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.

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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.