For Whom Is the Band, Baja, Barat? 

For Representational Purposes Only/ Pinterest

By Tania Sayed

IN Kashmir, especially Srinagar, marriages have now become elaborate industries unto themselves.

Marriage as an institution, has always been more than just marriage. In the South Asian context, it continues to be a union of two families and hence is almost always plagued by issues like class and caste. Perhaps, it is here that the real issue of what aches in marriages of Kashmir lies.

As marriage as an institution has been used to propagate caste and class lineage, by extension, weddings have also been the site of this show. However, over the years, this trend has been worsening.

In Kashmir, more and more trends are entering into the wedding ceremonies. Initially, one would lament the wastage of wazwan. Now, we have a hundred more customs which not only seem unnecessary but alien.

The infamous Baraat courtage is becoming bizarre day by day. It started with that awkward Rs 200 note in the box of dry fruits and sweets. Now, the service has become more elaborate, packed and tacky. We now have one bottle of juice from a certain brand — and God forbid, you serve a different one. It has to be that very one.It seems Kashmiri weddings have made the Green Bottle Del Monte and Badami Drink their official event partners. Even this was palatable had we not just gone rogue with having fancy boxes, fancy trays, fancy napkins and a whole lot of things just to reassure the ladkay walay/souin that they are being respected. I wish our society could think of a way to show respect in a way that didn’t entail them to add one item to the menu for the Baraatis.

Not to forget the schizophrenia that is omnipresent. If you throw an extravagant party — you are deemed deserving of the wrath of Allah. And God forbid, if you have a simple wedding with a few guests — you are declared a miser. Infact, all previous dawats are considered debts to you.

Incase, a groom comes with a huge courtage of guests, it is said that they are giving Izah/ hard time to the bride’s family. On the other end, if a groom decides to drop by with two or three people, he is deemed a prude. Everyone laments the fact that the bride has bagged someone “too religious”.

Earlier, wicker baskets full of sweets and dry fruits were exchanged between the bride and groom's family. Now, you have to dress these baskets well or else you will invite the scorn of society. Nothing as dull as a Majma/basket which hasn’t been decorated in an elaborate manner. But worry no more, we have various ventures that get the work done for you. The trend is showing no signs of stopping. Perhaps, when we run out of all kinds of flowers, money and decorations to dress the majmas— we shall also attach a picture of the bride and groom — smiling uncomfortably, placed awkwardly, cello taped onto a basket of almonds.

Perhaps, even worse than extravagance, is how alien some trends are to Kashmiri culture. The clothes, their silhouettes, the decorations, the food, the treats, the goodies and even the ceremonies have become oddly unfamiliar.

Instagram feeds are filled with pictures from what is called a, “haldi ceremony”. The closest a Kashmiri muslim would have come to this ceremony before would have been in daily soaps and bollywood movies. It was all fun and good, till we actually went on and started incorporating it in our culture.

Do not even get me started on the Maharaja style sofas on the “stage” set for the bride. These sofas are golden and gaudy. Any walnut made sofa or settee would cry tears of lament over being considered lesser than these run of the mill furniture pieces.

We also have photo booths at weddings now. Some seem alright. They have a pretty assembly of flowers. However, some just make a rather loud attempt to stand out. In one of the weddings that I attended recently, there was an “Indian Village” setup with the charkha and that quintessential village wheel. There was no sign of anything remotely Kashmiri.

I don’t think any of these observations are new for any common Kashmiri. We know that ironically, Kashmir, which should be preserving its culture, is often too ashamed to take pride in it. Anything from Kashmir, doesn’t make the cut.

It doesn’t suit the elites of Kashmir to send sweets as gifts from a local bakery — not even from a popular one. It has to come from “dilli”. Only then your offerings will be deemed unmatched.

All these events, customs and trends would have been harmless, had they not have had the capacity to create desire and standards in our society. With social media, everything is advertised. It has to be. You do not even realise that by allowing your service providers to share their services online through your wedding photos — you are actually allowing them to make you an advertisement — a commodity.

There’s grace in being mindful of the many challenges we are facing these days. Instead of making marriages inaccessible, one must strive to come up with ways to discourage such trends. Only then will our society, let people from all economic backgrounds, have easy access to blessings like marriages. No woman should have to worry about being able to afford marriage.

It is a telling comment on our society, since this is precisely the case.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • The author is a Researcher in University of Kashmir 

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