honoured; there is space for people to fall in love. The game, which has been panned by critics, also serves as a source for spreading love.
“On my first game of the day, I came across Danishta. I simply had to look for her just for a day. After that, I would not need it,” Sajid said, remembering telling himself – “Well, I have got to meet this someone who is as insane as I am”.
As a gaming freak living in a distant Baramulla belt, Sajid was one of the early adopters of PUBG. He used to play this game for hours before it had the million active users it now has. Danishta was found while Sajid was looking for other people who were as obsessed with the game as he was. Sajid hit the Add Friend Button, and Danishta quickly followed the same. Their PUBG connection rapidly led to a friendship, and a few months later, to dating, when they realized their vibes matched and they truly enjoyed playing the game together.
“I didn’t want to be in a relationship. I was 26 years old and lived with my cousin and our dog Rex in Vancouver. I did not have much of a social life, which I did not mind. I have always been a happy lone wolf,” Danishta recalled. “I spent my little free time watching old movies, reading books, occasionally watching YouTube videos, and looking through Instagram accounts. After boredom took hold of my head, I began playing PUBG,”
Danishta met Sajid, a genuinely humble and funny guy who was nearly six years younger than her, after playing the game for a week. But, as the saying goes, love knows no age and knows no bounds.
Two years later, in August last year, Sajid proposed to Danishta. How? On PUBG, of course!
“I knew I wanted to propose on PUBG because of the strong symbolism,” Sajid explained. “And the answer was a resounding YES,” Revealed Sajid. “I could not believe what I was seeing.” The couple married in a houseboat in Srinagar after dating for about three years.
Danishta and her better half are currently residing in Kashmir. “The bottom line is that you should not seek love,” Danishta murmured. “When you least expect it, love will find you. Be open, and open-minded, but do not waste your time wondering when and if that person will appear in your life tomorrow.”
Trust In God
Daniyal, a Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA) student from Baramulla, and Ayesha, a Chartered Accountant from Bargain, Philippines, met in a most unusual way via the Zwirl App, a virtual space where you answer queries of different people. Catherine, now Ayesha, was a devout Catholic who always strived to dispel people’s doubts about Christianity on Zwirl. Daniyal, on the other hand, was known for dispelling people’s doubts about Islam.
Daniyal once disagreed with Catherine’s point of view during an online chat and refuted her with references from the Bible and the Quran. Catherine was immediately encouraged to study more about Islam as a result of this small dispute on this application.
“I merely contacted him about Islam and asked for some answers,” Ayesha said. “It was a pretty strange text but I simply felt like learning more about this faith.” Following a few conversations, we had to provide our phone numbers in order to talk briefly.
“I just forwarded her the number because I appreciate talking about my faith, and I figured she would be interested in learning more about Islam,” Daniyal said. “We became friends after conversing for a few weeks.”
“She told me she was frustrated and feeling suicidal on the day we met on Zwirl because she was finding it too difficult to sustain with her life,” Daniyal remembers. “I thank God that I unexpectedly talked to her the same day and was able to make her feel light.”
Ayesha asked Daniyal about the conversion after a few weeks and quickly she converted to Islam. Her name was changed from Catherine to Ayesha.
“I knew these conversations and chats were forbidden in Islam, so I asked Daniyal to marry me,” Ayesha said, remembering those moments when she felt his response was uncertain because he was still a youngster.”Daniyal came to me after a week and saying he was ready for the Nikaah.”
Following her Nikaah – done online, the next day, Ayesha said she started receiving death threats from her neighbours. Her parents also took a toll on her for wearing the veil and marrying a Muslim man.
“When such concerns began to arise, Ayesha and I decided to shift to Saudi Arabia and work as well as reside there,” Daniyal said. “We even applied for jobs and spoke to our families. I did not want to betray my parents, so I told them everything.”
“I did not expect such a swift acceptance after speaking to my parents about it,” said Daniyal. “I just called Ayesha and asked her to book a flight to Srinagar, and it felt like everything was written to go out that way. She did not believe that my parents had truly embraced her despite the fact that she had never met them.”
Three days later, Ayesha landed at the Srinagar International Airport, where Daniyal was waiting to meet his not-so-virtual wife. “How on earth did you come so far for an internet guy?” someone asked Ayesha at the airport. “What if he does not show up to pick you up?”
