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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Marriages, outside The Community

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The Background 

Ours is a very small community, a miniscule one, scattered all over the country and even abroad. We go by the nomenclature 'Kashmiri Pandits'. Prior to 1990 we were largely concentrated in the valley and those who were outside also had their roots in the valley. Of course there was a section of our society whose forefathers had migrated centuries back due to the then prevailing persecution in Kashmir and had settled in different parts of the country. It goes to their credit that most of them, almost without exception, would find match for their children from within the community even though they had to find that from distant places. Kashmiris in U.P. would hunt for brides and bridegrooms from distant states of Rajasthan, cities of Madhya Pradesh and the Punjab and vice versa. Those within the state would naturally join in relationship within the community itself. This kept our community largely in tact socially and culturally and ensured its distinct identity. Our tradition, rituals and customs were maintained with a very little variation, which together with hundred percent literacy gave this community a place of pride, prestige and dignity. The community produced many a stalwart in the fields of literature, law, medicine, education, politics, philosophy and the like. We are justifiably proud of this creditable past. Of late the number of our girls and boys marrying outside the community is on the rise. The number of divorce cases in the community has also increased substantially. This has resulted in broken families, single parents, disturbed lives, turmoil and stinking conditions. It is also threatening our distinct identity as a community causing concern among the elders and youngsters alike. Let us examine the causes of this sad state of affairs. 

The Causes 

The causes for young boys and girls marrying outside their community are not far to seek. There may be stray causes for exceptional cases here and there but in general there are two major causes. Firstly there is the changed situation in which our young boys and girls have wider exposure. They come into contact with the young boys and girls of different religions, from different backgrounds, belonging to different castes and hailing from different states and ethnic groups. This inter-action creates proximity, attraction, infatuation and then results in courtship and marriage. This infatuation often makes them blind to the realities of life that they are going to face once they enter into wedlock and this blindness proves in many cases to be disastrous and devastating for the married life in course of time. Another major reason is dowry system (prevailing in most of the communities) and the resultant maltreatment of the brides. Once the children decide to marry out of caste, their parents are no longer obliged to follow the norms in vogue in their own community or those of the community in which the marriage takes place and thus they get rid of a sizeable expenditure which they were required to incur otherwise. This can hardly be treated as an acceptable reason for marriage even though in practice it is found to be expedient. That is why we come across parents who have no objection if their daughters marry out of caste but would prefer their sons to bring in brides of their own ethnic group. The term caste here is meant to convey a wider meaning covering the same ethnic group, speaking the same language and having the same traditional and cultural background. The caste in its real meaning has lost sense, in urban areas and major townships completely and in larger rural areas to a great extent. No doubt in small, remote and backward villages the caste system is still in practice though banned by law of the land. Social evils are eradicated by social reforms and social awareness more than by rules and laws and, therefore, take a long time to vanish. 

Consequential drawbacks 

Let us consider the consequences of marrying outside one's community. Before doing so let us not forget that a marriage generally and certainly in Indian tradition is not only a relationship between a man and a woman but also between their families as well. It is, therefore, of utmost importance for the bride and the groom to fit in the new environment. This assimilation and adjustment becomes difficult and sometimes even impossible when the new family, to which one is related as a result of this wedding, speaks a different language, has a different tradition of customs and rituals, a different set of festivals and a completely different way of celebrating them. Sitting among the members of this family one feels like an alien and miserable when during the conversation one is made to feel that one belongs to a different stock altogether. Their different food habits may fascinate initially but soon the food becomes unpalatable and a cause of dejection and aversion. The bride cannot relate to her in-laws to the extent and in the manner they would like her to relate with the result that she is miserable and often unwelcome. She may even have to suffer taunts like 'how can she know anything, coming as she does from a different background'. Her parents and other relations also are not kindly disposed towards her for breaking the family tradition and marrying in a different community. Consequently she loses the love and affection of her childhood and is not able to have it compensated by the love and respect of adulthood that she would certainly acquire had she married in her own community. The groom also has to face the wrath of his own family by bringing his bride from a different community. He too gets a scant regard from the family of his wife and thus is a loser on either side. Whenever there is a family gathering in his in-laws house he is conspicuous like a black sheep among the sheep with white wool on their bodies. The only way out is separation, which itself throws the couple into seclusion, alone sans relatives, sans help and assistance. Like the lone morning star without companions they feel forsaken and forlorn, in an unenviable position. That marriages are made in heaven is of little consolation in such situations. 

This conjugal relationship boils down to a situation where the two, wife and husband are just by themselves, the two of them. In course of time they beget children. Now a new set of problems crops up, for the children and the parents. These children belong to the community of neither their father nor their mother. They may learn both the languages of their two parents but can claim no language as their mother tongue. They are successors of neither tradition and inheritors of neither culture. They belong to here nor there. They are misfit in the community of their mother as also of their father. It is often seen that such children adopt a third language without having any moorings in that and own no tradition as such except perhaps some common festivals like Holi and Deevali, without any special fervour or significance attached to these festivals in different communities. These children are a pathetic lot and when the occasion comes for them to find a life partner and marry, they can hunt for one neither in this community nor in that. Often they land up in yet another community, different from the communities of their father and mother. They remain without any roots, without any links with the tradition like a kite with strings cut, drifting in this and that direction. Certainly nobody would like to land himself in such a situation or see his children in a rootless state. After all man is a social animal and he cannot live in isolation. This isolation is best avoided by marrying within ones community as far as possible. 

