After Budgam, Aash Wedding Bells Come to Srinagar

In Picture-Brides from the central district of Badgam during Aash Mass Marriage 2018

This past October, fifty couples from underprivileged families tied knots in a mass marriage event in Central Kashmir’s Budgam. The heart-warming ceremony spread cheers in the society grappling with late marriages and extravaganza wedding affairs.

By Aleem Ali

Far from Srinagar’s hustle bustle, a makeshift tent came alive with folksongs in a sleepy Budgam hamlet on October 10. Some fifty couples were present on the auspicious occasion along with their attendants and volunteers.

Soon as the young smiling brides from humble family background tied knots in the mass marriage ceremony, the ‘touched’ guests talked high about the welfare event, which was the brainchild of a young Kashmiri woman, and her team of volunteers.

That day, as the wedding bells and happy tunes were playing around, Qurat Ul Ain Masoodi posed like a thoughtful matriarch while watching her “dream” shaping up. She smiled upon recalling her tireless slog to bring those 50 “depressed souls” under a single roof for the big occasion.

“It was an overwhelming feeling,” Masoodi recalled the moment’s delight with her sparkling watery eyes.

That mass marriage event was organised by her NGO Aash in Budgam’s Khan Sahab. Among other things, Masoodi kept it a simple affair, akin to a routine Kashmiri marriage.

The young, blushing brides dressed in colourful trousseau were feeling home for the day while exchanging smiles and views about their life and the event. They were provided with the necessary wedding items, including pair of shoes, two suits, Burkha, a makeup Kit, gold earring, and a sewing machine.

Qurat Ul Ain Masoodi during the Nikah Ceremony at Budgam Mass Marriage 2018

A cleric was called to deliver a sermon on the importance of the marriage. Among the wedding items given to the brides was a copy of a holy Quran. Even a psychologist was roped in to counsel the young couples about the hardships and complexities of the marriage. They were also given lessons on the significance of togetherness in testing times.

“It was not possible to organise such an event without the support of many likeminded people who made it a successful event,” said Masoodi, beaming over the turn of the event. “We at Aash had this dream to help the underprivileged section of the society to grace the moment with a sense of pride. I feel so humble and happy today for having touched so many lives positively.”

It was a second such event in 2018. Earlier in July, 105 couples from poverty-ridden families tied knots in a mass marriage organised by Jaffria Council in Srinagar.

Amid the celebrations at Khan Sahab, many brides shared their wretched background details, making it almost impossible for their families to marry them off.

In Picture- Bride from Budgam District; Aash Mass Marriage 2018

Someone’s father was bedridden, other had no family support. And many were even struggling to meet their ends meet.

Under those circumstances, bringing them together and spreading smiles on their battered faces by celebrating their Big Day made Masoodi their motherly figure and an idol.

It also made her a “harbinger of change” in the society, where clerics for years have been warning about the “fast disintegrating” marital institution. Even Islamic edicts are regularly being cited and invoked to prick the society’s complex marital conscience. But still, austere marriages are yet to become a norm, which in turn is putting the underprivileged section in a trouble.

This sullen reality of the society makes Masoodi’s initiative as an inspiring move.

“But we aren’t done yet,” she said at the sidelines of the event where her friend singer Mehmeet Syed had turned up along with her band to make it a ‘memorable’ occasion for the couples and guests. “We’re soon coming up with the similar event in Downtown.”

After Budgam, as the wedding bells are about to jingle in Srinagar now, Masoodi is once leading by an example.

This time, she’s uplifting the marital gloom of the place, where reportedly over 10,000 girls have already passed their marital age.



This story first appeared in November print issue of The Indus Post.


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