Ayesha responded: “I came with my belief in Allah and not some man.” They are living happily and working for the same company – online.
A Merry Match
Samina, a seamstress in Srinagar’s Hawal neighbourhood, owns a shop and uses social media to market her work and attract new customers.
“I stumbled across a unique appreciation comment on one of my posts one day. I immediately clicked on Hashir’s profile and did not return,” Samina, an artist, narrated. Hashir was not living far away. A resident of Hazratbal, he had moved to Dubai and works in a Kashmiri Superstore there. He always admired Kashmiri art, and now he has met someone who spends the majority of her time preserving it.
The two die-hard IPL fans, who were both born and raised in Kashmir, routinely used the hashtag #IPL to tweet about their favourite team’s performance. Hashir enjoyed looking up the hashtag and browsing through the results to see what others are saying. While living in Kashmir in the spring of 2017, he came across a stunning sarcastic tweet by Samina. When he went to her account, he was immediately captivated by her other hilarious tweets and stunning photo.
Hashir, who had evolved anti-internet romance, mustered the courage to send Jamie a direct message expressing his admiration for what she said.
“I was 27 and living alone in an apartment,” Hashir recalls, “so I needed to do something out of my comfort zone.” And he was glad for it. Samina replied with a tweet, and the two were friends on the internet. Hashir eventually invited Samina to attend an IPL game at Eden Gardens in Kolkata after a series of personal messages. And what a game it was – the IPL’s first match in October 2018 marked the start of a true thriller.
“We informed our parents that we were in love and wanted to marry after a year of virtual dating, but they said no. My uncles and cousins and other relatives began to tease my parents, claiming that your son had fallen for some Seitch Baie (Kashmiri words for seamstress). My parents always understood,” Hashir said, his voice strained, “but with such a backlash, others in the family did not even want to talk about it.”
“They were all hooked on the subject of a girl from a disadvantaged background,” he regretted, “but did it really matter?” They consented after seven months of pleading and wailing. “Happiness at that moment was truly something I can’t convey in words.” They finally got married in the summer of 2021.
An “Arranged” Marriage
Aamina, a former private school teacher from the city, was spending most of her leisure time on social networking platforms. Shabana, who used to teach at the same school, was one of her best mates.
“One day, I received a random friend request from someone named Aarif. Shabana was listed among his friends in his profile, so I checked it out. I added him because he reminded me of someone from our circle,” Aamina said. Aarif was based in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
They began chatting on Facebook for a while and quickly became strong Facebook friends. “I thought of her as someone from my sisters’ in-laws’ family and asked her about it,” Aarif stated. “No, I am a colleague of your sister, she responded.”
Aarif’s brother was getting married in September 2017, and he invited Aamina to the ceremony. “I could not attend the function as my family did not let me go,” Aamina revealed. This, however, did not change the relationship. They were into “virtual dating” for nine months. Aarif, already out of his almost 12-years of romance, proposed to Aamina in February 2018.
Aamina readily consented but was wary of what her family would think. “I told my uncle about the whole situation and told him I wanted to marry Aarif,” Aamina revealed. He approached her parents and explained the situation that made an ‘arranged marriage’ possible. Finally, the two Facebook friends exchanged vows in May 2018 and married two months later. “There will always be obstacles in your way, but nobody can stop you if you are on the correct route,” Aamina believes.
The new trend is adding to the tensions of the families who believe the conservative society may disallow the breach in traditions. However, when the issues crop up, they tend to follow the choices the youngsters make.
“We had a young cousin who was already engaged with a lecturer,” a banker said. “When we were busy making preparations for the nikkah and rukhsati, the revelation came that the young man has fallen in love with a distant relative far away.”
The family did everything to convince the young man that their “virtual commitments” were no more important than his engagement in the neighbourhood. “We failed to convince him and we, at the same time, did not want to destroy the life of the girl, so we consented,” the banker said. “They are into marriage for many years and have three kids.”
Not every individual on the virtual media eventually turns out to be as real as it seems. In one case, a girl fell in love with her Facebook friend and managed to convince her family. “On the day of marriage, the bride and her family were in shock as they found a groom they had not seen,” a person, who is in the know of the development, said. “Quickly the marriage was stopped. It took some time but the family managed to remarry their daughter who is now living happily.”
(All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the couples.)