The colourful marriage ceremony of 30 destitute couples, brought together by poverty, was held at the YMCA Lawns on Saturday. The couples came from various coastal and rural areas around the city.
Nothing seemed amiss, relatives of the brides and grooms were dressed for the occasion, the dowry and jewellery for the couples was packed and there was an air of merriment.
The brides sat in the traditional red shalwar kameezes and heavily-sequined dupattas. Their hands and feet had delicate henna patterns and their golden jewellery sets glittered under the sun. The grooms were dressed in conventional white shalwar kameez, ajraks and Sindhi caps.
The ceremony had been arranged by Falah Welfare Trust, Women Development Foundation Pakistan (WDFP) and Upleta Memon Association. Sabiha Shah, who was representing WDFP, told The Express Tribune that these three NGOs held this marriage ceremony for 19 couples from Ibrahim Hyderi, six couples from Mirpur and 5 couples from Thatta.
“My husband is blind, and I have a family of nine, my only son works in a salt mine and earns Rs150 per day. He could not have afforded his own marriage,” said Mehnaz, whose son was one of the 15 grooms. She seemed really content about the fact that this responsibility was off her shoulders.
Many of the brides were nervous in the open urban environment, one of the shy brides, Rukhsana, sat with her dupatta covering her face to the chin. “I have had wanted to marry my cousin for the last two years and today I will be going to my husband’s house,” said Rukhsana, with a twinkle in her eye.
“I feel beautiful, even though I have not yet gotten a chance to look at my reflection. I love my red lipstick and make up,” she said apprehensively. Rukhsana is 16-years-old and the youngest in her family. She said the day was special for her she is being married in a city and it didn’t matter that her entire family could not be present.
One of the grooms, Yousuf, 18, a fisherman from Rehri Goth, had his hands adorned by henna. His mother, Kulsoom, said it was a family tradition to beautify the groom. Yousuf was content with the fun and merriment he had had at home before the nikkah and rukhsati event at the YMCA.
The happiest woman present there was Hajra, she had two daughters and a son getting married on the occasion. She said that almost 35 members of her family had come from Saleh Mohammad Goth in Dhabeji. Her family members had spent Rs4,000 for their travel fare and they did not have to spend money on anything else. However, Rasheeda, another mother added that she had spent Rs5,000- Rs6,000 on taking care of her guests.
The mass wedding ceremony was especially enjoyable for the little children who were attending. They found the huge gathering with multiple brides and grooms much more enjoyable than a single couple’s wedding. “I have not found a bride yet but when I do, I will marry in a gathering as big as this,” expressed 8-year-old Suleman, who was attending his brother’s wedding.
The couples were blessed to have their nikkah prayer offered by Haji Abdul Mannan, an Engineer from Makkah, who has been in charge of all the construction works in Makkah and the Holy Haram for the last 32 years.
An organiser from Upleta Memon Association, Haji Masood Parekh, told The Express Tribune that the conditions of being a part of the marriage ceremony were that the family and couple must be deserving, above 18 years of age, and holding national identity cards.
He said that his NGO had been helping couples get married for the last three years but this was the first time they were hosting a mass wedding ceremony. “After Eid, we want to hold a collective marriage ceremony for 100 couples, 32 couples have already registered,” said Parekh.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2011.
A slideshow of pictures from the event can be seen here.