WAHEEDA DAR, a 27-year-old Muslim woman lives in Srinagar, a disputed territory of Kashmir, and it's time for her to get married. Until now, she was a successful actress and singer, but as the third daughter of four in a carpet-making family it is her turn to wed. The search for a suitable husband must happen in accordance with the traditions of her culture and in this case, the marriage will be ‘arranged’ by her younger brother, Ashiq, who is spending his life savings for the occasion.

The 'arrangement' of Waheeda's future and, above all, the search for a suitable husband and family to marry into, serves as the narrative thread that weaves itself through the different stages leading up to Waheeda's wedding celebration.

While filmmaker Dany Dar-Creutz remains a neutral observer at the outset of the story, she slowly reveals more of herself and her relationship to Ashiq, the protagonist. However, it’s not until near the end of the film that they reveal their personal relationship to the family.


Bride: Waheeda Dar                                          Ashiq Dar with youngest sister Masrat                      Srinagar Fort

Ashiq and Waheeda’s delicate journey and their family’s history reflect the contradictions between the traditions of the past and the modern life young Muslims now seek. Their story also encompass the turbulent political events that have occurred in Kashmir over the past 15 years and serve as a vehicle for exploring the impact of these events on the every day life for the Dar family, especially for their son Ashiq who is striving to take control of his own life today. 

As children, Ashiq and Waheeda grew up in Srinagar, the capital and university-town of Kashmir, a city often compared to Venice because of its many beautiful waterways and canals. Ashiq and Waheeda's idyllic childhood ended at age 10 and 12 in 1989, with a surge of violence relating to Pakistan and India's ongoing dispute over the sovereignty of the region, a conflict that dates back to the partition of these two countries in 1945.

Though Waheeda and Ashiq’s parents were very observant and traditional Muslims, they were also relatively liberal encouraging their children, especially their son, to make independent decisions. The two older sisters are already married when the filmmaker meets the family. The youngest sister, Masrath, studies English and Economics.

Film set: Actors Sikh Soldier & Waheeda [12 years old]

At the age of 17, Ashiq’s college was bombed by militants and many young Kashmiri men were arrested without cause and suspected of underground terrorist activities. Ashiq’s family decided to send him out of Kashmir and into a place where he could begin to earn money safely. He left the family and moved to Varkala, a small beach town in South India.

While working in a shop selling Kashmiri handicrafts and jewelry to tourists, Ashiq became exposed to a Western culture with expanded possibilities.  Though he discovered a new outlook for his life, he remained strongly connected to his culture, his family and to Kashmir.

Ashiq Dar with niece                                         Sisters and brother                                             Father Iqbal Dar

Waheeda and Ashiq's family, like many other families in Kashmir, have endured tremendous suffering. The stress of living in a conflict zone exacerbated their mother’s heart condition, which killed her prematurely.

The patriarch of the family, Iqbal Dar, decided never to remarry and to care for his five children alone. Now, with no wife at his side, Iqbal has only Ashiq to help him in the search for an appropriate husband for Waheeda. The family has little money at this stage, and there are still two daughters who must be taken care of; each needing a dowry since a suitable match depends on the financial resources of the bride’s family. Iqbal is fragile from old age and no longer is able to earn a living; therefore, the ability to pay for the wedding ceremonies, fund the bride’s dowry and bestow golden presents to all the family members of Waheeda’s intended husband all fall upon Ashiq’s shoulders. At the film’s outset, he has been saving for eight years to make his sister's wedding a viable reality.

Shadowing Waheeda’s wedding is the knowledge that the family now counts on her “replacement,” the unspoken agreement that this woman will be the future wife of Ashiq. In this way, the Kashmiri families maintain a level of reciprocity in terms of resources and care for their elders.

But Ashiq is not ready to marry, nor has he any money left to pay for a second wedding. And, more importantly, he has been in a secret relationship with the woman he first met in Varkala and who is shooting this documentary: Dany Dar-Creutz, the director.


Srinagar, Sikh Soldier on patrol

Dal Lake, Kashmir

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