f late, there have appeared articles and write ups about a simmering issue; should or rather why do our children marry outside the community. This is an alarming fact, that the continuing trend could accelerate our ‘ceazation’. Miniscule as our size is, Bhattas, the aborigines of the sage Kashyap’s Bhumi, who boast of a 5000 year old unique Bhraminical order and a descension of Rishi’s, are in a dilemma. At the same time this also is a fact which we cannot negate.
We have been leaving the land of our birthplace from 1947 (in modern times) to real our dreams of a better future. The umbilical cord which kept us attached to the womb of our mother Kashmir manifested in tenaciously adhering to our roots, however formidable the distances from the beloved land. We celebrate Herath, Navreh and Pan with traditional zeal; Vatuk, Thaal barun and exchange Roaths, thus holding on to our being Bhattas. But our offspring, born in these adopted lands, are indeed the children of the local land. Their familiarity is with the existing home; unfortunately our homeland for them is a strange unknown realm. Ironically, the extolling descriptions of our homeland could not prevent our children mingling with their playmates. Could we help the attainment of their youth, their growing up outside Kashmir, their verve, and their preference for local parlance, food and ambience. The binding links broke totally with the visits to homeland having stopped after 1990 when we were catapulted out of Kashmir. And finally, could we help their falling in help. An anonymous lady, in Koshur Samachar, put the blame on the most abhorrent practices of Atgath and Rothkhabar etc. etc; and in the case of boys, the lure lay in the huge amount of cash they get as dowry if they are able to hook a South Indian girl (as was commented on our son’s selection). I would beg to differ with the views of my dear girl. Every community has its own share of baggage and liabilities regarding social customs and I think Kashmir has the lightest. The cause of these couple’s coming together is almost a divine intervention. It is not that our children prefer girls and boys other than Kashmiris. It is like a gossamer net woven by Gods above, which entangles them in the meshes thrown over them by some unknown forces. They are thrown into each other’s paths to find each other, circumstances and situations almost contrived.
When we were in the U.S., visiting our eldest son and daughter-in-law, our younger son, call us out of the blue one morning to tell us “I have found a girl”. His voice is not excited, his voice does not quiver, his young voice is steely. For some reason, I go weak in my knees and sit down “She is a Telugu girl”- mine is a statement, not a question. “Yes”, he says calmly. His grave demeanour is enough to convey the seriousness of the attachment. “But you are still very young for a boy to marry”, I say hesitantly. “For a girl, it’s just fine- otherwise her parents may marry her off”.
We hasten our return to India to meet her. Our elder daughter-in-law (very much a Kashmiri girl), had felt like a graceful swan coming floating towards us, delicate like a lily, when we first met her. This girl, with her exceptionally kind eyes, luminous and smiling, looked affectionately at us. We talked to her and found her contemporary, sure of herself and honest to the core. I asked her why she chose our son over other suitors of her own community. “I am immensely happy when he is around”, was her innocent reply. I was taken back to his childhood days when our neighbour’s pretty daughter, with her dishevelled hair all over her oval face would appear on my door, “Aunty can I play with Shasha?” I would have to have a pestle in place of my heart not to admit her. We instantaneously resolved to do everything to facilitate this union. Pandit or no Pandit, how could we close our doors to a beam of auspicious sunshine warm and radiant?
And hey, pray tell me why at all the mayhem of fleeing and displacement happen after all? At that point of time when Kashmiri pandits left, leaving behind property worth crores and security of a homeland, did they worry about the etymology of our mother tongue? Did we care about our culture at that juncture when we reached Jammu by truckloads? The only focus of high regard was our religiosity, the Sanatan Dharma, the backbone of our ethnicity. If our religious sanctity is safe culture, language and other things seem trivial. When my Telugu daughter-in-law recites Ganesh Astuti in her sing song voice, my maternal bosom heaves with pride.
Recently visiting Jammu, one of our esteemed relatives enquired about our non-Kashmiri daughter, out of courtesy and curiosity too. Our indulgent reports about the girl elicited a tongue-in-cheek remark from him, “Dil ke behlane ko Ghalib yeh khayal achcha hai”. He was entitled to his views, however disparaging. If he thought we were in a fool’s paradise, he was wrong. Of course, I am not a contender to promote inter-community marriages, but certainly to counsel parents like us, who are caught in such a tricky situation, to handle it with more responsibility instead of whining at our children. And philosophically, we must have the capacity to welcome the inevitable. The past is sweet but the present is powerful and prevailing. Accommodative and progressive as we suppose ourselves to be, let us own these children with affectionate embraces (advances) and cast them in our own dye. Kashmiri Bhatani is a metaphor for self denial, complete surrender to her marital home, rejoicing in the good moments of her husband’s family and grieve in their grief. Our daughters-in-law stand firmly for all that. If she is not a Bhatni, who is? As for our family, the two daughters are the manifestation of Gaurvarna Saraswati and dusky smiling Lakshmi.
*Parineeta Khar nee Zutshi was brought up in an extended family where joys and sorrows, even the illness and career of a child was a shared affair. Although she is a science graduate,. the penchant for English literature stood in her stead ; She came out with an Honours in English literature. She further accomplished her Masters in the same subject from the University of Kashmir.
Her restless existence had no time to grow as she got married during her university days. Her husband’s career tossed her on to the far off lanes of Paris. Motherhood, responsibilities of a wife and a daughter-in-law and running a household with a scientist husband kept her busy for a good part of her energetic years.
When the demand for her other roles diminished – she had time to reminisce. The stored up memories gushed out in a deluge. She started writing short stories for local newspapers.Her first book “ ON THE SHORES OF THE VITASTA” was published from the Writer’s Workshop of Calcutta. The other book “ WE WERE AND WE WILL BE “ was published from Utpal Publications, Delhi. Her stories depict a celebration of life – a continuation of life. Parineeta and her family have been living in Hyderabad from the last twenty eight years..
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A lovely article.One remark I would like to make is that you as usual has jumped the events in between.Earlier, I believe you were staunchly holding the philosophy, you are wisely criticising now. Am I right? God bless you, dear Billi.
Added By rattanlal zutshi