Are Kashmir marriages turning into vulgar display of wealth?
The dishes kept on coming. Junaid had to unbuckle his belt. The filled-to-the-brim trami served earlier was now overflowing. Although the cold autumn evening had made its presence felt, Junaid was perspiring. It was the warm, spicy permeation that had filled the air in the hall – a huge room where the wedding feast was served to 40 odd people that made up the groom’s party at 11 pm in Anantnag. Minutes before the feast, Junaid and others had already gulped down a soft-drink, while munching on several varieties of dry fruits. And then, as the dastarkhan was laid down, the race to ultimate calorie intake began. Other than those existing four or five-odd dishes that usually garnish the trami, a platter for four, the party was expecting five to seven more dishes to be served. “But the hosts hardly stopped at seven, or even a dozen. I think they served 40 dishes or even more. We lost the count,” says Junaid. He recalls the party being served with normal rista (a meat ball), then rista with kaju (cashewnut) in it, and then another rista with apricot in it. Dodd maaz (mutton cooked in milk), rogan josh, tabakh maaz, kabab, fish kabab, shami kabab, chicken kabab, an entire chicken, chicken cooked in milk, a huge bowl of pulow garnished with yet more chicken and kabab, at least four or five varieties of whole mutton pieces cooked in different styles, cheese in tomato, cheese in spinach, and mushrooms… Even hearing out Junaid list was an acute gastronomical challenge. “Only half way, I had eaten way more than my fill,” he says. The rest was collected in the plastic bags kept in the basket which carried bottles of carbonated and mineral water, assortments of soap, toothpicks, wet tissues and other whatnots. Then there was also the almost-forgotten bowl of curd and the platter of chutneys that needed to be sorted out. To Junaid’s and other attendees rescue, finally the decider Gushtaba arrived. The small ice-cream bowls served soon after were for calming down the hullaballoo in the stomach, or, at least, what the common (mis) understanding was. “The party left with the bride at around 1:30 am,” says Junaid. What he witnessed was just only a little more extravagant version of the already extravagant weddings that Kashmir is witnessing, especially, this year. Exorbitant spending on food and newest forms of costly innovations drub the government’s so-call ‘guest control’ order it had invoked from April and, more vitally, the basic message of moderation in Islam. The killings and maiming of last year had, to some extent, reserved this overindulgence with many marriages being conducted in a simple manner. However, given the nature of recent weddings witnessed in Srinagar and townships of many other districts, moderation has been long checked out. Besides, spending on food, a costly addition picking up pace this year is heavy expense on the makeup, especially that of the bride. A Srinagar-based makeup artist (name withheld) says she charged anything between Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 on grease-painting one bride. “We are professionals. People are happy to pay the money if they get the right service,” says the make-up artist. According to her, brides have to book the service in advance. “We have several makeup plans available with us. The brides choose according to their affordability. It usually takes between six to eight hours to get a bride ready,” she adds. Videography, which was not considered a costly affair earlier, too has upped in pomp and show. The Kashmir Monitor spoke to witnesses of at least two such wedding ceremonies in Srinagar and north Kashmir recently where professional videographers, who were hired to shoot the entire wedding, charged in lakhs. “This is a new trend. Hiring a professional videographer, who, unlike earlier days, gives you only 8 to 10 minutes of an output video using several cameras including the ones fitted on drones. The marriage we attended was shot by a professional wedding photographer from New Delhi,” the attendee said. A new-into-the-field professional videographer, who shot a wedding in Srinagar recently, said he charged Rs 1 lakh for the video, adding that “the one shot by the Delhi-based photographer must have fetched him at least Rs 6 to 10 lakh, given his experience and standard”. While there are no holds barred in lavish yet needless spending, the other issue that wedding feasts pull up is massive wastage and use of harmful disposable items. The trend of serving water from a jug into a steel glass to guests during the feast is long gone now and even considered derisive. Instead all the assortments and drinks are served in plastic cups and bottles. By the end of the feast, the disposable items are collected in huge plastic bags and dumped along with large quantity of rice left uneaten by most of the guests. The Guest Control order, which limited the number of guests and dishes, on paper at least, has, meanwhile, been contested in the High Court. “The matter is sub-judice. One Banquet Hall Association has filed a petition against the (Guest Control) order in the High Court. We are expecting a favourable decision,” said Minister for food, Chaudhary Zulfkar Ali.