40 And Single
How Wedding Grandeur Of The Elites, New Social Norms Are Leading To Higher Cases Of
‘Too Old To Marry’
The increasing number of unmarried girls in Kashmir is the matter of grave concern.
More than 50,000 girls in Kashmir have crossed the marriageable age. In Srinagar district
alone, more than 10,000 girls are fall in this category. They too have crossed what we
regard as the marriageable age, and are hoping to get married soon.
In April 2021, a survey conducted by Tehreek e Fala-Ul- Muslimeen, a Non-Government
Organization (NGO), revealed that around 50,000 Kashmiri girls are still unmarried
despite crossing the marriageable age. Media groups reported the news with concern.
They focused on displaying the growing numbers of unmarried girls. No one came
forward to dig the facts. Why are these numbers increasing with each passing year?
There are a number of reasons that have led to the increase in the number of unmarried
girls every year in Kashmir. To my understanding the rituals and customs are the chief
reason why young women cannot afford to get married.
Blame The Elites
For the pompous and showstopper weddings, we can blame our elite class. The men
with the huge moneybags crossed all boundaries to establish their superiority over the
rest. Expenditure no bar. The weddings of these families showcase exotic flowers,
dream-like arrangements, the most lavish food displays and more.
These weddings are organized in the most expensive hotels of Kashmir or in our
enchanting vales dressed up as brides. The elites introduce new rituals and customs that
become trendsetters. But these are too costly for a middle-class family to afford.
The wedding receptions outdo the weddings in grandeur. New cuisines are served. I am
a middle class man. I consider the fashions and trends followed at weddings as
unnecessary. Those who have money to throw may draw pleasure in them. But these
grand weddings raise social expectations. They become a burden for poor and middle-
For generations, we have observed that our families fix marriages within the caste. The
Mullahs, which includes Shah, Syed, Qadri, Geelani, Mufti, Naqsbandi, Hamdani and the
like follow the old trend of organizing the wedding of the son or daughter within their
The Mullahs consider themselves as the superior class in Kashmir society. There are
innumerable instances in which they try to show down the other castes as inferior to
their own. They feel humiliation if their son or daughter wants to marry outside the
caste. They don’t accept the wedding proposal.
Says Javed Bhat, a government employee, “It took me ten years to marry a girl from the
Mulla Syed caste. I and my wife were in serious love relationship. But when we tried to
convince our families, the girl’s family did not accept our proposal. They even
reprimanded my family, reminding us of our low stature in the society. They told us that
women from high and reputed castes do not marry low caste men,” recalls Bhat.
Bhat narrated that after suffering numerous hardships, threats to life, police cases,
mental torture and depression, he finally lost all hope and decided to give up. “But my
wife stood like a wall and refused to bow to pressure. She gave me courage to go
against her family’s diktat. The journey of hardships finally ended with our wedding,” he
There are several other castes which are rigid about marrying within their own castes
only. If a man or a woman from these castes falls in love with an individual from another
caste, the families are unwilling. They don’t dare to send the marriage proposals to
other castes because of their inferiority complex. These include Moochi (cobblers),
Chopan, Hajam and Kumar. Here the segregation has touched the sky. The parallels that
Kashmir society has drawn between immorality, taboos and lower caste women are just
bizarre. Due to their inferiority complexes, women from the lower castes are at times
pushed into prostitution. Hence caste segregation is a social evil which must be
Modern Social Norms
Young men and women also face difficulty in getting the right marriage proposal
because of modern social preferences. Educated and employed youth want an educated
and employed partner. If a girl is a doctor, she won’t marry a man considered lower in
stature, and vice versa.
Many of our bureaucrats have followed the same pattern of intra-caste marriages, or
marrying a individual of the same status. Dr Syed Abid Rashid is married to Dr Syed
Sehrish Asgar. The couple has abided by both norms. One, they share the same caste.
Second, they share the same status.
Aamir Athar Khan, who stood second in UPSC, was earlier married to Tina Dhabi, the
UPSC topper. Here the status factor applied. After his divorce, Aamir Athar Khan is
marrying a woman who is a doctor by profession. Here too, the status factor applies.
The same social preference is being seen in the society. A female government teacher
who crossed the marriageable age many years ago lives with her sister in Kokernag. This
is because when she was of marriageable age, she wanted to marry a man a
government employee equal to her in status. There are scores of families in Kashmir
who have three, four or five female children and a lone male child. Due to the poverty
and lack of education, these girls remain unmarried. Some of them learn a skill and
become self-employed. Others are regarded as a burden by the lone earning son of the
Some Non-Government Organization (NGOs) have conducted mass marriages in the last
few years. The wrong social norms must change. Responsible members of the civil
society must wake up and boycott irrational social customs and rituals that are being
followed by our society.
The elites – viz. the flourishing businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats and highly-placed
professionals can choose to follow these norms because they have loads of money. It
shall be creditable if they become conscious of the social good and value simplicity over
pomp and show.
Wait For The Perfect Wedding
It is now being observed that whether in rural or urban Kashmir, even poor families try
to compete with the neighbors and relatives in following the prevailing wedding trends.
This poses a serious threat for the family’s financial well-being.
Due to financial constraints, these poor families try to delay the weddings of their
children. They wait so that they gain in financial strength and go for a competitive
wedding. Time passes. Inflation rate grows. New customs and rituals are introduced.
Gradually, it becomes unaffordable for the poor families to organize the wedding.