Rishta aunties and the girls who submit

Published: November 18, 2014

In addition to being tall and fair, the girl must be incredibly proficient in the kitchen.

“You’ve completed your O and A’ Levels. You got amazing grades and A’ Level is a great accomplishment. It’s time you get married now,” said my mother, on several occasions.

When asked anxiously,

“But what about my admission into IBA?”

She would calmly reply,

“Yes, yes. You’ve proved your mettle. Everyone knows you’re smart and clever. That’s why there are so many proposals.”

Yes, that time was here. I was being badgered into getting married.

The sad part about being educated is that you can tell when a person is annoyingly dim-witted. On the one hand, the aunties gushed about my intelligence, which according to my mother was one of the most dominant factors propelling them to propose for me in the first place, while on the other, they also want my intellect to go to complete waste. After all, an ideal wife/daughter-in-law is supposed to be meek and obedient, have no individual voice of her own, be someone who adheres to blind conformism, is sweet to everyone, wouldn’t dare to think of going against the wishes of her in-laws or husband and is just an angel in every form; like a blob of play-dough that can be moulded every which way.

All of this, obviously, after she has finished a couple of semesters at one of the top Ivy League universities in Pakistan. But there is a very thin line here as well. If you do end up fighting your way into acquiring a degree, the aunties are seen promptly noticing the achievement along with one other factor,

Haye, larki ki age ziyada hogai hai…

(The girl is no longer young)

Of course, the intelligence and educational background in this case has no bearing on their decision.

Due to factors such as these, marriage, to me, became a revolting prospect. The whole idea of in-laws who expect their prospective daughters-in-law to be educated from the best institutions of Pakistan, and yet, demand they give it all up after marriage and act the part of the impeccable housewife just made no sense to me. I fail to understand the logic behind something like this. The fact that female doctors are ‘in demand’ on the list of these rishta-seeking aunties is appalling because they study and work hard to get through med-school, only for their career prospects to be thrown under the bus called marriage? Why go through the hassle in the first place?

Did I want to start living a life like that at 19? Start a married life, or in more appropriate words, start a string of complications? Any sane girl’s answer would be a vehement no. And I’m sane, thank you very much.

The idea that a large part of the Pakistani society supports this is ridiculous. Like I said, being educated does have its downfall – you can spot the fool faster than one who is not educated, and that can lead to disastrous situations. There have been times when I have had to refrain from doubling-up and laughing out loud at how boastful these ladies can be and the ludicrous demands they make as a result. I realise that a mother’s love for her child is blind, but for these women to come and flaunt their sons, as if they have been bestowed upon this very earth as some sort of divine being, while at the same time disregarding the girl completely is nonsensical in the least. It is like these ladies need a platform to confess their love for their sons and they choose to do so at a girl’s house. In my opinion, this is not done to choose a girl; this is done so that ‘eligible candidates’ can apply for the prestigious position of being his wife. It is like a job interview – and I thought that a girl’s father was supposed to do that. Here in Pakistan, however, the mother’s of the boys take up that role.

When the time comes, they set off on mission impossible, choosing, from the shortlisted candidates of course, for girls with the same level of ‘perfection’ as their darling son. In addition to being tall and fair, the girl must be incredibly proficient in the kitchen. She should be able to cook, clean and mop with the efficiency of someone who does it on a daily basis; all with a big smile on her face. She must also dress elegantly and talk in a manner reflective of her education; not that her education is needed for anything beyond that.

The educational achievements are, however, to be bragged about by the saasu ma. She does this whilst being comfortably seated in her drawing room surrounded by her friends, who are being served tea by her oh-so-accomplished bahu-rani.

She takes pride in her doctor bahu who recently completed her MBBS from Dow Medical College (DMC), and is now a literate housewife to her son. Who cares if the said bahu utilised a substantial amount of government funding in the process? Funds roughly amounting to Rs1,000,000, I might add. All this money for a degree that now proudly rests in the bahu’s cupboard, eventually falling victim to time and dust – another casualty.

