For times uncountable, a 20-something girl dresses up in bright colored clothes (and for those who can afford…in Khaadi or J.), with properly groomed hairs and a perfect fake smile to greet new guests (read: rishtewaale), who are going to decide if they find her suitable or not for marrying their “one of a kind” son.
We live in a society which is somewhat educated, a little bit tolerant and trying hard to be modern. But, when it comes to marriage, we refuse to let our good sides take control of ourselves. In our side of the world, if you’re one of the few lucky ones to have fallen in love and married the same girl, you’re good to go. But, if the cupid arrow missed your butt, then that butt belongs to the family. They work day and night (Months and Years) on finding the perfect loving family, the perfect arranged marriage to give shape to the perfect couple.
This approach of arranging love for one another, often works. Numerous experts have claimed, and I can’t refute their claims, that in several cases, arranged marriages are far more likely to succeed than love marriages. Since, the level of expectations are a bit less.
But that’s not what this is all about. This is about what goes on before the marriage is even fixed. This is about the excruciating mental torture and emotional pain the parents and their daughters have to go through. This is about the period when the parents – relatives in some cases – go around looking for that perfect “rishta”.
Now, I do not know about what memorable encounters others had, or how they fell in love at first sight with their rishtaa. All I know is that this so called tradition is traumatizing, depressing and at sometimes, lead woman to end their lives. Why am I writing all this? I KNEW someone who went through this trauma and could not hold on to her nerves. She gave in to the pressures of the “society”. She was not weak, she was just tired of trying hard to fake a smile.
She was a charming person with a colorful personality. It was as if she was like a stock of laughing gas. She would spread joy and love wherever she went. An intelligent person and someone with an above average IQ. She was not meant for a shackled life. From life, all she wanted was happiness and peace. Helpful, caring and a well mannered person. And a good cook as well. She would have been a perfect wife for anyone. But, in this “perfect” world, she fell a bit short of being that “perfect rishta” for a “perfect son”.
She was a stammerer. She couldn’t complete two sentences in a single go. She graduated with Honors from a foreign university and moved back to Pakistan with her family, because her parents wanted a “Pakistani guy” for her. She was already working and had no issues with money. Being the only child of her parents, she was doing a good job of having a stable life. But she soon realized, a good education and a stable lifestyle is not enough for a desi Pakistani to qualify as a “Perfect Rishta” for a Pakistani guy.
Since moving back, wherever she went she was bombarded with just a question:
“Itna parhliya, likhliya..ab shaadi ka kya plan hai beta?”
(You have completed your education, now when are you planning on getting married?“)
Having done so much in her life, being able to solve complex mathematical equations was easier for her but Marriage was not. This one question lead to her demise. This one question ate her up slowly, like a poison.
A life she once loved to live was taking its toll on her. Its colors were fading, and they were fading fast. As soon as she reached home from her therapy sessions, her mom would rush to her with proposal sent by the “rishte waali aunties” from men with 5 to 6 figure paychecks, even bigger families and much greater egos.
She had a fair complexion with a few marks, but it was not up to the benchmark set up by this society.
She had a good job but nothing compared to what this society would have liked; she was working from home as a graphic designer and an interior decorator as well. But that does not matter, does it?!
She was great when it came to living life to the fullest, but when it came to marriage, she fell short on the laws and the norms set by the society.
Every time she would dress up with renewed hope in her heart, only to be have shattered dreams about her future. She was being being fed with all the garbage this society has to offer. She used to share some of the things with her during the therapy sessions. I’ll just put them down in her words:
“Aap ki beti hai toh bahot pyaari, par hamara beta Doctor hai aur ussay toh Doctor hi chahiye thi” (She’s beautiful, but our son is a doctor and he wants to get married to a doctor.)“
Tip: If you already know whom you want as your daughter in law and what your “Doctor” son wants, then please leave other alone. In other words, MTFO.
“Aap ki beti ki height thori chhoti hai. Hamara beta 5’7” hai, ussay lambi larki chahiye.” (Our son is a bit tall, and your daughters height is a bit less than what he’s looking for.) She was only 5’5″ and quite athletic.
Tip: Size does not matter. Only if people could understand.
“Yeh umer se kuch zyada bari lagti hai, tasveeron main toh theek lagrahi thi.“ (She looks lot older than her age and she also looks quite different than her pictures.)
Tip: If you don’t like the picture, don’t make a move. Not everyone is like Kim Kardashian.
And it this wasn’t enough, then this certainly did the trick:
“Yeh toh theek se bol bhi nahin sakti. Aap log is ki shaadi ka mat sochain, pehle is ka ilaaj karwayen.“ (She can’t even speak properly. Don’t think about her marriage, first get her treated by a doctor.)
Tip – and this is for all those who think we Stammerer’s don’t deserve a chance at normal life: F*** You.
Many families came, gave hope of coming back again, but never ever returned back. She was confused as to what was wrong. Whether it was the fact that she was a stammerer or that she was way better than any of the “rishta’s” that came her way. This led her to believe that she had serious issues with herself. She lost her confidence. She would hardly talk. The personality she had helped herself build, was gone with all the rishte waala’s. She lost her self-worth. When we would ask her to list her best traits, she would answer with “none”- and previously we had to check our dictionaries for some traits we weren’t even aware of.
She soon stopped going out. She wouldn’t turn up at any of the therapy sessions. She didn’t want to attend anyone’s wedding either. She was slowly and gradually giving up on herself. She would spend nights after nights, thinking about what would happen if she is not able to get married. What will the society think about my parents. What will the society say about me.
Her depression slowly started to seep in. It had made inroads into her once happy life. She had turned into an insomniac. This led her to resort to taking sleeping pills, as she found comfort in them because they made her to go to sleep. But, things changed for a while, only to turn worse. A “rishta” did come along and her marriage was fixed. The day she was to get engaged, her soon-to-be-husband, left her for someone he loved. His parents only gave their consolation on the day of the engagement. This proved to be the final nail in the coffin. She didn’t utter much words. She went into her room with a smiling face, saying the age-old phrase we deshi’s use: “Jo hota hai achhe k liye hota hai.”
She closed the door and her parents thought she was going to sleep. She did go to sleep. Only this time, she never woke up. The doctors confirmed that she overdosed on the pills and closed the case by labeling it as a suicide.
She left this society to look for more rishta’s for her.
But it was not a suicide. It was a well thought murder. The culprits are still moving freely.
We. You. Us. Me. We all are the culprits of her death.
I won’t comment on what she did was right or wrong. I am not going to say this whole society is wrong. All I want to say is that if you feel you are good enough to get married, then you will. But do not put up with exuberant expectations. We live in an imperfect world. Utopia does not exist.
Love will eventually come to you. But don’t let people dictate you about your life. You are the best companion for your thoughts and it’s your decision whether to keep them or let them go. None of us like living alone and we all dream of having a shoulder to lean on. But, don’t forget that the best place to find hope, is actually inside us…we just need to search a bit deeper.
We all used to keep a journal from our therapy sessions. This is what her journal, from the therapy sessions, had written inside it:
“I’m Sorry For Being A Failure
I’ve succeeded in many ways, but each time I do so, I still feel like a failure.
I feel like nothing I do is enough to pay back my parents.
They gave up their lives so that they could raise me, and no matter what I do, what I try to do, I’ll never be able to make it up to them.
I’m not strong like they are. They are able to handle harsh words and still be self-assured.