Marriage or Mirage!

By Gowhar Shameem Mir

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Marriage is described to be a pious, personal, and the perfect affair by almost all the religions of the world. It’s a relationship in which two souls reunite to be one but unfortunately, here in subcontinent, it’s presumed to be two families instead of two individual souls that are meant to be reunited!

Some incredible and astonishing analogies thereby come to forth that, I believe, are among the basic causes of all the marital problems in this part of the world. I won’t delve into the marriages of the entire subcontinent but want to give the reader a purview of the marriages in our own society – Kashmir. So, in case you are easily offended, find my observation way out of line, or choose to bury your head in the ground like an Ostrich, now is the time to leave. If you still want to waste your time, please go on!

Congratulations! You decided to stay. Now is the right time for me to apologise for my grammar and writing skills, and of course for anything that you may find repulsive up ahead.

Kashmir is Muslim majority and rightly so, we have gone through the violence from time immemorial and haven’t given up any of our traditions or rituals; a simple wazwan (Kashmiri food feast) didn’t see much change since its inclusion.

Being a 90s kid, I haven’t got any chance to know the other, and equally important, half of our Kashmiri culture – Pandits. So, my sophomoric observations are mainly based on the Muslim marriages.

We’re known for our hospitality and for our spirit. Kashmir is also known as Reshvaer – land of saints – but with time only the land remained and all the saints decided to get buried under it.  I am not here to tell you about Kashmir but about the evils that surround, and have enshrouded, our marital system.

We, here in Kashmir, don’t leave any chance to boast about our Muslim identity. We aren’t self-sufficient in anything apart from Masjids and the loudspeakers that come with them. There’s a masjid at every corner. I can count some 10+ Masjids in a 500 step radius around my home. There’s no harm in building masjids only if they serve their purpose throughout the year and not just Ramzan. The point here I want to reflect is that by this show of “Muslim strength” we wish to affirm our Muslim identity in the society but the teachings of Islam in our day-to-day life are somehow overpowered by the society in which we live.

The moot point here is that 100% of the population in this society is of Muslims. Let me describe this overpowering nature in points.

  1. CASTE SURNAME SYSTEM

We are Muslims, Alhamdulillah! So, we don’t believe in the caste system that is highly prevalent in the Hindu society until a suitor is sought! Here the Hindu caste system is subtly changed into the surname system. There are various classes of surnames in our society. And mind you, we’re (most of us) really serious about it. The surnames, thought to be inherited are primarily all farce!

In Kashmir most of the surnames, more than 90%, originated either from a nickname, occupation, place of origin or some incident that happened to your forefathers. The analogy about some being descendants of the Prophet SAW and thus they command greater respect is a farfetched idea, and as far as I know my Prophet SAW, He too would have censured this idea with a strong hand.

After the analogy regarding the descendants of Prophet SAW, there are also the descendants of the saints that have passed in Kashmir. Remember Reshvaer!

Now, I don’t want to debate the technicalities and thus probability of the ancestry being right or wrong, for all I know is that in a world where at least 124,000 Prophets (AS) but have passed, we all are descendants of at least 2 of them!

Furthermore, with this sort of classification, the chances of having a stable marital relationship is really difficult forget about witnessing a blooming love story. We are all adults here (if you’re not then please leave this website for your own good) and know that when two people fall in love they don’t demand a Manzimyaer Parche (piece of paper, matchmakers carry were all the details about the guy or the girl is given, primarily the surnames of the father’s, and mother’s family as well) beforehand. Had that been the case things would have been hassle free. You like someone? Demand the Parche, if you’re compatible continue, else farewell. Maybe Kashmir will come up with something like that of our own – our version of Adhaar Card!

In past, people hardly cared to seek the surname when looking for marriage but now with more ‘education’ and ‘exposure’ we are adamant on seeking the surname approval! If the relatives find something ‘fishy’ about the surname of the match, you hear those 4 magical words:  aem aase paanai kormut which can be ‘audaciously’ translated to “this is a love marriage.”

These divisions are still there among our society. A person having X surname wants to marry other with Y surname but parents are against this marriage, it’s not the guy or the girl they are against but his/her surname! So either you succumb to their pressure or they do. If you succumb, then love gov fail and gives rise to social evils, infidelity, and a bad relationship!