The madness is so compelling; it still takes me by surprise as to why people don’t realise that there’s a need to step away from the traditions built long ago by women of the pre-partition subcontinent. In those times, our women lived in a confined, restricted world, with no exposure even to the village a few miles away, let alone international cultures across oceans. We need to break the shackles that hold us immobile and stranded in a swamp of absurd values and norms.

What is wrong with letting a woman use her degree in a productive manner?

There are enormous expenditures the government invests in, in order to have students educated at the University of Engineering and Technology (NED), Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Sindh Medical College (SMC), Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC), Karachi University (KU) and other government-owned universities.

Why should she not be obliged to return to society what she took from it? Is it really that offensive for a woman to be married and working? And, if the idea really is so unbearable, why in the world do aunties desperately seek out the girls with the most impressive resumes?

We have realised over years and years of this topic being spoken about and written about that the aunties don’t seem to care – then is it not the responsibility of the girl to stand up for herself? Why didn’t you stand up? Why are you taking part in an archaic culture that holds no relevance in this day and age?

It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to admit that rishta aunties are not the only ones to be blamed. It is the fault of our educated young girls too, girls like you and me… and that is the saddest part.

Sara Pirazada

Sara Pirzada

A BBA student at IBA. She tweets as @PirzadaSara (twitter.com/PirzadaSara).

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

  • munazzah

    Very nice article.it has touched a very gruesome reality,and yes,sadly the female is equally responsible in this rishta zooRecommend

  • Parvez

    Getting an education should not be about achieving a six figure salary…..it should be about making you a better person. Now this is important because once understood, it will guide you into when, to whom and why you should get married…….and its you who will be getting married, not the rishta lady, or your mother or aunty.Recommend

  • Iron hand

    This is article is like an innocent man convicted and sentenced to life in jail complaining about the food, not the fact that he’s in prison.Recommend

  • lol
  • Sara

    It’s not about a six-figure salary at all. It’s about giving society its due! Especially women who have degrees from prestigious universities like DMC, SMC, NED etc. The government spends so much on education, why let it all go to waste if you’re not engaged in anything remotely productive?Recommend

  • MyraM93

    I’m currently studying abroad and i and another one of my Pakistani friends constantly tell our other local friends here about all this, and in their words, “Pakistan is so very, surprisingly backward. In every aspect of life.” And i completely agreed with them because it really is and its just sad.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Lol these aunties essentially want degree holding bahus to hang their certificate on the front door, don the apron and start making food for the “rishtay daar”. Idk about myself, but I have made my mum promise me to not treat my brothers’ future wives like that. Saved three lives! ;)Recommend

  • Jeddahlicious

    Education is important for reasons you have mentioned. I want to point out that this is the culture in Pakistan. Women and men both know what is expected from them in our culture. You cannot fight it without collateral damage. You cannot fight it without hurting people. You cannot change it without making noise, a noise in a society which silences voices.
    Even though it is 2014 and we are in a “New World” and “New Time”, we still remain a deeply family based society where family has the last word and the last laugh at our expense, you already know the fact that is why you wrote what you wrote. We have to make the ultimate sacrifice many times in our lives that is why our decisions of work, education and family must be with family harmony. You already know your family’s pressure, society demands and the current economic culture, you already know that you will get married well before you are 30, you already know that society demands more from women (unfair demands at time from a human point of view), you already know your dreams will never be realized, your Manhattan office will never be furnished, your Gucci bag will never be there, promises will be made to you that a servant or maid will be provided but you will end up doing most of the household work. You already know the “process” of arranged marriage, you know the “honor” factor, you know the “economic and safety” factor, you know your blog will be forgotten (because many such blogs have appeared on tribune), you know that your tomorrow will be same as today due to routine. They expect us to roll over and die, cut our gut out and expect nothing in return, because this is the bitter truth in our society and the earlier you reduce your expectations the earlier you will find peace. Our education and the sheer reality of life in a polarized society have exposed to things, hopes and dreams which we may never materialize, if they do materialize it will not be enough. This is our life. You are not the only one. There are many brothers and sisters out there who are experiencing the same things you are. If you challenge the status quo, you will become a local rumor in your family, neighborhood and friends. To force yourself out of your “dilemma”, you will need to make noise, make an effort or be labelled a liberal. You need to realize there are 2 extremes in our society, people who claim to be moderate are not entirely moderate, you will know when you get married. The doctor bahu will always be the servant unless in some special cases. I suggest to you to make Shukr, Pray to Allah for barakah in your life, Ask for a way that Allah makes you respectable in society, respectable in family and above all Pray to find a husband that respects you and help you complete your Imaan. Your rishta aunty problem is not a problem. Your rishta aunties are the bitter reflection of society, they are your reflection and the reflection of your future partner. These rishta aunties are your agents behind enemy lines not your enemy. Consider the rishta aunties as interviewers from job, dont hate them or love them, but engage them.This the world we live in and if you fight it you will have to pay a cost of your comfort and happiness. Are you willing to pay the cost? Are you able to stand up to your parents, society, rishta aunty, future employer, are you willing to spend the next 3 years on gaining market experience so that you could apply for another job in a multinational company? If you are willing and able then do it. If you are not willing or able to turn the tables then why complain at the table?Recommend

