Please pray for me, she said while hanging up.
This was my friend – gingerly excited but majorly nervous and insecure about the nth rishta coming over that very evening. She asked me to pray for her and I promised to do so but inwardly I was just as scared because one of these days I’d have to ask her for the same favour as well.
Getting married, I am sure most of you will agree with me, maybe one of the most beautiful feelings in the world, finding the right rishta and the painful protocol associated with it is something no girl will like to experience. Let us say we all want to get married but not through the way most of us get married – arranged marriage.
Before you misunderstand me, let me clear that I do not despise arranged marriages but my major concern is with how rishtas are arranged in our part of the world. Will you all not agree with me that the rishta system, having corrupted the institute of marriage per se, is akin to a meat market where commodities are exchanged? Almost 95% of us find ourselves packaged and advertised in the rishta market until our parents find a suitable larka for us?
I believe in the institute of marriage – nothing can be more beautiful than having a good life partner as well as children to add colours to life but the way marriages are arranged through rishtay wali aunties makes me uncomfortable. A friend of mine told me that recently an aunty came over and asked her to roll her sleeves and trousers to show whether or not she was waxed and maintained personal hygiene. Shocking, isn’t it? This is one step ahead of the ad nauseum demand,
Beta zara chal ke dikha, hans ke dikhao.
Numbed by the pressure and her mother’s silent pleas, she rolled her sleeves to satisfy the aunty – things that larki walay have to do in addition to setting expensive food and eatables on the trolley. Despite all the pleasantries and docile attitude though, my friend was rejected on other concrete grounds. What exactly, they never found out.
In another incident, this same girl was rejected on unsounded reasons. The larkay walay were later heard saying,
Larki tu bus theek thi lakin ghar walon ney humain theek se poocha nahi.
Now, I am not saying that the rishta bomb drops lightly on guys but for girls, it is detrimental in a way no words can define. The staring from head to toe, sizing up, scrutiny and the painful rejection are incomparable to any other feeling in the world. This is such a painful time in a girl’s life that she cannot even discuss it with anyone – least of all her family. Rejection at the hands of the rishta-vultures makes her feel worthless where each time she finds herself collecting the scattered pieces of her self-respect. Say, isn’t it difficult to face even your family for several days after you find out that you have been rejected?
Rishta aunties are another nuisance. Rishta is a business for them. Getting us married is their business. Why do we give in to their nasty indifferent business when marriage and living together is all about love, affiliation and ’till death do us part’ vow? How many of you have undergone the painful practice where the rishta aunties have first sized you up, assessed your market value i.e. age, complexion, height, slimness, family background and whether you live in a big house before showing the munasib rishta?
Not only you are expected to parade in front of strangers (sitting in your drawing room) over and over again, the waiting period is another pain in the neck. For days that follow, there is no news from the larkay–walay who had had their tummies filled while they came over to see you. With dashed hopes, you prepare yourself for another bout of rishtas when you hear your mother sigh and say,
Koi baat nahi, jo Allah ko manzoor. Beta aaj sham ko zara tayyar ho jana.
The biggest flaw with the rishta system in Pakistan is that it is not done to find the right life partner for you but just a man to fulfil certain duties of life i.e. earning and procreation. With this crooked system suffocating the majority of us, we must not shy away from discussing the rishta practice and the mentality behind it. It is shallow, to say the least, it focuses more on your flaws – your outlook ‘package’ and your ‘expiry date’ and not on the person you are.
Girls, be more vocal about it. Talk to your parents, friends and siblings about the pain it gives you. It is not easy to get out of this noose that has us thwarted up to our throats but discussion about a collective problem, I believe, is the first step towards finding a solution.
Start talking today so that you will be able to take action tomorrow.
Published in Step-Up Pakistan Blog on 8th August, 2012