My Wedding Wallet
'I was rejected twice for not being a government servant before I met my dead bride.'
ABID RASHID BABA
Just because we embarked on Noah’s Ark in twos doesn’t mean we have to complete the entire trip in pairs. But then we can’t go against the universal scheme. Loneliness is reserved for God and every mortal is expected to pair up for life. Jane Austen firmly believed that one could marry only for love while Oscar Wilde stressed that men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious. Marriage is a tricky affair. Elif Shafak writes that Marriage is a serious decision that needs to be considered carefully. Now, it is a full-fledged drama that involves various actors, co-directors and the crew. In Kashmir, couples don’t marry, their families and relatives marry each other. Couples just share the bed.
I started the hunt for my partner some four years ago during my university days. From Ashmuji to Ajas, Boniyar to Budgam, Prang to Pampore, Devsar to Dadsara, Qazigund to Kalaroos, Khanabal to Khadniyar, Sumbal to Srigufwara, Kalmoona to Kakapora, I tried to trace my better-half. I wandered like a whirling dervish to find the person meant for me. I learned some harsh lessons during this quest. One, People love material things. Immaterial is a myth. Second, unconditional and unrequited love doesn’t exist. Third, Modesty is not sought. Fourth, Government service is preferred. Several castes I won’t mention here are still considered “Untouchables” in this post-modern world? We are still tangled in the colonial mindset. Casteism, indeed, stares at us like a ferocious beast. And above all, a well-built charming young lad is considered icing on the cake. Kashmiris have a bad habit of judging at a face value. We judge people by what they wear. Appearances are truly deceptive.
It is easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. We want absolute satisfaction when we search for the fellow who can join us in the struggle of life. That is humanely impossible. The tales of Layla and Majnu, Yusuf and Zulaikha, the moth and the candle are all bookish stories. In practical life, people don’t buy them. We can suicidally fall in love with others but can rarely reciprocate the love of those suicidally in love with us. I ran the snaky, steep streets, east and west, searching for something, anything that could be an auspicious sign. I am not religious but firmly believe in divine compensations. God gifted me my choice but before we could tread the path together, she died.
(Here, I transcribe the healthy discussion we had about weddings in Kashmir.)
Today, when the generation next is thinking beyond borders and breaking barriers, the Young brigade of the post-truth era choose life partners of their choice. But it may sound hair-raising that most of such cases are divorced within one or two years of their marriage. But the other side of the coin is not rosy either. Forced marriages give rise to domestic violence, extra-marital affairs, family feuds, and psychological trauma in children. So, it is a devil and a deep-sea situation? Where to go? What to do when you have to go for this crucial decision of your life. Generally, our elders believe that arrange marriage is more successful. Does it happen to be the case? Men with tunneled vision want their wives to be loyal by staying home, taking care of their parents. But nowadays, women work at par with men, in fact, they outshine them in many sectors. This educated workaholic woman attends office enjoying her status and dignity. But is it affecting her marital life is a question perturbing even the pseudo-feminists who parade women in the name of emancipation.
A new trend has emerged that tech-savvy teens/adults befriend each other on social networking sites. Over some time, they share snaps and then their personal stories and finally propose and even get married. Parents feel it extremely humiliating. Why I advocate this trend should be discouraged is because digital is volatile and full of fakery. We are living two parallel lives. The information shared on social networking sites by teenage boys and girls is always doctored. Online identity is mostly quite contradictory to real life. It is a honey trap. Don’t fall for it.
Kashmiri marriages are unique in its tone and tenor, values and customs, norms and expenditure etc. Marriages in Kashmir have changed over a while. I sat down with strangers, friends and acquaintances who reacted with varied viewpoints. Many believe Love marriage is a quick-fix solution but volatile. It is infatuation not love. It drowns teens. A beautiful body will wither, love will never. Choose your side. Reality slaps us when we wake from the deep slumber. The world of fairies is a trance and all the promises are not supposed to be fulfilled. Why couples elope? Do they feel abandoned is the question that is left unanswered?
Love surpasses everything mortal. Love doesn’t die. It is reciprocal. It always comes back to you. Everyone is entitled to choose a partner of his/her choice. We are programmed with the idea that parents are experienced and they choose wise people. That is untrue. Parents get hurt when their offspring prefer their own choice. Why? Why should they blackmail their children or threaten them? Compromise is a pet word here. They feel suffocated at times. In our part of the world, a 25-year-old can be the district magistrate and can take the crucial decisions but cannot choose a person of his choice. Islam doesn’t allow forced marriages. That is unnatural. Consensus has to be sought. Many opine that Love marriage is but shocks and surprises. But Love is the hunger of the soul. The love-filled union does one thing remarkable. It doesn’t believe in casteism or race. In an arranged marriage, a girl always fears mal-adjustment with the family and the fear of being ill-treated.
My dead bride was adamant to make marriages a low-key/low-cost affair. Give up rasm o riwaj. Break stereotypes. Stand away from the crowd. Omit dowry and engagement from your dictionary. Vow not to pay two hoots to Kadli-taar, Zaem Braentt, phiri saal/phiri khabar or satim doh etc. Shout a big NO to Malmaenz and Maenzraat, bride bath and baraat. This is cancer created in the name of marriage. Mehr, Khutbai Nikah and distribution of dates are the Sunnah of the beloved prophet (PBUH). Let’s decide to solemnize Ruksati (farewell to the bride) and Walima with austerity.
(This was my last conversation with her a day before she met the tragic accident).
Wedding songs turned dirges when my slain would-be was taken to her resting place. The girl with whom I was most comfortable with. She will never come back to fill the gulf in my life. But I always catch myself thinking about her. Wish, I could remove my memory, abort the program until all of the files are deleted and gone. On the deathbed, I rained kisses all over her face. I cupped her head, brushed away a strand of hair that had fallen across her face. The last words of my mild-mannered bride were ear-piercing and heart-breaking, “This world loves penny-pinching people, and I never wanted to marry a moneyed husband. Stay original. I love you…” And she breathed her last. Dear Sabreena, Please come back, without you, my immaterial wedding wallet is empty.
The author is a Media Fellow with The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), New Delhi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Oracle Opinions.