If they do, then it’s just a beginning to the innuendos that will follow you, all through your life. Also, the reputation in society, nobility in character, habits are all believed to have originated from your surname and your surname alone!

There are a few who rise above surnames and make a name for themselves.

  1. SHAHER-O-GAAM

Apart from the surname malady, the other severe disease that we are suffering from is our ethnicity, our place of living or origins. There’s this word Groous that people of city (by city I mean Srinagar only), who have some urban delusion, use for the people from other districts.

If you ask someone in city what this word means, they will tell you that it primarily means someone from the village – uncouth and uncultured. There’s this delusion that everything apart from Srinagar is a village, so, by default all the other districts of Kashmir become villages de facto!

Not just all the people living in other districts apart from Srinagar but the people from the outskirts of the Srinagar as well are known to comprise of this category, of Groous for the people of Srinagar.

Now, if you travel to the outskirts of Srinagar and ask the people out there who the Groous is, according to them. They will point in the direction of the other district. Now, visit that district and ask them the same question, they will point to their outskirts. Ask the people of these ‘outskirts’ the same question; they will point upwards to the inhabitants of the mountains. Ask them the very same question; they will point to the inhabitants at higher elevation than they are at. Ask the inhabitants at the highest elevation, they too might point upwards which I fear is the habitation of God!

There’s this moronic divide between the people of the Srinagar and the other districts that apart from disturbing our regional harmony also disturbs our social harmony. I remember my initial days at the college where my later-to-be-friends from other districts used to taunt us, guys from Srinagar.

Initially, they had a biased approach towards us, maybe because of some misconception towards the people of Srinagar in general but later on they became some of our close friends.

One of them, who was most radical, who used to maintain a distance, became one of my finest friends, shared a lot of personal stuff, confided many secrets and sadly, requested a lot of advice (pertinent point here is that you don’t come to me for advice. I’m bad at that.)

Leave the inter-caste and interfaith marriages; inter-district marriage is the new taboo. I don’t know much about the other districts but here in Srinagar it’s like the next big thing.

Dosti pakki district apna apna: There’s this question asked to every matchmaker here: yem katik asli? (Where are they actually from?). Mostly, if you’re from Srinagar, you’ll be traced back to the Downtown. So, our Adhaar Card needs a new entry!

Let me mention this that Kashmir is so vast and vibrant that we have had ancient kingdom capitals in every present-day district, even many capitals within the same district. So, next time you meet someone from some other district try observing things other than his accent.

In Islam, there’s absolutely no provision for this nonsense!

  1. PAISA

This is nothing new, like all the other places, monetary conditions are a prerequisite here as well.

Here in Kashmir we don’t have a dowry system, we don’t call that dowry. There’s this Voldemort like reference whenever dowry is mentioned, we ask, “Temav rota kenh?” (Did they accept anything?) Please note: we are not uncultured like rest of the subcontinent to demand a dowry, Astagfirullah!

You are wise enough to know, as the father of the bride, what is expected of you. So, in general a dowry is expected from you, there are no demands ye khosh karre (whatever you wish to give) then it’s the prerogative of the groom to accept or refuse the same.

Thankfully, the new generation refuses all forms of subtle Kashmiri dowry but there are still some cunning Ibn-Iblees who use innuendos or will ask blatantly for something making it really hard for other people to marry off their daughters.

Here, it’s important to note that it does not matter how much literate or religious you are to ask for a dowry, what matters is how much educated you are!  Education and literacy are quite different.

In Kashmir, we also believe in the forgotten ‘Eleventh Commandment’: vehement display of money on weddings.

If only they could empathise with the father of the hoping-to-bride, who cannot cope up with the basic voluptuary customs present-day marriage demands, most of our social evils would be wiped out.

Aasun baasun laayakh (something, of some value) and panun haakh batte che khyewaan (they have their morsels) are the ways to describe the financial conditions of the family of guy or the girl.

Mostly, the surname scrutiny is done because it is believed that the surnames are divine and are a celestial certificate for the character of the guy or the girl (fun fact: restaurant owners or in most cases, college canteen owner is more privy to the character of guys or girls than their parents, so better to get a character certificate from him!)

There’s also a fourth classification – spirituality but who cares?

Gowhar is a civil engineering student. Ideas expressed are author’s own.

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