Business in Kashmir's traditional wedding season has taken a massive hit as thousands of couples have opted for simpler ceremonies instead of lavish ones due to the restrictions imposed in the valley following the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
Mutton suppliers, camping agencies, jewellers, wedding wear outlets and wazwan (traditional Kashmiri cuisine) cooks have seen their business slump due the no-frills wedding ceremonies after restrictions were imposed on the movement of people.
The local dailies, which have managed to publish a few pages, have a dedicated page for advertisements related to the cancellation of wedding invitations extended to relatives and friends.
"Due to the prevailing situation, the wedding ceremony of my son, Yasir Bashir, will be held in a simple way. The invitation for the 'walima' function (banquet performed after marriage ceremony) is hereby cancelled. Inconvenience caused is regretted," reads an advertisement published in a local Urdu daily.
There are over 25 such advertisements in Monday's edition of the daily, which is being circulated to limited areas in the city. Many families have opted to convey the message of cancellation of wedding feasts through a private television news channel, which has been running both video and text messages free of cost for the benefit of the people.
Abdul Majid, whose daughter is getting married on Saturday, said. Gulistan News is available both on the cable network as well as on various platforms of direct-to-home (DTH) television. "It becomes easier for people like us to reach maximum persons on the guest list as there is no other way to reach them," he said.
The wedding cancellations have severely affected the businesses, which sustained on these occasions.
According to Mushtaq Ahmad, a wazwan cook, an average wedding feast has a guest list of 600-800 people. "But now, we are asked to cook for only 150-200 people, which basically constitutes the close family and friends of the groom or the bride."
Ahmad said his earning had reduced by more than 70 per cent due to the prevailing situation. "This is the fifth wedding season since 2008 that has been hit by turmoil or other reasons, like the flood in 2014," he said.
As the guest lists have shorted significantly, it directly translates to a lesser quantity of mutton being consumed at the weddings, which are usually lavish even in moderation.
"I would supply eight-10 quintals of mutton for a wedding usually. But now the demand has reduced to around two quintals," said Mohammad Altaf Ganaie, a wholesale mutton supplier who had stopped importing livestock due to the slump in demand.
Mohammad Iqbal, a jeweller, said gold sales dipped by more than 50 per cent this season as people stopped spending lavishly on jewellery for the weddings.
"Gold in our society is normally considered to be an investment, but with earnings already hit and no end in sight to the uncertainty, the bride's family is buying just enough jewellery to make the wedding ceremony look normal," Iqbal said.
Bilal Ahmad Rather, who provides tents and decoration to the wedding functions, said people associated with his trade had been the worst hit.
"As the guest lists are very short, people do not need tents and they are avoiding to install decorative lights on their houses in view of the situation," Rather said. "It has effectively meant little to no business for people like me."