Nibbling At The Society

The extravagance in Kashmiri marriages is pushing up the average marrying age and given rise to many social ills. Syed Asma reports

Over the years Kashmiri marriages have changed and become an expensive affair. Today the expenditure on marriages has increased ten-fold.

“In our time a few hundred rupees were enough for a good marriage ceremony but now even lakhs of rupees spent on a marriage are considered a meagre amount,” says Ghulam Mohammed, whose granddaughter was recently married.

Ghulam Mohammed’s son, Mohammad Sarwar, works as a head assistant in an office. He has managed to raise a middle class family. His wife is a librarian. They spent around Rs 15 lakh on her marriage. “Our savings helped us a lot. My GP (general provident) fund and other insurance policies helped me make my daughter’s wedding possible,” says Sarwar.

Sociologists, social workers and Islamic scholars all agree that unnecessary addition of ceremonies and heavy expenditures in the marriages in Kashmir is turning into a social disaster.

“Kashmiris earn their whole lifeand spend only on two things – one is marriage and other is on building a house,” says Dr. Peerzada Mohammed Amin, Associate Professor in Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir.

The extravagance in marriages has pushed up the average marrying age both among male and females, reveal social scientists.

A family of six – a mother, four daughters and a son – in the old city is one such example. Their son, Yousuf, who is the eldest among the siblings, is in his late 40’s. He’s still unmarried and has no plans to marry now. “As a brother of four sisters I had to think about them first. I could not keep any of them at home (leave them unmarried). So I had to compromise with my life”, says Yousuf. His father died when he was 20. He had to take all the responsibilities of the family. He runs the shop his father owned and has married off three of his sisters.

“It is really tough to arrange four marriages when you’re earning a meager amount,” says Yousuf. “I can’t feed four or five family members so I decided not to marry. It is too late now”, he adds.

His mother looks worried about him. “Today I take care of him but tomorrow when I am not around who will look after him,” his mother says imploring him to get married.

“It cannot happen now I have passed that (marriageable) age,” Yousuf adds.

Sabina, a mother of two and a government school teacher was married five years ago to her cousin. Her in-laws who happen to be her aunt’s family had earlier refused to accept any gifts from her family. But only a few months after of her marriage, they started demanding money and gifts from her parents.

Her marriage is on the verge of divorce now. The mohalla committee and her elders are trying to figure out a better solution for her. “By not accepting the gifts earlier they wanted to show it to the world how generous and humane they were,” says Sabina who looks disgusted even while talking about them.

There are many cases where in-laws have earlier rejected the exchange of gifts for having a good public image but later tortured their daughter-in-law for it, says social worker Nuzhat Ara.

Mohammed Shafi, a resident of Hazratbal, has four daughters. Three of them are married, and he has spent all his earnings and savings on their wedding. “Every daughter comes with her own fate. When I married off my first daughter, her in-laws rejected all the ceremonies and asked to hold a simple Nikah.

They even returned all the gifts that I had sent as token of love,” says Mohammad Shafi.  “But my other daughter’s in-laws asked for a clear cut dowry. They discussed, in advance, who in their family wants which gift and asked me what I was going to give them. They even asked for a flower vase for their drawing room.”

His second daughter says that her mother-in-law asked her to get a wedding dress of her own, and not to borrow it from somebody. “Frankly, I had decided to borrow it as a wedding dress costs a lot,” she says. “And my father has to marry my other two sisters and is a lone earning hand of our family.” On Sabreen’s marriage, her father had to serve 120 people in Baraat (guests accompanying the groom) and the menu was decided by the groom’s father.

Extravagance in marriages has taken a toll in the society and mostly affects the daughter’s family. “A father has to always think of her daughter’s life. He has to fulfil whatever is the trend. I mean if it is extravagance, daughter’s father has to follow. It is the boy’s family who can do some changes and ask for simple marriages,” adds Mohammed Shafi.

These extra expenses in marriages contribute in other ill practices of the society. “Corruption and bribery are the two immediate effects of extravagance in marriages. As a government employee cannot suffice these needs from his salary, he indulges in corruption,” saysDr Peerzada Mohammed Amin.

The professor also attributes late marriages to the phenomenon of extravagance.

Apart from corruption, bribery and late marriage Fayaz Ahmed Zaroo, Chairman of Humsafar Marriage Counselling Cell associates deterioration of moral character in the society to this phenomenon. This marriage cell arranges simple marriages according to Shariah.

Majority of the families in the valley belong to average middle class range and aspire to compete with the rich. In this exercise they spend all their earning or ask for loans to achieve what they look for. “Most of the families either marry their wards immediately after retirement or ask for a big amount of loan to ease their responsibility. This is nothing but a pomp and show which the unnecessary competition in the society has indulged them in,” Dr. Amin concludes.

(Some names have been changed to protect their identities)

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