A material bond?
EVERY person’s life contains a crucial turning point called marriage. Well, almost.
However, Kashmir’s tradition of late marriages is a subject of significant crucial aspects. In fact, owing to late marriages, people have experienced social and psychological effects!
The reasons behind delay in marriages could be varied – financial constraints, not finding a good match, dowry, or health issues. Of these, the most common is always financial incapacity, which could be at the end of parents as well as prospective spouses. Another factor that is frequently observed in our society is of couple mismatches or unwilling marriages. There are people who don’t feel ready to take on the responsibility of a family – of a wife and kids. They would rather live independently, as we can infer from their statements, and this choice, though tends to squander much precious time and gives them a briefly pleasurable life free of obligations, they eventually do embrace the importance of marriage and marry late.
The caste system, dowry, unemployment, poverty, the custom of lavish weddings, and lack of government employment are a few factors that contribute to late marriages in the Valley. The situation has gone worse as a result of rituals like dowries. This sacred institution of marriage has become burdensome due to the giving and receiving of presents such as gold jewellery, copper pottery, clothing, serving of wazwan, lavish dinners at wedding ceremonies, and numerous other practices. The parents who lack finances and are unable to handle the obligations of one or more daughters are crushed beneath all this weight.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s survey ‘Youth in India 2022’ revealed that Jammu and Kashmir had increased the average marriage age. Of its young, 29.1% were single. Today, one of the main factors behind a marriage materialising is materialistic wealth. People won’t choose marriage unless they or their prospective partners have a respectable career, status, and material possessions.
Needless to say, late marriages aren’t a very healthy trend. For one, women who marry late in life could have trouble getting pregnant and thus having children. Furthermore, couple who marry late may experience increased financial strain and struggle to keep up with the cost of bringing up children as well as caring for elderly parents.
Late marriages also affect the family and social institutions around us. Marriage is a significant aspect of many cultures’ social structures and is frequently viewed as a means of establishing and maintaining social ties. Delaying marriage may cause people to miss out on the chance to create these crucial connections and may make it more difficult for them to feel a part of their communities.
Among the varied factors discussed, the obsession with lavish weddings or the instagram-worthy weddings is a big problem. People spend so much on weddings and post the paraphernalia on social media, mostly instagram, which tempts others to do more or at least the same and this is how weddings become increasingly a burden instead of a blessing. This trend can be seen mostly among the Srinagar residents followed by those in other cities and towns of Kashmir. Recently a video from a wedding went viral wherein the woman gave a gold ring to a wedding singer… now I am not criticising her because it’s her choice, but how right is it to create a trend like this for others to compete with?
Saima, a research scholar from Kashmir University says: “I am so afraid of getting married because one of my sisters’ wedding put us into debt, with all those clothes, wazwan, shamiana, gold and gifts for her in-laws. A marriage is supposed to make one’s life easy but with all that is happening here, the beginning of it seems so difficult! How can I expect it to make my life easier?”
Rabia, a private school teacher says: “My wedding cost my parents a fortune with the wazwan, the decoration, my own expenditure on my wedding trousseau, gold, the make-up artist… it all went well over Rs 30 lakh. This is not something everyone can afford. I didn’t want this but due to societal pressure, we had to do it and I feel sorry about this. I feel guilty of doing something I despised. It is both religiously and ethically wrong”.
The obsession with material success is so deep that men and women suffer at such deep levels. Aqib, a government employee, shares: “I was appointed three years back and I still cannot get married because I don’t have enough money to buy gold for my would-be wife and I can’t ask my parents to manage a wedding and also buy gold. People think it is easier to get married if you are employed but I believe not with the trends today. I think I will be married when I am 40 which is nine years from now. That is my fair guess”.
Yakeen Sikander, a psychologist says: “The effect of late marriages on human psychology can be many-faceted. One well established factor is that it makes birthing and raising children difficult which can later bring guilt to the parents. Apart from that, psychological impact of late marriages is culture-bound. For instance, in Kashmir if a man has many sisters, they have to be married off first before he marries himself. The marriages in Kashmir are lavish and cost a lot while the pressure to get married is high. Finding a match is also a big competitive battle, and together, these can lead to delay in marriage and cause depression and anxiety. Also, staying single and celibate is somehow looked down upon in the society; so even people who are not fit to be partners are forced to get married which leads to unhappy lives”.
Indeed, late marriages, due to whatever constraints, are not a very healthy trend and can affect the society psychologically, emotionally and in many other ways.