  • Nova

    Your great addition to this discussion has been duly noted.Recommend

  • Oats

    I think it depends on what type of Pakistani you are interacting with. Unfortunately a lot of Muslim societies could be considered backward because women are not allowed to socialize and date. Only when society in Muslim countries allows women to socialize in a greater manner and live their own lives can this scourge of rishta aunties and this type of behavior change. However it also exists in Bengalis, Afghanis, Arabs, Iranians, Turks and other Muslims – even in their overseas communities who have been settled abroad for a while. So maybe you need to broaden your statement from saying Pakistan is backward to saying Muslim thinking and cultural behavior is backward. For example the Afghan man who killed his three daughters and one of his wives in Canada for dating is an extension of this behavior. That’s why Canada government has moved to ban forced marriage and immigration by polygamous people.Recommend

  • Saad

    Does degree based education really make you a better person? Does it teaches us how to pay taxes, improve time management skills, assist in focusing and committing on our life strategies, help in developing creative and critical ideologies? No it doesn’t. Unfortunately, it’s main current use and purpose is to retire on a six figure salary based pensionRecommend

  • General Kayani

    Ms Sara – there is no such thing as “one of the top Ivy League universities in Pakistan”. From Wikipedia: The Ivy League is a collegiate athletic conference comprising sports teams from eight private institutions of higher education in the Northeastern United States. The conference name is also commonly used to refer to those eight schools as a group.[2] The eight institutions are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.


  • Wardah

    Could not agree more with you. You just make best out of it. I’m married in a family where my mother-in-law constantly nags me about when I am getting pregnant to the point of keeping track of my every day. It annoys the hell out of me at times but then again, I’m not alone in this. So yes, I focus on every little bit of good things they do for me, because this is what you do when YOU yourself truly want to BE happy.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very valid…..you’re so right on that.Recommend

  • Fighter Man

    Instead of constantly telling them the negativeness of your homeland , share them the positivists of the country.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Sara, when you have sons, be a different prospective mother in law. thats the only way to change it.Recommend

  • Shoukat

    One fact is always not mentioned in these types of articles is that many wives CHOOSE to stay at home. After getting higher education, no one can stop them from working if they are determined to do so!Recommend

  • Mubeen Hussain

    Very well written! But it’s up to a girl whom she should be married to. Look for the ones who allow you to go out and work.Recommend

  • Queen

    I think it is inappropriate to place the blame on the shoulders of ‘educated young girls’ only. I have seen girls who have stood against the rishta aunties and have asked them to provide details about the life style of their ‘oh-so-foreign-educated sons’ but these girls were labelled ‘badtameez’ and ‘zaban daraz’ afterwards by the same rishta aunties. This was only because these girls had the courage to seek basic information about their potential husbands. I have said this before and I will reiterate that it is the responsibility of the ‘boys’ in our society to tell their moms to give respect to the girls they are going to seek rishtas for. If only these rishta unties think about their own daughters before making such nonsensical demands, life will definitely be better.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Hello author, I can absolutely relate to your story, however, I would suggest you and all the young girls like you not to blame aunties for it. If you are strong within, no one will or can treat a young girl like this. The thing is, our girls; and their parents give in too easily to these rishta demands.