Some times people marry even outside their religion. Some so-called pragmatic and progressive persons hail it as a step in the right direction and appreciate it on the basis of equality and oneness of the mankind. On the face of it one may find it laudable but down to earth in real life it is fraught with disastrous consequences. All said and done, religions are not same, nor even similar. They are poles apart in their rituals, practices, methods of prayer, beliefs and even their attitude towards the adherents of other faiths. These differences make a man, who marries a woman belonging to a different religion, a misfit in the company of his in-laws. For the women it is simply disastrous and even conversion does not put her at ease. Then comes the question of what religion the children should follow. This becomes a bone of contention between the two and leads to breaking the marriage itself. There are some rigid faiths, the followers of which insist that whomsoever marries in their religion, whether a man or a woman, must first get converted. This insistence either leads to a friction before the nuptial knots are tied or forces the prospective couple to severe all connections with their respective families. 

The Solution 

Not all arranged marriages are a success and not all love marriages are a failure. Similarly not all marriages within the community are always a success and not all marriages out of the community are necessarily a failure. Moreover, marriage is a personal matter for every man and woman and no body has any right to interfere, dictate or sermonize where this individual matter is involved. We cannot transgress this fundamental right of a person to choose his life-partner and force him to marry within his community. But alas! If only youth knew and age could. It is the paramount duty of the knowledgeable, the experienced and the learned parents and seniors to educate their youngsters and put them wise about such matters. They should be made aware of the pros and cons of marrying out of their community vis-୶is marrying within their own and thereafter the decision should be left to them. Let them not, later in their life after facing the realities, accuse their elders of not guiding them at the proper time. It is imperative that all the children are soaked in the nectar of cultural richness and the grandeur of tradition so that they realize the importance and utility of these essential elements in the life of a community. From day one they should be made to develop love and pride for their values, their tradition and customs. This will, in course of time, create in them a firm resolve to find a life partner within their own community and the cases of marrying out of the community will be an exception rather than a rule. This timely education and ingrained values will take care of those cases where persons marry outside their community due to the increased exposure and contact with the persons of other communities in the fast changing scenario all over. This will also ensure that nobody takes a wrong decision due to ignorance and inadequate knowledge of the consequences that are likely to follow by marrying outside his own community. 

The second cause has to be tackled collectively at social level. It is really a shame for any community if their girls are to be given in marriage to the boys of other communities not for any worthwhile consideration like the suitability or good qualities of the groom but merely to escape the expenditure on dowry and other such bad customs. Let us not trade in marriages, let us not commercialize this holy relationship and let us not auction our boys in the marriage market. Any other reason for marrying outside one's community, ethnic group, religion or biradari can be understood, reasoned out, rationalized and even justified. There is, however, no justification whatsoever for marrying on this consideration that the parents are spared the compulsory obligation of giving dowry or money that they can ill-afford. Ours is a well-educated, cultured and enlightened community with a glorious past. The scourge of dowry and other social evils and bad customs has crept in over the years and needs to be addressed on a war footing. Let us eradicate these drawbacks and create a healthy tradition so that we do not lose our talented girls to other communities. If we do we shall be poorer to that extent. No rules and no laws are going to see the end of this contagious disease. We need constant self-analysis, social awareness, meaningful education and vigilance. Already ours is a miniscule community; let us not turn it into a microscopic one by creating such conditions as force our children to marry outside our community. Today we are not reckoned because we are not politically important due to our small numbers. Our plight of forced exile from the valley is nobody's concern because we are not a political constituency. Let us make ourselves important enough to be counted (and not taken for granted) by the dint of our acumen, sagacity, scholarship and intelligence and by preserving our distinct identity. This goal can be achieved by ensuring that the number of marriages outside community is as low as possible and that too for good and justifiable reasons and not for ignorance or avoidance of dowry. 

Conclusion 

Thus we have seen that while marriage is a personal matter for every individual and there is no place for any coercion or dictation, there is a pressing need for creating conditions to ensure that they take place within one's community. The purpose is two-fold, one that the married couple does not find itself isolated and two that the distinct identity of a community, particularly that of a small community like Kashmiri Pandits, is preserved. There are two major reasons why our children tend to find their life partners outside the community. The first reason is that they are nor aware of the consequences of such a marriage. Once they come into contact with the persons of other communities they get emotionally involved and without realizing the adverse consequences they enter into a matrimonial relationship. The second reason is the enormous avoidable expenditure involved in marrying within the community due to the prevailing bad and despicable customs like the dowry in cash and kind. Our children are vividly conscious of these bad customs and they do not want to be a burden on their parents. They want to ensure that their parents are saved from running into debt due to the expenditure involved and, therefore, go for a simpler marriage without incurring any sizeable expenditure. They go for a marriage into a different community and thereby avoid the bad customs of both the communities. If both these reasons are removed, there is no reason why the number of such marriages outside our community cannot be reduced greatly without encroaching on the personal liberty of the young ones. The first cause can be addressed by educating our children about the hard facts of a married life and the consequences of marrying outside one's community. The second cause will get eradicated automatically once the bad customs are removed from our community. These steps are a must if we want to keep our community alive as a well-knit community of intellectuals as we really are.

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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