Adeela Hameed

Mehr and the Jobless Groom

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A Linear Perspective of Unemployment in Kashmir Valley

People yearn for security. This has been so since human civilization was established. Having more than what you can spend, living in one space but owning multiple, being masters of your little habitat, is what everyone tends to achieve. The building block of this kind of security starts with marriage. And as you might’ve guessed, marriage begins with its own kind of security deposit – employment.

Kashmiri Society and Marriage

Kashmir valley, nestled within which is the Kashmiri society, has its own view on the relationship between employment and marriage. What employment means here is a secure government job, of any cadre, respect, or pay grade. Nothing else matters as long as the term ‘government’ is prefixed to what you do. What may come as a surprise (or not) to most is that, ironically, our Valley lacks government jobs per capita of the population. Many well-educated youths are left in harrow just because the government is too busy tending to its own. It disavows a dearth of job opportunities to whoever comes to the porch. What authorities don’t realize is that these persons spent years of their lives learning. Only with proper guidance and opportunities, their knowledge would help communities. But all they are left with is a title and no job.

Social Implications of Finding a Job

One of the most important grounds for finding jobs in your youth is to get married, start a family, and contribute to this society that has been raising you. But unemployed educated individuals don’t get to start anything. Society starts demanding more than they can churn out from life. It starts demanding dowry or a respectable government job. Our region is desperately in need of proper employment opportunities for its highly educated youth. However, nobody understands this when looking for perfect matches for their children.

Mehr and the Jobless Groom

A Kashmiri middleman visiting a potential suitor always mentions, without delay, that one can only be associated with a reputed family by gifting a hefty sum as Mehr (the Islamic gift ordained for the bride). Although Islamic scriptures have never mentioned that Mehr should be out of limits for the groom to pay. Now, when he is almost jobless, our society doesn’t make way for him. Instead, the poor man is burdened with the task of arranging something he can’t possibly achieve within a short period of time.

Some Kashmiris make it a point to discuss these issues at important functions or social gatherings. There is gossip, tall tales are formulated, there is finger-pointing, or avoiding the downtrodden families – both children and elders. Social disparity is even seen at religious places, where according to Islamic rules, mistreatment shouldn’t even be thought of. It is true, not just regarding sacred places but all other areas as well. But who cares? Not you or your neighbor!

Starting Anew – Promising Young Adults

Leaving the whole idea of finding a ‘proper’ job in Kashmir aside, some youth start pursuing business, a small company or work with private organisations. Some may even migrate to other parts of India. Some travel abroad for finding work – depending on family income, feasibility, and level of desperation. If, and when, these youth find jobs and are able to pursue their dreams or work to be able to start a family, Kashmiri society watches like a hawk, recording their every move. In a moment, disregards everything young people have built, achieved, and fought for, in the holy name of this elusive ‘government job’.

Thus, the idea of a promising matrimony hangs in the air, dense and dark, without any future. What it results in is a young community torn between being alone and being the right kind of ‘proper’.

What should the youth do now?

Tortured mentally and emotionally, they contemplate leaving everything – their family and people. This causes them even more stress and decreases work efficiency. In this hullabaloo, the desirable age limit of marriage is sporadically lost. Such young enthusiastic individuals suffer at the hands of their society – which practices nepotism, disregards worthy, wastes talent, and impedes ideas. All to cloak the evil they gave birth to.

Unemployment is raking our fertile fields. Bright young minds full of inspiration have been bulldosed into believing that they are ‘supposedly worthless’. Why? Just because they didn’t get to own a job that said government!

It is usually heard among our Kashmiri aunties, who by the way love gossiping, that so and so didn’t get a government job even after studying in reputed institutions. Or that so and so is mooching off of his parents because he is bekaar. The saga continues endlessly!

Nobody Takes Responsibility

Our youth suffer at the hands of authorities, then at the hands of their society, family, and finally themselves. Psychologists have reported an increase in the number of mental illnesses that affect young people in Kashmir. Heart problems, especially heart attacks in our young population, are on the rise. Cases of cybercrime and immorality have, too, seen an unholy increase.

Where Did It Begin? Who Should We Blame?

The answer is right in front of us. Countless mismanaged institutes and schemes, started to help young adults reach their prime, that are now busy landscaping new levels of corruption. This society that thinks too much of itself and too little of its neighbor. These are the real architects of our youths’ misfortune.

Political turmoil worsens the situation even further. With working days being reduced to almost nil every year, due to hartals, curfews, crackdowns, and unending protests, youth find it even more difficult to secure a job that pays. Thus, politics forms another reason of unemployment among destitute, educated Kashmiri youngsters. Education and employment have suffered huge backlashes because of uncertain political conditions in our Valley.

No one thinks about those who suffer. Each one of us, in society, is acting like a parasite. Islamic laws and responsibilities are shunned, forgotten just to fulfill the false character of social empowerment. People are trying hard to be in the good books of the elite who, for everyone’s information, are not elites in the truest sense of the word.

We are eating away the foundation, with total disregard to the host which, ironically, is also us. No one believes to be truly noble. However, everyone does try to pretend to be one.

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