The rishta rat-race that destroyed my friend’s life

Published: July 3, 2013
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Marriage was the great question mark for her, a question that slowly took over her entire life. PHOTO: AFP/FILE.

They say if opportunity does not knock, build a door. Our society takes this philosophy a step further when it comes to marriage for women. If love does not knock of its own accord on our doors, they manually construct a loving family by finding the perfect arranged marriage that both sides can approve of.

Often, this approach actually works. Experts claim that in several cases, arranged marriages are far more likely to lead to lasting affection than love marriages. But the period leading up to an arranged marriage in Pakistan – days when relatives go around “looking for a rishta” – is nothing short of excruciating.

Here, I would like to share the story of my friend S.

S had a beaming personality. She took laughter and joy with her wherever she went. She was meant for a carefree life. All she wanted was happiness and personal satisfaction – until she graduated and realised that a stable job and educated profile isn’t enough for the society she inhabited.

No matter how well she was doing, her friends and family kept asking the same question, day in and day out:

 “So when are you planning to get married?”

Marriage was the great question mark for her, a question that slowly took over her entire life.

The colourful rainbow that she called life was suddenly full of shades she never needed. Every day, her parents talked to her about different proposals from men with white collar jobs, golden families and greying hair.

She was relatively unlucky when it came to the genetic lottery. Her complexion was not as bright as society would have liked it to be. Her profession was not the proposal-type: she wasn’t a doctor. Though she won at life, she did not match the presumed guidelines for perfect marriage material.

Countless times, she dressed up in a brightly coloured shalwar kameez, brushed her hair thrice, put on a perfect smile and greeted new guests, who were there to decide if they found her suitable for marriage. But the bottom line was always the same:

“‘She’s not a doctor.”

“Our son is fairer than her.”

“She looks older than my son.”

“She is nothing like her pictures.”

And the most disturbing of all:

“We have seen four girls and we like all of them so we’ll call you when we decide.”

Needless to say, S and her parents never heard from these families again.

Puzzled and depressed, S was slowly losing her self-worth. She began to forget all the personality traits she held dear – she stood at a point where she couldn’t list a single attribute that she admired in herself.

Whenever she would go to a wedding, she watched with envy the lucky couple walk down flower covered path and come out hand in hand; they seemed to have no problems, no complicated concerns. S, however, was trapped in the same sorrow. She asked herself:

“Will my eyes ever sparkle with this happiness? “

Night after night, she wept for herself.

She would come to me and speak her heart out. Her complaints were all of the same nature.

“They rejected me.”

“I’ve been turned down again.”

“I feel like an animal in the zoo – they took my pictures in their cell phones and didn’t even take my consent.”

“I’m 28 and no one wants to marry me.”

I tried to calm her down. I asked her to see a psychologist but she refused. Her depressive state led to a sleeping pill addiction.

Within a few months of seeking relief in pills, she overdosed on sedatives and left us forever.

She kept a journal where she used to pen down her frustrations. The last words she wrote in her journal have stayed with me:

 “Shatter the glass and see the world for what it is; fake nightmares, hallucinated dreams. Yet, even I can smile when I see beauty in truth and truth in beauty.”

It is my humble request to every girl who feels unlucky with love and is facing trouble getting married to not be so hard on herself.

There is more to life than marriage. Commitment, kindness and compassion for your own self, and for the people who matter to you, are much more meaningful than worrying non-stop about getting married.

The legitimacy of an early, speedy marriage is overrated. Don’t fall for it.

Don’t let any one’s pitiful mentality settle inside your heart. Your thoughts are your companions and you are in charge of them – hire or fire them whenever you want.

We all need a place to find hope. In crisis, we forget that this place actually lies right inside of us.

Read more by Rakshinda here.

rakshinda.mujeeb

Rakshinda Mujeeb

Researcher by profession, writer by choice. She also works as a content writer for an NGO. She enjoys the impact her articles have on readers.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • excalibur

    @ Mehdi

    I am not sure you are one of the supporters of gay marriages or living in sin outside of wedlock

    Recommend

  • hasan

    So true. marriage in pakistan is depressing.

    It’s not so just for the girls. For guys it’s just as scary. I do concede that as a guy you at least have the option to propose. A girl can’t even do that. Rejection in some cases for girls would be a blessing. It’s sometimes hard enough to get people to come and have nashta.

    We need to develop a dating culture here. Otherwise live with people you don’t relate to or can truly care about. Filled with regret. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Prospective Groom: I found that the girl was never into such stuff and I didnt seem connect with her properly.So after thinking for 3 days,I said my parents not to take his further.

    So what, is your family into such STUFF? Do you get along well with your family in spite of the fact they are not into such stuff. I don’t think many girls are into that STUFF. You will have hard time finding a girl who is into big bang. You need to develop ability to accept people who are different from you and accept them as they are. Most men want attractive, educated, good family girl and you rejected one.