    I was very lucky to have parents who stood up for me at every stage, they gave me courage and they made it very clear to every rishta that me, having earned a professional degree, would not stay at home. I shall have all the authority to make decisions of my own at every stage of life, whether it be to work or stay at home, the decision should be mine. Regardless the fact how desperate my parents were to get me married (like every other parent), they refused many proposals due to their unreasonable demand of “larki job nahi karaygi”. And this was the courage that led to me enroll in MBA from the same university you are studying, after I got married and became a mom.

    Life is all about defining priorities and goals and stick to it till the end.Recommend

  • Jawad khan Unar

    well i agree for the girls who want their career to flourish but what about other 70% girls who only get a degree to get good rishtas and for them this article is a complee and utter wastage of words…….and i think a girl can also complete her education or go on with her career and thats something i am speaking from example but if a girl doesn’t want to do anything what to do about her……..aunties are not at blame here…..the girls who are being voiceless areRecommend

  • Queen

    Me too, I also made my mom promise the same :)Recommend

  • Guest

    I agree with you but there are girls who do raise their voice and then they are labelled as ill mannered by the same rishta aunties. The rishta aunties then prevent others to seek such girls’ hands in marriage. There are girls who study medicine only to get good rishtas in the end as having a doctor degree is a great star on one’s rishta CV. It is unfortunate that in our society men too want a perfect gharelo doctor biwi.Recommend

  • SH

    Most of such articles do not highlight the role of men in the society. Boys, please open your minds. Just how you want to take some decisions, have plans, think of the future, girls go through the same process. Tell your mothers to be patient and understanding.

    I fail to understand why educated boys have such narrow mentality. Why shouldn’t the woman work? “Because I said so.” and “The woman of the house should remain in house.” are not valid reasons. Recommend

  • Parvez

    You are entitled to your thinking……..and do consider that an education is not restricted by a ‘ degree ‘…….it’s way bigger and encompasses much more and the process never stops.Recommend

  • Bilal

    While I was reading the blog, I kept thinking “yeah just another one of those modern girls ranting about marriage and prospect of getting their freedom slashed in half; “Aunties”(which they secretly adore)”but it was a good read by the way.Recommend

  • Hamza

    And I guess you don’t know what literary terms are?Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Yes, education does help in doing those things.Recommend

  • chemisto

    Ivy league uinv of Pakistan? Seriously?

  • Sara

    Like Hamza said, it’s simply a literary phrase to distinct some of Pakistan’s most prestigious institutes from the rest. Instances include DMC, NED, IBA, LUMS, GIK, Fast, Nust, IVS, Punjab University, IoBM etc.Recommend

  • Saad

    Exactly. Education helps, degrees don’tRecommend

  • Grace

    Education is important but we should be thankful that we are not in Saudi Arabia because then we would be allowed to do nothing. My cousin couldn’t drive, go out doors without a man and had difficulty even shopping. Imagine being locked up as property 24/ 7. I guess no matter how bad things may be, there is always a place where things are much worse.Recommend

  • Gp65

    “All of this, obviously, after she has finished a couple of semesters at one of the top Ivy League universities in Pakistan”

    Do you understand the concept of Ivy League? Oxford or even Stanford cannot call themselves Ivy League.Recommend

  • M.

    Thanks, was about to point that out myself.Recommend

  • Gp65

    that makes no sense. Neither Oxford and Cambridge in UK nor Stanford in US nor IITs and IIMs in India describe themselves as Ivy Leagues.

