Hours before the first day of the Highway ban in Kashmir, a groom from south Kashmir’s Anantnag left home along with 12 baratis to take his bride home from Doda. But when the ban was suddenly announced and subsequently enforced, it abruptly turned yet another happy occasion into a grim affair in Kashmir.
As the shadow of midnight reflected over Danish Bhat’s cellphone, he helplessly dialled the toughest digits with his evidently nervous fingers. Surrounded by the disturbing silence, the ring on the other side of the line echoed vehemently. And when the call was answered, his lady-love only asked: “How long?”
“Soon…” he whispered in reply.
But for Danish, it was literally the end of roads. All promises he had made to his bride-to-be, were now moving closer to the dead-end. She was only on the other side of the mountain, waiting for her groom to arrive and take her to her new home, where they had collectively dreamt of drawing the first chapter of their happily-married-life.
He was on the road now for nine hours and the curse of controversially imposed Srinagar-Jammu Highway ban was only having better of the Anantnag groom and the Doda bride – both being distanced away by the hostile highway wardens.
As Danish hopelessly rested his back on the inclined seat of his ‘undecorated’ wedding car, he stared at the dark sky silhouetting the gigantic mountains from the side window, recalling the emotionally-gripped phone-call with his bride, just a while back – where he had gone against the ‘impossible’ by promising her his timely arrival, despite, having himself ‘given up from the inside’.
That intervening night of April 6th and 7th is something that will go down as Danish’s worst of memories. It was the 29-year-old’s cursed fortunes that his wedding, scheduled the coming morning of April 7, had been coinciding with the first day of unprecedented curb on the civilian movement.
“I had done everything,” Danish recalls, a week later. True to him, he had.
From seeking official permission from the authorities for his own wedding, to pleading to the ‘hell-bent’ on-duty officer at the Jawahar tunnel, Danish had gone to an extent of even ‘compromising his self-respect and pride’.
Despite possessing the authority letter, he had left from home on Saturday at around 1:00 in the afternoon, hoping to cover the 160-km long journey to Doda by ‘at least midnight’. But then to his misfortune, at around 9:00 PM, he was abruptly stopped near the only tunnel going towards Jammu – even hours before the official time-slot announced by the authorities.
While many wished to return to their safe-sheds, Danish had a long journey ahead. He had approached the stationed officer near the tunnel thrice, but not once the man in uniform ‘cared to even go through the permission copy’. It was now close to 11:00 in the night and he was only further running out of time. With each passing minute, all the promises made to his bride had just been echoing loud in the silenced night.
Back home in Anantnag, the change in wedding plans due to the sudden highway ban had also left his family ‘mentally distressed’.
The rituals had only ended becoming mere formalities, as his sister narrates: “We were simultaneously hosting two marriages in total, Danish’s and our youngest brother’s among us three siblings. Both their Mahendis were scheduled on the night before marriage, but because Danish bhai had to leave early, we had to prepone his event by doing it in the morning. When after that he left, we all were tense and praying for his safe passage, which made us completely forget the younger brother’s event. It was only after 10:00 in the night I thankfully realised and then just for the sake of it, we carried out the ritual for namesake, all while, you know, pretending to be happy.”
A brief silence surrounds the room right, as Danish, sitting next to her, disrupts: “There is this one phone call of my mother which I will never forget. She was inconsolably crying… Maybe, because she had dreamt of our marriages, and now when the time had come, it didn’t go according to what she had fantasied.”
When the call for ban was announced on March 3, it was Danish’s father, Showkat Ali Bhat who took the responsibility of taking rounds of the government houses.
This is what we have been reduced to to use our own roads. A family had to run from pillar to post to get this permission slip to use the highway so they could travel to Doda for a wedding ceremony. What will people face tomorrow? Order courtesy @asifsuhaf pic.twitter.com/JZiowqFPvz
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) April 6, 2019
Danish himself couldn’t, as he reasons: “The to-be-groom is given a king-like treatment in Kashmir before his big day arrives. He is refrained of even serving food for himself, everything is taken care of. You tell me, how would my father permit me to step outside the marriage-house, and what for – to seek permission for my own marriage?”
But if only Bhat then knew, his ‘prince’ was destined to regardless-ly get stuck on a highway, that too, a night before his wedding day – where he was only further running out of time.
With his hand-watch already having ticked 4:00 AM, now officially marking the beginning of lock-down, he was only regretting over something that wasn’t even his fault.
But then, as Paulo Coelho’s famous saying goes: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Danish strived, he hoped against hope, and then weirdly or as he coins, ‘magically’, the roads were set open on the very first hour of the ban.
Unbelievable, but it was as if a new life was induced in his already given-up desires. And so with that, he quickly started his car, got the baraatis on their feet, and resumed his journey towards his bride, who was just across the mountain that he had been starring all-night-long.
As everyone collectively prayed for a no-further-delay, Danish seemingly drove amidst a joy of ‘thankfulness’. For him, and only for him, it was like ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ being recreated all over again.
“I breathed a sigh of relief only after seeing her,” the happy Danish recalls.
And today, they’re one newly and happily wedded couple.
“You know,” Danish concludes, “now that me and my wife look back, we honestly joke and share a moment of laughter. In fact, she even says I should be photo-framing all those tweets to preserve my one-night-stardom. Anyway, you see, at the end of the day, we both are together, and that is all what matters.”
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