    If you don’t change your thinking now you will be a single for long time and you will left with not much choice.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Working Woman: @author: “I asked her to see a psychologist but she refused. ”

    Why?

    Psychologists or psychiatrists can’t solve all the problems. This woman was lonely and wanted intimacy/marriage I guess.

    In city where I live, 2 women psychiatrists committed murders in 2012. One of them was divorced killed her son and committed suicide.

    in 2009 Nidal Malik Hasan, a Psychiatrist killed 13 people and over 30 people were injured. Read more about him on the Internet.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Sana: In a society where Nikkah becomes difficult, adultery, incest and all illicit relationships become common. Sadly, I confess, this is the scenario at the moment. :(

    I think more married people are involved in adultery, incest, sexual abuse of kids and illicit relationships.
    Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Sana: In a society where Nikkah becomes difficult, adultery, incest and all illicit relationships become common. Sadly, I confess, this is the scenario in Pakistan at the moment. :(?

    What you mentioned is not new? Only difference is media now talks about Incest and rapes and other sexual happenings. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Sonz: Marry your friend.Recommend

  • Prospective Groom

    @Insaan:
    I do understand I’m a rare breed and geeky women are just too hard to find. But I want my prospective wife to accept my qualities,not embrace them…..Thanks to the Bollywood films based on college,we geeks are being potrayed as ‘uncool’ and avoidable to girls…..But strangely,we attract more attention from their parents to marry off their daughters……

    I dont want a girl to marry me just because I’m earning well with no bad habits..I dont want to all of a sudden change themselves for the boy they avoided in college…I dont want them to do such a favor to marry me….I’m sure I will find a girl who will actually like my characteristics and complement me well..Recommend

  • Sonz

    @Insaan: you might want to re-read the comment; it might make you realise that my friend and I are both women! Hence ur suggestion is probably not the best idea!Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Prospective Groom:
    But I want my prospective wife to accept my qualities,not embrace them

    You rejected the girl you mentioned in your comment. You did not say “girl in question” refused to accept your “qualities”. Life is much more then “big bangs” and studying history.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Insaan:
    My bad, your screen name “SONZ” made me think you are a son.

    All I can say is a girl who cares so much for her mother will do the same for her mother in law. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @excalibur:

    sir you are nothing but a bigot. I hope you don’t dwell in any of those countries where gays and liberals are protected. If you do stay there, I would like to see their intelligence looking for you, because you are a threat to peace. You possess very wrong mind set. Recommend

  • Insaan

    I remember reading some where Jacqueline Kennedy thought no one will ever marry her.
    She ended up marrying John F. Kennedy, President of United States.

    Most married women look average without make up, good hairstyle and a nice dress.

    Don’t give up hope, keep smiling. Recommend

  • Abeer

    Really sorry for what happened with your friend but seriously women a man is just a part of your life not your life. Its much more important to be a woman stable enough to fight the bad guy or appreciate the good one that may come later.Recommend

  • KarachiMom

    Step 1: Men, stop viewing your daughters as liabilities you one day need to be rid of, and see them instead as human beings. This is the result of families where the men treat their women like chattel and nothing else. Standing at the choola or producing the next spawn. Education and a chance at life? Something they’re maybe allowed to indulge in for a little while. After that, chop chop, Daddy needs his respectability. Marry her off.

    Step 2: Women, stop groveling at the feet of such men and set your daughters free.

    Step 3: Society, join in.Recommend

  • random person
  • Danish Xuberi

    @ModiFied: In my view the right of reproduction should be given only to alpha male and all others should be given the task of only the baby sitting. Abay bachay kahan say nikalo gay?Recommend

  • A. Khan

    @Emmron:
    Is there something wrong with your keyboard ? Or are you dyslexic ?Recommend

  • Mia

    Feel sorry for your friend. She punished herself for the crime she never committed. Sorry to say this but her family is equally responsible for putting the society pressure on her instead of sharing her grieves and defending her. Parents are supposed to protect their children, not sacrifice them just for saving their own neck from the society. This should never be the approach. I am a bit over-age for this marriage thing myself but i hardly take the society pressure. I believe in just one thing. This is the only life i have, no other chances. If i don’t live it the way i want then i won’t ever. No one should care what everyone keeps saying. If you can afford your own living then no one can buy your life. By the time you die, there should not the regret that you surrendered your happiness just to make those people happy who could never be happy with you anyway. Society won’t even be happy if you marry with their consent. If someone has decided to sacrifice his life then make sure that it don’t just waste away.Recommend

  • AT

    Well who do we blame here?
    I am suffering from same problem. I am Engineer and just have completed my MS from a reputed university. People come and soon I enter in the room, there comes the SILENT MODE. the reasons are my height is 5.1″ and they want a fair gal. My personality, my emaan nothing matters any more. During my university time, people admired me for my beauty but now rejected my so many aunties, it feels like I am stuck and this is driving me crazy.. no wonder, if I didnt had book reading, I would have been dead by now.

