The Show-Off Culture In Kashmiri Society

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
Representational photo

By Umair Ali Wani

Today Kashmiri society finds itself ensnared in a many societal dilemmas, more prevalent being the
“show-off” culture.
This phenomenon prioritizes social validation over personal integrity. Prior to the advent of social media, the influence of ostentation was confined to local neighborhoods. However, in recent years, it is being reverberated across every nook and corner of Kashmir, due to expansion of social networking websites. This novel trend not only affects the flamboyant ones but also has a significant impact on those seeing it.


This societal malaise manifests prominently the institution of marriage. Our marriage here has two significant ceremonies: the Nikah followed by the Walima, but sadly,
both these ceremonies manifest utter showiness and unwanted exhibition of financial standing. Mahr, as an amount, validates Nikah between partners and
gives a sense of commitment and protection to the bride. However, it has devolved into a social symbol with higher Mahr being equated to higher social standing, albeit, paying of Mehr has no limits. I would like to clarify that Islam does not prohibit a bride from demanding a Mahr. Even Umar-Ibn-Al-Khattab (RA) was guided by a woman about fixation of Mahr. However, given the present conditions of our society, I feel if our prophet (PBUH) had been alive at that time, he might had considered the suggestion, given the status of Umar-ibn-al-Khattab. Despite following the teachings of Surah-Al-Nisa by giving Mahr more than what a groom can afford, we often find ourselves falling into the sin of Riyah as our intentions regarding Mahr do not align with the teachings of Islam.

I remember a friend of mine who intended to marry a girl of his choice. The girl insisted that their family had a tradition of receiving more than 20 gold coins ( Poand in Kashmiri ) in Mahr, and did not consider the meager income of to-be-groom. To meet the bride's demand, the groom's family had to resort to taking a loan from the bank. Only to show-off to the bride's neighbors that her family was giving their daughter to a financially well off family. It cost the groom's father his entire life savings.

The problem does not end with Mahr; it extends to Jaheez (Dowry) as well.
While living in various parts of Srinagar, I saw how discussions solely revolved around the flamboyance of the jewelry in the neighborhood. One of our landlords, despite being concerned about his daughter's education, prioritized accumulating items for his daughter's Jaheez which was supposed to be given after a period of 15 years! They had even begun collecting gold coins only to avoid public humiliation and to match the current social aura.

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Similarly, the Walima, although Sunnah in Islam, is an articulation of happiness and joy
has now turned into a comprehensive public display of financial standing
in our society. Families now gauge their social standing by the amount and diversity of meat served as well as by the extravagance of their decorations and other forms of wastefulness. What is even more distressing is the emerging trend in several parts of Kashmir where hosts provide a feast without serving takeaway bags, boasting about the wastage of tons of quantity of meat, although this might have been more useful with less quantity of feasts served.

Furthermore, this societal pressure has had a significant impact on the employment choices of our youth with many preferring parental support over menial jobs. Our society often appreciates
young adults engaged in illicit money-making activities like betting on apps like Dream11 over working in honest jobs. Many parents feel ashamed if their child is seen working in a small shop to support the family, simply because they cannot boast to their neighbors about their child's prestigious job. Unfortunately, we prioritize our social media status like that of WhatsApp and Instagram over fundamental human values, leading to a deep societal crisis. Comparing the youth of Kashmir to those in the USA highlights what distinguishes a developed nation. While I may not agree with all the aspects of American social norms, I admire the conscientiousness of their youth. For instance, I have a classmate who, despite being supported by a departmental assistantship, chooses to work as a chef in a local restaurant to meet his other needs. He might be an assistant professor in a few years, but he never thought that any kind of job will harm his status. This exemplifies the work ethics of adults in the US, where individuals are willing to take on various jobs to sustain themselves. In contrast, during my unfortunate years of bachelor's degree, I met a PhD scholar who felt offended when assigned a task typically done by a clerk as it did not align in societal expectations. Sadly, this narrative is not unique, it reflects the experiences of many in Kashmir. The only thing that still makes us unique is the social fabric, although that is also
diminishing alarmingly.

In conclusion, it is essential for everyone in our society to reassess the importance placed on social validation versus individual values. This introspection is crucial for the societal crisis we currently face.

  • Views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer


Kashmir Observer

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