Having always been a dry fruit enthusiast, I can never resist going inside a shop selling these delicious delights. Now if you happen to be a Kashmiri, you will know that most of these shops are often thronged by people preparing for various wedding functions as a Kashmiri wedding without a vast array of dry fruits is unimaginable.
It was on one such occasion that I overheard a couple arguing about which dry fruit boxes to buy for the guests. The man was annoyed that the selected boxes were too expensive but the lady reminded him that the other party had gifted these very same boxes so anything less than these would mean lowering their respect in the other partys eyes.
Hearing this, the guy reluctantly emptied his pockets paying for even more expensive boxes. After all, he had a reputation to maintain. I almost ended up telling the couple that expensive dry fruit boxes were hardly going to guarantee a successful marriage of their child.
Every wedding invitation card begins with the lines, Marriages are made in heaven and solemnised on Earth. These lines serve as a grim reminder of the irony in our marriages. The very same marriages which are made in heaven have turned into a living hell for families with modest earnings. The expenditure in most weddings today goes up to lakhs, often putting many people deep in debt. Kashmiri weddings have always been special social occasions, celebrated with zest and enthusiasm. But as we fall prey to materialistic pursuits, our once simple weddings turn into veritable showpieces. Our weddings have become good from far but far from good. Nowadays, weddings serve as occasions for the affluent to show off their abundant ill-gotten wealth.
Our famous Wazwan, which once filled our hearts and stomachs with happiness, has now become a huge burden on our pockets. This once simple delicacy has now become an elaborate gastronomic extravagance, most of it going to waste. Anything lesser and people start complaining that the wedding was too simple. A person who marries his daughter in a simple wedding ceremony (assuming that he even gets the grooms family to accept such a thing) finds it difficult to put up a brave face in society. The back-biting and loss of face is too humiliating to go against the culture of extravagant weddings, bankruptcy notwithstanding.
So why do people spend on weddings they cannot afford? some of you may ask. Why do they spend even if it means that they get into debt that they have to repay for years to come? And why should we care? They must be fools, right? Surely they deserve to pay for their foolishness. But it isn't always that simple. In a traditional society like ours, honour is important. It is important than food or education or even common sense. Community comes before self. It is what the community thinks that matters. Weddings were always sacred and special occasions in our society. Celebrating them until your purse strings are stretched, nay broken is what is expected by our community. A friend of mine recently told me that a girl in their neighbourhood had committed suicide recently and her suicide note read, Seeing the lavish wedding of my cousin and how much her father spent, I realise that my father cannot afford to do the same for his four daughters but the society will force him to do so. So I am ending my life in hope of at least relieving him of a part of that burden.
On one hand we propound to be a place of Islamic values but on the other hand we let dangerous evils consume our society. Sure, individual boys and girls can always insist on simple weddings, but this is very difficult as community and parental pressure can be hard to overcome. The community itself has to do something. The society has to understand that the amount of money spent on a marriage is in no way a guarantee of its success. A simple wedding or an elaborate wedding doesn't constitute a happy marriage. Instead, our religion encourages simple marriages. It has even been statistically proven that a simple marriage lasts longer. It is time for our society to realise marriages are supposed to bring peace and happiness, not anxiety and fear in our lives.
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