Nikaah ceremonies of different couples were going on in other rooms of a marriage hall. The building was built to hold social gatherings for many people.I watched everything from behind the door as I was waiting for one of my relatives’ Nikaah ceremony to start. I could see no one in an average T-shirt and trousers; everyone was wearing a nice branded suit. It was so confusing to differentiate between bride-groom and function attendees. glanced at my Casio digital watch to see if it was still showing the right time.
While roaming around, my eyes caught a scene outside, and I was shocked to witness an incident where workers were throwing the remaining food away, with beggars not allowed to enter the ceremonies of these royal men. I just ran to them and asked that why they were throwing away so much food? They replied that this was the leftover and extra food. I just told them, kindly serve as much as they can eat, not less, not more. To this they replied that the bride’s father has said serve more, so that the groom’s family doesn’t feel the bride’s family are misers! I thought to myself how unfortunate I am to witness such moments and what we have emerged to as a society? If one tries to save food, people will label you as a “miser.”
I left from there and went downstairs to go to the washroom. I saw my relatives, headed by the groom’s father, who was talking furiously. Just when we came upstairs in the corridor, we were welcomed by the host. We were given room 919 and told to follow the group of men who would be assisting us. When we were near room 918, the Nikaah ceremony of one of our distant relatives was also going on. I could see a beautiful carpet with a beautiful stage, and table and chairs with dry fruit bowls and drinks, and much more on the table. One of my uncles went to them for casual greetings. On turning back, his eye caught the dry fruit bowls having 500 and 2000 Gandhi Ji notes; he went there and picked one note and some dry fruits and left. Instead of being astonished that he took the money from there, I was more puzzled that such a considerable amount of money was kept in mere dry fruit bowls, with no apparent motive. All of us picked some money and dry fruits, including me, from those beautiful copper bowls and passed a smile to that family.
Once we left, we were just a few steps away from room 919; I ran back towards room 918 and kept that money back in the dry fruit bowl. On seeing this, someone enquired why I kept that money back in the bowl. I replied; does it belong to you? He said, No, but it is for people around here. I replied, that what is the purpose of keeping money for people? Are the attendees poor?
At this, everyone stared at me with evil eyes, as If I had committed a sin or said something against their religion.
The bride’s father said: It’s a rule now, to spend all the money you have saved for your whole life on your daughter’s marriage, to fulfil the demands of the groom’s family, to ensure they do not leave empty handed. It is a way of respecting the groom’s family as they are being given all the possible privileges on this day because their son is getting married to our daughter. On listening to the tone of his voice, I felt as if his daughter was a burden on him.
I was shocked to hear his stammering voice while saying so. I went to his daughter and said, “How can you accept this marriage when you are being treated like a business deal? I hope you care about how your father has earned and how he has spent for his daughter to get accepted.”
Some men came and took me away from the room. I went downstairs to enquire about both the bride and the groom. I was shocked to learn that the bride had done Masters in Science and was a private school teacher while the groom wasn’t even much educated. To accept the marriage proposal, there was a deal that her father has to set up a shop for the groom, provide 30 lakh cash for the renovation of the house, and a car not worth less than 8 lakh and some jewellery and dresses for the groom’s relatives.
I ran back to the room and shouted at the groom’s father, “Wish you had educated your son better. He would have been a better guy, not demanding the sacrifice of the bride’s father who is giving his daughter away forever.” I recalled the scene when my family members were taking money from those dry fruit boxes in a straight line, one followed by the other.
It was reported by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in April 2021 that around 50 thousand Kashmiri females are still unmarried despite being way past the marriageable age. Unnecessary customs and rituals are to blame for the valley’s late marriage epidemic. Aside from financial restrictions and dowry expectations, competitiveness in give-take procedures is also a contributing factor to delayed marriages.
It is worth appreciation that in Badaghar Babe Wayil village of Ganderbal, all the villagers have signed a stamp paper pledging that they would neither accept nor offer dowry. Simple weddings have been a part of this village’s culture for more than 30 years. We all should follow their footsteps and ponder over the fact whether a marriage is a business deal or a lifetime commitment.
—This is a fictional piece of writing by Mohmod Irfan Shah, a Civil Engineering student at SSM College of Engineering. The sole purpose of the write-up is to open the eyes of people who have been blinded by show-off.