Of Marriages and More

by Arshad Malik

The other day I was at a marriage ceremony. It was an average function by Kashmiri standards but for me it was nerve-racking. Reason: I had not participated in a marriage ceremony for the past one and a half years. I had quite forgotten how majestic our marriage ceremonies get even though we try to contain ourselves.

Skidded images of such functions in which I had participated in the past two decades sprung to my mind and started swirling up my spine creating an eerie sensation. Juxtaposing my memories of marriages I had witnessed in past on the present one sent me into a certain kind of stupor. I could not help comparing the parallel streaks of emotions that course our lives, that of grandeur and insurmountable plight. We are grieved by our circumstances – the never-ending saga of shattering violence but we celebrate as if nothing has happened. There is a split in the collective conscience of the Kashmiri people and I cannot help but point it out.

I have heard youngsters, especially males, often speak about keeping marriage functions simple and straight, at least their own. Such young men are of the opinion that extravagance is not good, more so in the light of the severity of the present circumstances, but eventually, almost every one of these individuals yields to the temptation of social stature which is all about classiness. No heed is paid to what has been witnessed and said.

At the end of the day, almost every marriage celebration in the Valley turns out to be a bastion of profligacy. What is the message, I wonder, that we send across to the rest of humanity by indulging in such lustrous celebration of our marriages when at the same time we are consistently attempting to lodge our grievances as being a population scourged by violence? Very confusing, I would say.

What are we trying to do? Are we too happy-go-lucky by nature and that makes us take all tempests in our stride? Or is it that we are a little bothered by what all has happened or may happen to us? Maybe we have both of these; maybe we really have a split consciousness that carries us both ways; that balances out the odds leaving the onlookers awestruck.

Now, the main feast at our weddings, the traditional “Wazwan”, I guess has turned into a scapegoat for our follies. “Wazwan” is a part of our tradition being in essence a seven-course meal cooked and served by orthodox Kashmiri cooks called “Wazas” and is really not an extravagance but rather an embellished version of our daily dinner menu. What has happened is that we have added numerous hitherto unknown and unnecessary dishes to the “Wazwan” which eventually renders it difficult to digest besides the coke, the mineral water and the heavy quantities of plastic made available top each head. There are numerous other accessories that are partners to the crime that eventually matures into the “Big Fat Kashmiri Wedding” bearing the misnomer “Wazwan”.

If we could manage to stick to our traditions we would be doing justice not only to the people who are not in a condition to throw off such lavish feasts (but are forced to in order to keep the community in good humour) but also to the thousands of people who have offered their lives to the cause of Kashmir. We would also be homing into a more generous and honest picture of who and what we actually are. It is not difficult to attain. All we need to do is focus a little bit on ourselves; reflect on our deeds and recent history and thereof undo the split that ramifies our strengths.

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