    But guess what, story doesn’t end here. Worst of all, my mom is in hurry. I dont know why she is doing this to me. everytime when they left, without saying a word, when I see her face, it kills me deep inside and thats freaking life :)Recommend

  • Insaan

    @hasan:
    We need to develop a dating culture here.

    Short phone conversations and Skype talk can be made a part of selection process. This can help people know a little bit about each others personality.Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    I agree with the theme of the blog, however I also agree with some of the comments that girls are not the only ones with short end of the stick. If I analyze my female friends, from school to bachlors to masters education, I would say of all the female friends who got married, 70% had husbands either working or having citizenship of USA, Canada or UK. The remaining 30% had husbands who either worked in Dubai or Saudi Arabia, or were living in posh areas of Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad.
    A couple of those marriages were love-marriages, rest were arrange-marriages and not a single one I saw that have been strongly compromised or anything. Those who haven’t married are the ones too focused on professional lives, though a few have gone through some of the horrors of “Rishta Brigades” and a couple of them experience low self-esteem and low confidence.
    Though it isn’t just the girl, the guy also goes through torture. I have seen couples, perfect for each other, break apart because the girl’s family didn’t find the guy “settled” or with “equal family status”. In most cases, the girl was married to someone several years older with big back account, multiple cars and, in some cases, a couple of children from previous marriage that spectacularly ended in divorce.
    Also consider about the guy who has been working day and night since graduating, is a self-made person and during the “rishta” session the girl’s family comment “Hamari baiti to is sai double kamati woh bhi sirf aik saal kai experience sai” … leave alone the whole scenario where some girls progress rapidly in organization because of their “good looks” and associated traits, not the work itself.
    That alone break apart many guys, some of them feeling so dead inside. What I am indicating are the guys who are “living dead” who were probably better off committing suicide but didn’t because the faces of their parents and siblings keep on blinking in their eyes, the thoughts “what would happen to them if I die this way?” keep on popping in their heads and they keep on existing for the sake of existence. Talking about suicide amongst guys would be a different topic altogether, better left to professionals who deal with such cases regularly.Recommend

  • daany

    the thing is, both genders in our society fall victim to these deep entrenched values guiding the marriages in our society, it is equally painfuly for men and women, it is only that girls pains are trumpeted by those who believe in notion of supression of woman in our society, actually it is the supression of human beings and their funadamental rights that is embedded in our social and cultural value. Donot try to make it an issue faced by women only, men also face similar trauma in such situations when they are forced to marry aginst their will and wishes.Recommend

  • daany

    you better lookout for a guy yourself…..i have been through this,though I am a guy, but I have decided to take control of things before it is too lateRecommend

  • LoveIslam

    AstaghfiRULLAH…….may ALLAH give Hidayah to all who are doing this …..and may ALLAH help all our sisters who are facing such problems..AmeenRecommend

  • Mohsin

    Dear I agree to disagree with ur point because when u will allow opposite gender to talk or meet then we automatically will move to western culture the solution for this problem is only to educate people on both sides to spread more awareness about Islam @Hamid Shah: Recommend

  • Sonz

    @Mohsin
    “when u will allow opposite gender to talk or meet then we automatically will move to western culture”

    It is possible for men & women to interact in a respectful manner with the consent of their families without there being anything immoral going on! What would you prefer? a completely segregated society where no one is allowed to talk to anyone of the opposite gender? So that we can be an even more frustrated nation? When you segregate people completely you drive them to take extreme measures or even to committ heinous crimes!

    Its not fair to label the western culture as “Bad” and our culture as “Good”. we are the society that is forcing our daughters and sisters to be treated like cattle! How does that make us a “good” society?

    Islam teaches us to broaden our minds, to learn and adopt practices which will make us better human beings and enable us to make others lives better as well. Recommend

  • True Karachiwala

    though I am a male, but this blog almost made me cry !Recommend

  • hmm

    Sorry to hear about your friend. But Sadly this doesn’t end here . Only finding Rishta is not that you’ve achieved something . the time btw rishta to shadi , is crucial. my friends have been through the situations where people ended up the rishta a day before shadi , or somewhere in the middle or maybe after a month of a marriage over silly reason. Tolerance , fear of God and humanity has absolutely vanished.Recommend

  • http://fahadmfarooq.blogspot.com Fahad M. Farooq

    What can I say rather than, I feel sorry for you and your friend.Recommend

  • Zuhaib Memon

    Well no matter what gender you belong to, if you want to marry the person of the opposit gender you realize that in the end its your parents choice. Whether they allow you two lab-rats to breed future generations or not.

