Khuda Sueznai Rut Khareedar!

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Khuda sueznai rut kharedaar! How many times a young unmarried girl in Kashmir has to hear this? The stress is on the word ‘Khareedar’ which literally means a ‘buyer or customer’ in Kashmiri.  Well, the ridiculousness is that people use such words normally to give blessings to a girl here.

The language of any region is an expression of ideologies and more than that, it is a manifestation of the culture followed. And when it comes to a closed society like Kashmir, culture takes a prominent place in our lives. It showcases in every aspect the way we live and think. Not just this, it actually dictates how we are supposed to live and think. Language, simply an articulation of culture practiced, sometimes paves way to usage of such words which hint towards degradation of the position of women. Nonchalantly, we bless women umpteenth times about getting good buyers and this, if not severely, does objectify them on milder terms. Such words exist because the society looks down on women like that.

In Kashmir, more than an overall emancipation of a being, we prepare and nurture our girls to be future products to be sent off someday. The restrictions and ways of bringing them up is drastically different from how boys are brought up. And with time, every girl becomes conscious of how even their younger brothers are vested with more powers and privileges, in terms of travel, choice, decision making and what not. We unapologetically train them to compromise more and expect less because they have to go to lukhund ghar i.e. to a stranger’s house. In a middle class family, her education will be given less preference because money has to be saved for her marriage rather than investing in her career or financial independence. More the number of daughters, greater the plight of a father. People will show their sympathy, giving blessings like ‘Khuda sueznai panun samaan’ (May Allah bestow you with all needed resources).

Emergence of marriage as a social concern in a place like Kashmir is quite surprising, where majority of the population is Muslim. Islam clearly forbids the practice of ostentatious marriage. It strongly supports carrying out this sacred and religious practice in a simple way. This population, which justifies every restriction and deprivation of resources to a woman with Hadiths, does not flinch when performing rituals that, without any second thought, have been declared unacceptable in Islam.

The condition of accepting a girl in marriage till the time of ushering her into a new family is a bleak process that demeans not just the purity of this sacred relation but also the dignity and values of the girl and her family. What if a poor father cannot arrange jewellery and other unnecessary expensive clothing (wardhan) for his daughter? What if he cannot afford to arrange tons of meat for multiple marriage customs like phir saal, sethim etc? What if a widowed mother cannot make the groom’s family happy with expensive gifts and dowry? What is the fault of those daughters who carry the plight of such rejections throughout their lives? Why is there much admiration and applaud from our society when these practices yield nothing but misery for people who cannot afford the entire nuisance.

The repercussions have already started to surface. Now a good percentage of girls are being categorized as ‘over-age’ and declared unsuitable for marriage. Kashmiri society now carries girls who are not able to get married because they have crossed the so-called ideal age limit. This limit is, remarkably, way below when compared to the age restriction for their male counterparts.

According to a report documented in Greater Kashmir on February 2018, there were about 10,000 girls who had crossed the ideal marriageable age in Srinagar alone. Citing it a social issue, the newspaper wrote:

“There is a need that wealthy families should abstain from extravagant marriages as it becomes a trend others have to helplessly follow. It increases burden on the poor families who find it difficult to get their daughters married.”

Adding to the whole plight is the process of choosing a suitor, which has become even more perverse and challenging. The family of the bride, more than valuing the moral character of the would-be-groom, gives much preference to his economic status. Money and finances are, no doubt, significant in starting and supporting a family but becoming too choosy with the job profile and property quotient of the suitor makes the whole phenomenon of marriage complicated and unfulfilling. Disconcert and disagreement after marriage is the outcome of all unnecessary recognition we, as parents, to-be brides or grooms and collectively as a society, give to what is not that important in a marriage.

Marriage is simply a union of two people. What could be more important than blissful union and approach of two people towards each other? Jewellery, gifts, haughty functions, domination politics, loan, show off, nothing will make the marriage happier. Only the two, with good understanding and love towards each other, can make their marriage successful in the real sense. Why put undue pressure on a father and the whole family, arranging money and resources for merely maintaining an image in the society? And how many generations will it take for this so-called society to realise that such things will never assure growth and development. All these non-rationale practices and beliefs will lead us nowhere but towards our own destruction.

Even with modernization, we cannot make ourselves accept girls as dignified beings. Because we have not really learned to shun futilities we tend to attach to the existence of women. The fate of a girl still revolves around that one day when she will get married but the burden of realising this has to be borne by her family from her childhood.

Now is the time we change and be selective with the words and blessings we give her. Let us say, ‘Khuda sueznai rut khandaar’ instead of ‘Khuda sueznai rut khareedar’. Let us encourage parents and elders to replace the word ‘Lukhund ghar with panun ghar chui gasun’. And when wishing her ‘bajah’ (happy married life), we stop praying ‘Khuda sueznai panun samaan’. Because Kharedaar seeks for products not a wife, lukhund ghar is meant for strangers not for family members, and her virtues are not any less valuable than her samaan.

Rectifying a few words in our dialect, indeed, has the power of assuring great reformation. If today, we take the trouble of pondering over words seldom realised to be inappropriate, only then can we make people think about their actions. The shift in paradigm of marriage will undoubtedly take time and this generation borne of its ill impacts, but let us start from today.

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