The International Writers Magazine: The Marriage Game in Pakistan
Emancipation or entrapment?
I remember a certain know-it-all woman bitten by the drama bug of the eighteenth century saying to me, in absolute ‘tut’ ‘tut' of granny-like disapproval, her words ringing in my mind distinctly: “You should make quick decisions about marriage because you are a girl and you carry an expiry date on you.”
Before jumping over fences with jousting swords in a game of twenty-first century battling the bygones, I rather understood [and forgave] her implications. I am turning quite old; rather becoming an old maid as I am so aptly labelled amongst the many other scandalous labels that I now carry on my bulldozed pride, with pride! Or if I bear any shame in the smallest amount, I should relieve my mother of the extra mouth she is feeding and housing and hop onto the next bus that takes me straight to weddingsville and pass on I – the baggage – onto other shoulders to endure for the remaining part of my life!
Get married before they start creating scandalous stories about you.
What will they say?
A common threat pervading in the form of fearful statements one gets to hear that shivers the bones of the nonchalant of beings.The existence of 'they' I've never gotten to unravel though have concluded them to be super sonic beings with alien sharp receptors to be able to intercept the occurrence of a (rumour kin) incident before it even occurs!
These invisible beings are monuments of experience who can slap on any label on a girl (true or false) based on pure hearsay. They do not appear to anyone and kind of speak from behind a box. The leverage they sustain in a society that is built and tampered with by themselves, like laws of a make-believe country where we rule all and stand tall is decided (perhaps) by the amount of information their minds can consume and spew. These people have mouths that cluck perpetually like a pendulum. Perhaps, I am giving way to my imagination to form images gross and over stretched by far off logic, or it could be the simplest truth donned in opulent insolence. Either which way, I am the victim and I write my epitaph.
I come to the platinum question: “WHY?” Why everything? How/when did it become a burden to be a female in a [so-called] modernised, forward-thinking, emancipated society?
If I dare may opine, I am never to be left alone even after I take the dire plunge (marriage) to escape the deep frowns of suspended eyes in the labyrinth that I walk. I can only dream about freedom in its truest form [only if I were at war, I wouldn’t complain much knowing the wounds “society” was capable of boring in me with tongues of needles at one of theirs]!
A girl can never afford to procrastinate. In deciding for marriage, in deciding for babies, in deciding for the lipstick she’d match with her orange hair…in deciding just about everything. Somehow, time doesn’t freeze for her, but takes on the extra speed like a race on her imaginary white stallion to win against its black, handsome, powerful, tobacco chewing thick-mane opponent, dashing towards the prize trophy that is ironically a brand new rider!
It is plainly pitiful to live (sic)in a society that scours the fields of open shopping carts bearing items (girls) of all sizes, shapes, colours, models, brands, etc. A girl isn’t trendy enough or she doesn’t keep her eyes to herself; or worst, her tongue to herself; the girl knows too much about the world to be a ‘good’ girl for home taking; these are only some of the ‘justifiable’ excuses that I have heard men give to run away from a challenge they are too embarrassed to take to their mothers.
The worst kinds are, hatefully but appreciatively, the blunt ones who throw direct statements at how poorly constructed the corridor of your building is or how many potholes the road outside your building contains, or how disappointingly non-wealthy you are – the justification to this being that it would be embarrassing for him to see his extended relatives and inquisitive-to-the-degree-of-wanting-new-scandals-to-tell friends walk up to the it-isn’t-the-tenants’- business-to-get-a-building’s-corridor-fixed girl’s flat. (Sub continent weddings require both ends of the families to visit each others homes extensively during the organizing period).
I think I should list just a few of the responses I have heard (believe you me, you aren’t going to be hearing the even half yet) from the male candidates (and their families) who had performed a Sherlock speculation of the vicinity and subsequent place of living – the flat (in absolute 007 style) when visiting for an alliance.
Readers, put your trust, this is the truth about some of the men (and their families) of my country/society. I wouldn’t be too harsh about the undiscovered few and would give them some benefit of the doubt.
This is what I and most of my gender counterparts – who then became friends by way of common plight sharing - received as reasons, from men, for rejections :
* The standing rain water around the building’s walkway hasn’t been cleared as yet and it’s a put off.
(No kidding! My apologies I come from the part of world where street janitors or municipality servants took care of that. Sorry for presuming cleaning wasn’t done any differently in this country too).
* You live in a ‘rented’ flat?
(Er...yes, my apologies again?)
* The house isn’t attractive enough for our extended members to visit and impress by.
(Uh huh, sorry for wallowing in the thought that the girl moves to the guy’s home after marriage).
* The walls are not painted...
(Yes, apologies, we didn’t fight with the landlord, who didn’t want us to change so much as a light bulb in his home, fierce enough).
* You say you've lived all your life abroad and you don’t own a house over here; there could be a dodgy background to you.
(Hmm, yes, I forgot to say my last name was ‘Mafia’).
* Why aren’t you married as yet?
(My gravest of sins. Perhaps, you insinuate I am unnecessarily picky and ... oh darn, yes, my gravest of sins – head bowed for extra conviction apology. I guess I shouldn't dare ask why you're unmarried as yet too..?).
* You have too many plans listed for yourself...
(I know! I kind of lost count as the scroll kept getting longer! I should listen to yours first and then just toss mine).
* Can you cook?
(No, can you?)
Of course, by the ‘cooking’ question the guy has established very solidly that I am not ‘suitable’ and walks back to the room where my mother and his mother sit – where his mother boasts endless about her side of the family and my mother tries to keep her eyes glued on with interest.
The guy and his mother communicate in alien code through eye glances that decides the further plausible interest of hanging around a bit longer
And then comes ‘the period of wait’. In my society, we wait for the guy to announce his decision first, regardless of what the girls thinks or wants. Pray joy if the girl is not inclined and the guy announces a ‘no’ – without offering a reason for rejection in most times and since he is the ‘guy’ he cannot be forced or pushed to supply one. Since he is a ‘guy’, he is allowed by society to apply his equation of attraction to the girl and reject her on grounds of ‘no chemistry’.
The girl, however, may have felt some chemistry with the guy but she is hushed with the empathetic pacification that what she wants doesn’t matter.
It baffles me that the men, here, are extremely interested in knowing about the girl’s wealth and abode. Where she lives. How much she earns. What is her wealth? These are common considerations by him and his family in selecting a bride.
It baffles me because, despite any era of modernisation and emancipation, the Neanderthal-ness of a man is expected to remain intact – well, at least in taking up the basic responsibilities of providing for her and working towards building his living out of his (own) credentials.
Granted that the economic conditions make guys hope that their girl would be capable to chip in her earnings too does not make up for their baseless expectations. If we are being baseless, then allow for both ends to be it - guy and girl.
I can only imagine of the day when a girl earns the credence to be independent without being labelled.
I wonder if I can holler loud I AM A GIRL and I have God’s permission to be proud of me so! I guess I should whisper, just in case…
So, then, men, who’s (really) ready to wed?
© Umm-e-Aiman Vejlani
email : ummeaimanali(at)gmail.com
(Written after having newly moved to Pakistan in 2006. Although not much has changed since).
I’m only a girl [?]
For centuries wide, we have automatically grilled the female gender for being pernickety over selecting a prince charming of her dreams to support her for life
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