    If a girl likes a guy, her father will reject him. On the basis that he is not good for her (in reality, its the ego that he did not choose him)

    If a guy likes a girl, thier parents will never take the rishta to her place. On the basis, that she is not suitable for thier family standards (in reality she did not choose her)

    And if they both end-up marrying, then the families will start interfering in the matters so much that the couple will end up fighting, instead of stopping thier parents to stop interfering out of respect (the respect we mst keep, becuase they are elder). Result fights, divorce, and taunt from both the parents to thier sons/daghters “we told you so!”

    Whereas the situation is the same in the arranged marriage, but the interference level is 20-30% lower than from in-laws and more attempt for cooperation. However if the bride/groom are outside of family only then. But when the bride/groom are relatives, the interference reaches to level (never existed), because parents think that they work fine.

    I have faced so many proposals rejecting me on the basis, that we would get out daughter married in family, or she is already engaged (in reality not) just because I had a past with my girlfriend, found on inquiry from prospective brides. And my girlfriends left me, for the reasons that her fathers pride will be hurt in the community, if she married someone outside her caste.

    Lets first stand-up ourselves, and grow some balls to say yes/no to our parents and being able to take the decission of marriage in our own hands. And once we do take the decission, stick to it rather than running from it like a coward (i.e. divorces, or sobbing as it was a mistake).

    Guys, don’t marry a girl for her looks. They would only last for next 3-4 years. Marry on the basis of her education and her inner beauty (which you can find in her thoughts)

    Gals, don’t marry a guy for his money. Because he did’nt earn it, he inherited something he didn’t work for. And does not know the value of it, so he would only know how to spend it (most cases). Marry a guy, who earns his own living.Recommend

  • Sara

    @Vaqas: I am 25 and am going through the process described right now…believe me it is not only the uneducated people..recently a mother (who has a Masters degree from KC) rejected me because my hair are short Recommend

  • Nasir

    This is true in Pakistani or rather Hinduism influenced sub-continent culture. By no means I’m singling out Hinduism or that religion nor I’m suggesting “Muslims” are better.

    So those of you nut cases just hold your thoughts. Rakshinda is right girls don’t need to feel rejected and don’t need to take it to their head. First I firmly believe when you pray for yourself you’ll find a suitable partner but then this prayers should start from the parents who are planning to conceive… when and mostly, in today’s Pakistani or Muslim society prayers are just “fashion” or just an ‘illiterate’ thing then you loose faith.

    Thirdly, we need to come out of this silly cultural thing that girl needs to be “fair looking”. I have seen many women, living in the US you get to see a lot here, I have seen the so called not so fair looking ones have very faired and handsome husbands or significant others.

    My suggestion: Get out of your 5000 years old hinduism culture which literaly created apartheid between faired color Aryans vs dark skinned Dravaidians. We inherited from there, we inherited a lot such as against polygamy and these totkas, Wazeefas and all those rubbish of Darbar Charawahs etc. along with extremist twisted purdahs (not saying purdah is bad but the likes of you see in Shuttlecock and Jamat-e-Islami) it really is inherited culture from Indian subcontinent.

    And yes this isn’t a blanket statment, so, b4 you bombard with your ignorance check some facts “deeply”.Recommend

  • PS

    My suggestion: Get out of your 5000 years old hinduism culture which literaly created apartheid between faired color Aryans vs dark skinned Dravaidians.

    Is that why fairness creams sell in Arab countries? It is “hinduism culture”,is it? And ‘hinduism culture” must be to blame for the Blonde/European fetish of the Arabs too. Right?

    We inherited from there, we inherited a lot such as against polygamy and these totkas, Wazeefas and all those rubbish of Darbar Charawahs etc. along with extremist twisted purdahs (not saying purdah is bad but the likes of you see in Shuttlecock and Jamat-e-Islami) it really is inherited culture from Indian subcontinent.

    You are really not very bright.If you had paused for a second before writing that incoherent nonsense,you would have known that all that you listed above are MUSLIM IN ORIGIN.

    So,kindly do not “bombard with your ignorance” other commenters on this forum.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Nasir: Get out of your 5000 years old hinduism culture which literaly created apartheid between

    I thought Pakistanis follow Islam as a way of life. How can a Muslim follow Islam and Hindu culture at the same time? Time to grow up and accept your shortcomings and work on them.
    Stop blaming Hinduism for your problems. You read Quran every day. Do what Quran tells you to do.

    What % of Pakistani girls are fair, educated and belong to a good family? I’ll say 5-10%. How can all men marry those 5-10% girls? Only 5-10% men can marry them. Rest have to marry average kind of girls. If a girl is very attractive, many men would prefer to marry her and her family will have to pick one man and reject the rest.Recommend