Not Marriageable Material
A section of young men in our society are demanding that their brides-to-be should not have moved beyond Jawahar Tunnel for work or study. This myopic worldview is so regressive and confusing
I get up every morning feeling fresh and enthusiastic ready to tackle the world. In the midst of this happiness with Allah’s world, my happy energy gets broken by a call from some family friends or relatives who talk in a particular way. Going by the pattern of conversation of this friend or relative, I get jittery. It’s the feeling of Eramnesia – the realization of being born in the wrong time period and wishing to live in another one.
It is so deeply sad. I and countless young women like me, born in our paradise-like Kashmir, are made to feel small because we are thinking, progressive daughters of our beautiful land.
We Are Targeted For Being Empowered Women
I am reminded of the defining philosophical statement of French philosopher René Descartes. “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes declared.
The irony hits me. I and so many other young women like me are considered “not good enough” by our society. Well, we are certainly good enough to be employed at the top professional positions on the basis of our qualification and ability. But it is amusing that the society does not find us marriageable material.
Why? Because we think. Saddening that this is how a society should treat its thinking minds if they happen to be female.There is no such stigma attached to young men who think. It is women who must bear the brunt.
Many of my women friends who are educated say that observed this phenomenon in our society. They are educated women. Some of them are working. Some are entrepreneurs. And almost all of them are made to feel that they are not “marriageable material.” I guess that is what makes us feel excluded – that somehow we don’t belong here, and perhaps it is our fault that we are thinking individuals.
Most of us feel that Allah (SWT) has given us this life to live responsibly, and also live the way we think is right. In my friends circle, most young women are fixated on their career as their priority. The same way that young men think that it is important to earn well and live well, we do too. Yet, we women are targeted because we don’t have a conservative approach towards life.
Seems that our society considers it okay if a young man decides that he wants to earn well and live well. But if a woman decides to do so, many in our society tend to look down on her.
Many young women I know are focused on their career. The little leisure that we get, we like to spend it with our family andfriends. We like going out with them or having long chats.
Recently I got a phone call, which led to kind of drapetomania in me – the urge to flee. My cousin called me and said, “You remember that a family from Srinagar had approached us for your hand in marriage.” I replied that I remembered. She said, “It’s not going to work out because we said no.”
I felt relieved. I asked her why our family said no. My cousin said, “Because they called to ask us if the girl wears an abaya.” I was relieved that the alliance didn’t happen. But I also felt a feeling of cringe from inside – like is this still happening?Honestly speaking, it a personal choice how people want to dress. It is sad to be judged on the way one dresses, but this is rampant.
Why They Regard Many Young Women As Bad Girls
What is a man’s perspective on this social practice? I called a friend, and he said he wasn’t surprised that the alliance had been turned down because the girl does not wear abaya. “Why are you so shocked,” he asked me. “We Kashmiris only tend to respect women when they are dressed according to what society considers right. The moment women start doing what they like,or the moment they dress according to their will, they become bad girls for our society,” he told me in a matter of fact manner.
My friend told me of an incident he witnessed after the killing of TV actress Amreen Bhat. He said, “The day she was killed, I had to go out get the hard copy of a document. While I was waiting, the shopkeeper said sadly that a woman was killed for uploading her videos. Another man standing at the shop commented, ‘It is good that she was shot. They should have done it sooner because we don’t want our women doing thiskind of thing or learning this kind of stuff.”
Now see who was taking a moral high ground on Amreen. My friend told me that the man who supported Amreen’s killing had been caught by the locals in a compromising position with a woman. He was beaten up and didn’t leave his house for months.
So this is also our reality. A man who was beaten for misconduct feels no restraint in harshly judging Amreen and supporting her killing.
It is sad that as a society, we judge women even when they are right. Simultaneously, we don’t question a man even when he is wrong.
Scared Of Educated, Empowered Women
Recent Trend – Men Don’t Want To Marry Women Who Have Studied Or Worked Outside Kashmir
This is not where it stops. A trend has started in Kashmir. Men are skeptical to marry women who have studied or are working outside Kashmir. They consider such women ‘Not Marriageable Material’.
When I heard this, I couldn’t believe that this too has become a consideration now. But after talking to some people – mostly women – I come to know that this really is an issue which matters. Which is strange, really. It is like a society moving against its core values.
We Kashmiris are progressive, aspirational people. We like to enable our daughters to be educated and self-reliant. It is strange then that the young men of the society do not want to marry the women who have studied or worked outside Kashmir.
The Vague Allegations
Recently the friend of a colleague got engaged to a man from Kashmir who has studied in Mumbai. He also worked there and moved back to Kashmir this year. The condition he had placed for getting married is that the girl should not have moved beyond the tunnel, referring to the Jawahar Tunnel.
The reason he gave for his biased approach is this: “I know what Kashmiri girls do outside”. Sounded quite unreasonable to me. When you ask these men – Okay, what do Kashmiri girls do outside, then they offer no response except a vague “You know”. Some even said to me, “Since you study in Jammu, you must know what they do.”
No. I don’t know what you are referring to, and I don’t know what ideas you are cooking up in your head. We are career oriented women. We do what is good for our career. Yes, we want to get a good job back in Kashmir and build a happy and fulfilling life in our beloved Valley. Anything wrong with these aspirations? Perhaps your problem is that we haven’t given in to the ultra conservatives.
My Search On ‘Not Marriageable Material’
Well, I went on the Internet to search for what it means when people say ‘Not Marriageable Material
From being judged on looks and cooking skills to being restricted under strict rules, it is a tough road for most womenwho don’t perfectly fit the narrow mold cast by some. Women broke years of taboo and came out with hard hitting questions,asking how a different interest or a diverse way of life could bar them from being a good life partner. While the hashtag began with a women-centric approach, men joined in. They asked why their pay package and height defines the ‘marriage material’ notion. A women’s movement gave space to men to come out with their insecurities.
Lawyer Said Men Should Not Marry Confident Women
I discussed the issue with a lawyer, who is also from Kashmir. I asked him about his thoughts on the subject. I can’t believe he agreed with this Mumbai-returned man that he should not marry a girl who had gone beyond Banihal Tunnel. My colleague even had the audacity to say – It is better to have a wife who doesn’t know how to talk than one who is aware and confident. He said that girls who study leave home at a young age to study outside Kashmir seem to have lot of confidence.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I thought that being confident is a good thing. When did it turn into a bad thing? I was still trying to emerge from the barrage of such low thinking when the lawyer further said – You know these women make a good girlfriend material but they are not wife material.
I didn’t know whether to slap this idiot or to ignore him. I listened with amazement because this man is doing PhD in law. What kind of research scholar is he, with such regressive thinking? His words kept ringing in my ears. Truly it is difficult to reason with such stone-age thought.
I was still feeling disturbed about how men in our society think. I called up my friend Samreen. She works as a legal researcherand had moved to Delhi six years ago.
I shared all this with her. Samreen told me of her own experience last year. She said that her family hired a middle man to find a suitable match for her. The middle man kept looking for almost eight months. He could not find a match because most young men had imposed the condition that the girl should not have studied or worked outside Kashmir. This even spoiled Samreen’s relations with her family. Because after getting this feedback from the young men in Kashmir, her family insisted that she should move back to the Valley.