Kashmir's Marital Mess

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Nikah is a beautiful bond. This magnetic relation is the most cherished thing. Men and women are twin halves of each other. Nuptial-knot is an obligation to please benevolent God. It cements organic love. It accelerates mutual respect, selflessness and forgiving factors between the couple. Above all, wedlock is a way to acquire spiritual perfection.  Marriage is the foundation stone for new relations. We need physical and emotional comfort to live a stable life. Better-half is what completes our existence socially and psychologically. Pairing–up is natural and anything unnatural is harmful.

Getting hitched is a proverbial cakewalk but our ‘culture’ has made it an extremely difficult affair.  In early 30s, armed with piles of degrees and staring at joblessness, prospective boys and girls, can be seen in a fix.  We are wrongly programmed since childhood. If we choose a partner of our choice, it invites trouble from our immediate family. All the orthodox relatives with cocooned mindset start the blame game. On the other hand, if a girl is married without her consent, as happens with many of the marriages in Kashmir, the same hypocrites don’t utter a word. They are just bothered about the varieties in Wazwan. In late 20s, our proposals are turned down just because we are not government servants. As if people with government job enjoy all the bounties of life. Money doesn’t bring happiness. A huge bungalow doesn’t guarantee good life, well-mannered spouse does.

Late marriage is not just a grave issue eating our society. It is a curse. The ascending graph of distressed and anxious young souls walking aimlessly is a worrying factor. They feel lonely. They want to settle down but we have collectively put brakes on their path. Let me explain. Due to hormonal changes, when the physical needs are not fulfilled, it creates disorder in our body. There is no decent approach to tell this story since we all have grown in a womb- our first dress and address. Girls are the worst sufferers. From menarche till late 30s, we can imagine how it ruins the reproductive health of females and increases rate of childlessness.

Recent researches reveal that marrying late increases the rate of depression and lesser life satisfaction gives rise to social and medical complexities. The socio-economic, educational and the political developments of contemporary world have affected the practices, rituals, values and norms of marriage. Conflict, poverty, modern education, dowry, unemployment, caste consideration are some of the key reasons of late marriages in Kashmir. The unhealthy changes we witness like declining fertility rate and birth defects to children born to late married couples, reproductive tract infection and irregular ovum production are few types of fallout.

Let’s talk about another taboo. There is absolutely no shame if a girl sends a marriage proposal to a boy of her choice.  Islam prohibits adultery but allows marriages of choice. Call me an old-school but the modern life-style is a huge hurdle in shaping our familial relations.   Since we all flaunt religion in every walk of life, why isn’t Islam invoked here. Our ‘well-educated’ parents wait for the ‘perfect match’. It never knocks. Result is an alarming trend: thousands of girls waiting for the henna-dyed hands. And after spending more than three decades in parent’s house, maladjustment hits her at her in-laws place, insomnia takes over and the threat of menopause hovering over adds to her woes.

Marriage is a rigorous training program which shapes our existence. But we don’t understand the logic since commonsense is very uncommon.  It is a legal and social contract to start a new lease of life.  It is a game-changer event. But our “customs and traditions” have tainted this otherwise sacrosanct relation.  The odd reality is embarrassing and we are not willing to gulp the bitter truth that expensive attire, vehicle from a bank loan, are material assets and material is always stressful.

In our fat weddings, elite few enjoy the luscious lunch, promote and propagate Wazwan, wanwun, in the name of culture and leave a blot for poor and orphan daughters who cross the marriageable age in their localities, hundreds of families are not able to meet the benchmark we are setting. Why should a future mother-in-law be bothered about the single story house of the bride? This is how low we have stooped. These are non-issues and not to be taken into consideration.  My priority should be bride’s personality. After all, I have to marry a girl, not the second story of her house. In this age of marital mess, this is bizarre and highest form of stupidity.

Conflict has orphaned thousands of boys and girls. Who will take care of them if we don’t take a stand now? Why do we act as mute spectators when it comes to these real issues? Divorce rates are increasing. Patience has plummeted. We can simply say no to customs to please Almighty. No caste or class is superior. Doesn’t matter whether a girl is virgin or widow. Our prophet married widows. Why don’t we ask for caste when an appeal is made for blood donation? Why do it when you have to choose a life partner. Let’s rebel against this social evil. Let’s not be passive. Our parents need to shun this colonial practice.

We need to promote mass marriages with austerity. And it is high time that clerics on pulpits of mosques need to press on early marriages without any pomp and show. Expensive wedding is a complete corporate waste. It is a foolish act to invest your hard earned capital to entertain random people. The sooner we abolish it, the better. Illicit relationships, unwed pregnancies etc is the direct result of so called cultural transformation.

A compatible match is all we should aspire to get. It is the responsibility of a groom to give a decent living to bride and fulfill her basic needs. Parents brought her up, educated her and now she left everyone to be with you, to stay with you in your thick and thin. You have to respect her choice. Man is the economic security of bride; if he asks for dowry, he is no less than a professional beggar.  Say NO to beggars.

Let’s vow to shatter taboos and don’t judge our spouse or fiancée on the basis of their abusive or tragic past. Every wife is the queen of her husband provided conditions are not set. No two people are same on this planet. At times, things look best on the surface, but they can be the ugliest. We all have to accept our partners with all their imperfections.

In Kashmir, couples don’t marry; their families and relatives marry each other. It is our right to choose a person of our choice. In this quest, immaterial values in a person should be a top priority.  Money comes and goes. Love remains. True love does not die. It is reciprocal. It always comes back to you. Good-looking doesn’t mean good person within. Nothing lasts long. Outer beauty withers. Inner beauty stays. While body decays, love blooms. Love is the hunger of soul. The love-filled union breaks the barriers and boundaries of caste or class divide- otherwise a massive monster.

It sounds hair-raising but in our part of the world, even in the 21st year of the 21st century, our young generation is blackmailed to marry on the wishes of dead people. For example, cousins are married at birth when they are still breastfed and taking baby steps. This tradition continues even now. This is sheer exploitation. And these couples compromise first and regret later.  It is unfortunate that a 25 year old can be the district magistrate and can take the crucial decisions but lacks capability to choose a person of his choice. Islam doesn’t allow forced marriages. Forced marriages give rise to domestic violence, extra-marital affairs, family feuds and psychological trauma in children. As our pseudo-feminist brigade parade women in the name of emancipation, they are not counseled how to strike a work-life balance. Let’s demand Aazadi from our own tyrannical rules and rituals and make marriages a blessed bond.

The author is a Mentor/Counsellor at Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI) and an executive member of Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) India Chapter.