There is joy in life
And also there is strife
Somewhere we need to strike a balance
Because without balance life’s just a menace
It was a sunny day and sunny days in Kashmir are considered good for a marriage. Rain on a wedding day suggests that someone used to lick the spoon (actually Choon’chas Le’waan is the term used). It sounds strange and funny, but in this part of the world this is what it means! I was eating Wazwan and just checking whether there was any corner of my stomach (Yed actually), where I could accommodate more. To my great disappointment there wasn’t, and all I could do was stare at these delicacies and see them go waste. After the meal (Sa’le Ba’te) I went out for a walk along the riverside, but my walk was cut short due to pain in my stomach. Walking with a fully loaded belly was not that good an idea after all. So I just sat at that very last step, where a fortnight ago I had had a strange experience. I always had thought that it was a dream, but if it was true I didn’t want to look stupid. So casually, I said Salaam.
To my surprise my greetings were answered! I sat silently for a while not knowing what to say. Suddenly I burped.
“Seems like you have eaten too much for a meal”, he said. “Ya, a marriage ceremony and wazwan of course”, was my reply. “How many dishes were there on the plate (trami)?” was the question he shot at me. Now what type of question is that? Does it appear that I count? However, remembering that last time we had met I had offended him, I politely replied that more than thirteen. “And how many did you eat?” came the next one. Actually after seven I was full, but we Kashmir’s like to boast regarding our meat eating appetite, so I said ten. “So what happened to the rest? Thrown away, I presume”, he said answering his own question. “What about the house, is it decorated?” “The house is beautifully decorated with lights and would look beautiful at night when the groom arrives”, I said, controlling my anger and cursing myself for taking a walk along this path, because I was having a conversation which old women have with each other. And seriously, I never have been a big fan of such conversations. “Seems like a rich family is having a marriage”, he said. I however made the point clear that it was an average middle class family whose daughter is being married.
“Ahh…”, he sighed and after some time said, “I would tell you about a girl named Neelofar, whom I had known since her childhood. She was an innocent, charming nice girl. Being the only child of her parents, she was given all the care and love by her poor parents. Her father was a labourer, and throughout his life had worked honestly, only to save for his darling daughter’s marriage. Now he was old and had collected enough money for her marriage. But he fell ill. Doctors said that he suffered from cancer and the high cost of medicines began to diminish his life’s savings. He now prayed for death because only then he felt that his daughter could be married. This plight of her father was too much for Neelofar. She came to sit by my side that day. There seemed to be no charm, no joy on her face. She took a few pebbles in her hands and throwing them into water, slowly started counting one… two… three… four… five… as if she was counting the death of moments. Then she got up and walked right into the water till she was no longer visible.
There was no news of her in the newspapers because she did not jump from Amira Kadal. Nobody knew what happened. Some said she ran away and some said she was kidnapped. However nobody knew that she had married that day. She had married death, handing over all her troubles to it.”
There was silence between us for some time which I broke saying “goodbye”. There was some moistness in my eyes and I did not want to show it. As I left, I realized that I had come with a stomach ache and left with a heart ache. Who was responsible for all this, I kept asking myself. The Wazwan did not seem so tasty now. Suddenly I noticed a few raindrops falling. The weather had changed within an hour. All seemed to be gloomy. Walking a few steps further it began to rain heavily. It was hard to comprehend whether the skies were crying for Neelofar, or over the fate of this nation which had killed so many Neelofar’s, or was it just that… someone used to lick the spoon!
O you with a wretched soul!
Is this your goal?
You just didn’t impose wrong customs
It was someone’s life you stole!
P.S:- I am in no way trying to portray suicide as a solution to life’s problems. Suicide is haram in Islam and also the worst form of Zulm a person can do upon himself because after this act, there is no room left for Taubah. This was just used to portray the sorry state of marriage affairs in Kashmir and how extreme can its effects be.