No random collection of 50-odd books would do, Sahla had actually listed each of the 50 by name.

Breaking stereotypes Kerala Muslim bride demands books as mehr
news Minimalist Wedding Saturday, August 13, 2016 - 17:18

When 22-year-old Sahla Nechayil walked into the Malappuram auditorium that was to host her marriage ceremony on Thursday, guests walked past her, failing to recognize the bride-to-be.

Dressed in a casual black-and-peach coloured salwar kameez, Thursday was just another day for Sahla, as was for 27-year-old Anees Nadodi -lecturer and artist- who is now her husband.

This bubbly lass from Malappuram in Kerala turned an age-old tradition on its head when she wanted a ‘mehr’ of 50 books to be paid to her.

For the uninitiated, ‘mehr’ is a mandatory payment given to a Muslim bride by the groom. Considered as the bride’s lawful right, it is usually paid in cash or as jewellery.

Much to the chagrin of their relatives, Sahla and Anees opted for a minimalistic wedding that entailed turning up for the D-day in normal daily wear, minus the customary accoutrements.

A day after their wedding, Anees is back at his teaching job and Sahla is focused on preparing for job interviews.

“I have never believed in the institution of marriage. I still don’t. I come from a place where girls are married off at the age of 14 or 15. Having witnessed innumerable such incidents, I had even vowed to myself that I for one, would never get married. But meeting Anees was literally a sort of a liberating experience for me,” she recalls while speaking to The News Minute.

They walked into each other’s lives a year ago, and it has been a joyous ride till date.  As someone who values a progressive outlook on life, Anees made sure that every aspect of their ‘Nikkah’ (marriage ceremony) was agreed upon mutually between Sahla and him. 

“Both of us were very clear from the outset itself that neither of us wanted to be trapped in the confines of a conventional marriage. Once married, society will expect the usual stuff from us as in living together at all costs, sacrificing one’s own interests for the other’s good…so on and so forth. We however refuse to be tied down by such unrealistic expectations, as both of us cherish our own dreams which we hope to fulfill down the line,” grins Sahla.

She firmly believes that one needs to be part of the system in order to break free, but she does admit to how limiting it can be at times.

Even though her own family is liberal in their social approach, when pressure from relatives began to mount on them to get her married off at the earliest, her parents suggested that she should seriously start considering a marital union with Anees.

Sahla was very much open to the whole idea, but wanted it to be done her way. First and foremost, it was a strict no-no for extravaganza of any kind. Neither would she be adorned with even a pinch of gold, nor would she decorate her hands with mehendi. And lastly, there was the ‘unusual’ demand for books as ‘mehr’.

Sahla first broke the news about her ‘mehr’ to her grandmother who was by then accustomed to her independent views and did not find any reason to object to the same. Even her immediate family sportingly took it in their stride. “For people who know me well, it was not much of a shock,” she laughs.

It was however a different matter for the rest of the extended family who were still reeling from her other ‘instructions’ for the marriage.

A couple of days before the Nikkah, Anees set out in search of the books that Sahla had demanded as ‘mehr’ from him. Sahla had no intention of accepting any random collection of 50-odd books, but had actually listed each by name –all 50 of them.

Scoring bookstores right from Kozhikode to several others in Bengaluru, Anees managed to get them all by the end of the second day of his search. 

"The lesson I have learnt from this entire marital adventure is that if indeed we take the trouble to rise above societal conventions, we are sure to eventually get the support of our near and dear ones. Guests at the Nikkah came up to me, and spoke about how our decision would prove to be a path-breaker in our community. That in itself lent us immense happiness," Sahla smiles. 


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