Kerala, Jan 23, 2020: The month was October. Ijas Hakim and Ajna Nizam were newly betrothed to be married. Among many things, Ijas too had the Mehr, which is usually a large sum of money or possessions that a Muslim man gifts his bride, on his mind. But Ajna did not want money, diamonds or tigers on a gold leash. Instead, she gave him a list of 100 books that she wants to read.
Impressed and pleasantly surprised by his fiancee’s wishlist, Ijas set out on a mission to get all the books by the wedding. "It was obviously a task to get all of these books. However, I managed to get almost 96 books by our wedding day," says Ijas. The couple got married on December 29. Three weeks down the line, Ajna’s bookshelf has 99 books. The 100th book, Constitution of India is on its way.
Ijas’ and Ajna’s photographs have gone viral on social media now. "We kept this quite private. However, our friends liked the gesture and had shared photographs of this. They soon went viral," says Ijas. "She was quite particular about the Constitution of India, given the current political scenario. The list also included the Quran, Bible and Bhagavad Gita besides Khaled Hosseini’s books and some from Murakami," says Ijas. "She also wasn’t particular about them being new books. However, I tried getting as many new books as I can. We’ve now also decided to take part in book exchanges," he adds.
The couple has also set up a huge bookshelf inside their bedroom now. "We try our best to dedicate a fixed amount of time to reading books. We will also be gifting more books to our friends and relatives," says Ijas. By the way, did we mention that the couple has just gotten back to their home in Thiruvananthapuram, after attending the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode? "This was our first trip together. I hope we get to attend more literary events soon together," says Ijas.
How did the families take this curiously literary break from tradition? They weren’t exactly on board with this idea. "People are used to giving gold and other precious possessions as Mehr. But actually, a woman can demand whatever she wants. We wanted to send that message to society. Also, who said books aren’t precious?" asks Ijas.