    You could have said top class university pf Pakistan instead of Ivy league university of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Np

    You make no sense. It is like calling Pakola as Coca Cola. The 2 are different.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Kudos to u for your concern for our bhabhis. You seem like a strong, intelligent woman. Why will you not stand p for ourself the same way you stood up for our future bhabhis?Recommend

  • Gp65

    good for you. Kudos. Do stand up for yourself also.Recommend

  • Gp65

    But the same information can be sought by the girls parents and that would surely not be taken amiss? I am just asking because I do not know ow it works in Pakistani society. Not judging by any means.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    The bottom line is that in our culture the future bride should excel in all areas for a medoicre boy.The girl should wear Arabic dress including Hijab etc and boy may wear shorts and hip hop singer like dress.The girl should remain kitchen and the boy may
    loiter with friends in streets.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Lol I speak my mind, always. People tell me I will learn to keep quite when I go to susral, but in the mean time, ignorance is bliss! Recommend

  • Sara

    You aren’t quite able to understand the article in context of that view.
    This article is specifically about girls who acquire professional degrees (like doctor, medicine, pharmacy, engineering etc) from government universities and then WASTE the government’s resources/funds by letting their degrees go to waste. My point is, why waste a precious seat if you don’t intend to do anything with your degree?Recommend

  • WAleed

    Thumbs up for your veteran effort…Recommend

  • Queen

    I don’t know about others but what I have observed in my surroundings is that during the process of ‘rishta’, the mothers of the boys are the ones who ask for ‘detailed’ information about the girl including her primary and secondary schooling, her grades, the number friends she has, her ability to do household chores and so on and so forth. In some cases the boy himself asks the girl to provide the required information. But when the girl’s parents demand the same information, the reply is limited only to the latest educational degree which the boy has earned. What i mean to say is that that like boys, girls too have the right to know about their potential life partners, his likes/ dislikes, and his personality traits. I have seen girls who have asked for this information but this has created a negative impression on the boys and their mothers.Recommend

  • Queen

    Will do, Thanks :)Recommend

  • Saad

    My argument wasn’t against the article, it was in reply to the commentRecommend

  • I am a Khan

    As per my understanding, in Islam, its the man’s responsibility to support his family. The woman is not required to financially support the family. In a country like Pakistan where unemployment is already high, it would be unfair that in one household, both the husband and wife are earning and in another house hold even the man is unemployed and no one is earning. Just an idea- if only men worked and supported their families, probably unemployment could reduce and so could the number of families with no one earning.Recommend

  • sterry

    If some women allow themselves to be abused, it is their fault alone because they don’t speak up for their rights in society.Recommend

  • Humza

    You are right – Ivy League refers to a particular group of exclusive colleges in the US. The British equivalent would be an Oxbridge education. You could say, the Pakistani equivalent of an Ivy League education or the Pak equivalent of an Oxbridge education but it woudn’t make sense to say it is Ivy Leage.Recommend

  • Common sense

    Maybe they were forced to stay quiet?? Being emotionally and physically abused is no joke Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Degrees help certify you have got that education.Recommend

  • FemmedeQ

    The article is oddly written, I will admit, but her point is worth noting. I had a cousin in Pakistan who was doing amazing at university but was asked to leave her programme to get married to “the best shot she had”. Who, by the way, divorced her a few months later for losing her baby.

    We need to teach our girls to be self sufficient. Get an education, if you want to be a housewife that is your call. But if in case something happens to your husband or you are divorced, you should be able to support yourself.Recommend

  • http://www.muhammadbinyusrat.com/ Muhammad bin Yusrat

    So the only way of giving society its due is by working in an office? And not by being a little bit mature and understanding a person’s responsibility as a mother? Inculcating good *character* and Akhlaaq in the off-springs? Teaching them to *love* and not be in competition and comparison with others all the time.. teaching them to forgive, to ask the other person if they were hurt in an accident instead of looking at own car and calculating how much they have lost? How are these things unimportant and not what the society (specially our calm society in Pakistan) does not owe us?Recommend