Big Fat Kashmiri Wedding Just Got Trimmer, Cheaper
5 August 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: In his professional life, Dr Ehsan-ul-Haq, a 25-year-old medico pursuing his MD in anaesthesiology and critical care medicine, is bound by the Hippocratic oath. And his personal life is bound by another pledge - to get married in the simplest manner possible. Haq is not alone in making this pledge. Over 1,500 youths in the Valley have signed up with a local marriage cell, Humsafar, which not only undertakes to find good matches but also arranges low-cost weddings. At a time when a traditional Kashmiri wedding can cost anything between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh, Humsafar weddings cost just Rs 50,000. The marriage cell was set up by about 20 young professionals, including a few doctors, engineers and businessmen, who used to study Arabic at a local madrasa. 'The idea came up one day during a regular discourse at the madrasa. We were talking about how the cost of weddings is leading to delayed marriages, vices and infertility in the society and how an alternative is much needed,' said Haq, a member of the core group. The discussions resulted in the formation of Humsafar in July 2005. Although the core group is a part of the regulatory committee, the madrasa was given charge of the cell's daily business. 'We were the first ones to register, although most of us were not getting married immediately,' said Haq. Today, the cell has over 1,500 members, most of them young professionals. Besides would-be brides and grooms, the members include parents who want to get their children married in a simple ceremony. 'Initially, only people belonging to the lower socio- economic strata would come to us. But now, we have the educated elite class and even non-resident Kashmiris seeking registrations,' said Fayaz Ahmad Zaroo, who is in charge of the cell. Humsafar has already organised about 50 low-cost weddings since the time it was set up. A few hundred have been scheduled for this year. The registration fee is Rs 200, which is waived off for poor people. The rituals are simple: the nikah ceremony takes place either at a mosque, the bride's house or even the Humsafar office. There is no baraat, just a qazi and a few witnesses. The meher, which is traditionally paid by the groom to the bride's family, is the lowest possible as per the Shariat - Rs 22,000-25,000. 'At the reception hosted by the groom's family, just one or two dishes are served instead of the traditional 30-course wazwan. The total wedding bill adds up to less than Rs 50,000, with all expenses being borne by the groom. There is no concept of dowry or an elaborate trousseau,' said Zaroo.