Your daughter’s education is as important as her marriage

Published: December 28, 2013
Email

Parents do not educate their daughters as they want them to get married to rich bachelors. PHOTO: Umair Ali Anjum/Express

The wedding season is currently in full swing in the country. There are weddings events and functions almost every other day.  This is the time when practically every household is involved in mehndis, dholkis and mayuns (musical nights) along with nikkahs, shaadis and valimas.

I do not know whether it is the pleasant weather that inspires so many to get married at this time of the year or if it is the fact that winter holidays means that friends and family from abroad can attend weddings at this time, not to mention that local schools are also closed, making it easier for the parents.

What I do know is that anyone who has been to even one of these events would know what awe-striking extravagance these occasions depict.

The dream wedding vs the education dream

Perfection is the ultimate goal in Pakistani weddings. Everything has to be and look perfect at every single event, of which there are quite a few. Thousands of rupees are spent on each occasion on clothes, venues and invitation cards not to mention event managers, choreographers, give-aways and the likes. Often this can sum up to at least a few crore rupees.

Keeping the expenses in mind, one would think that the bride and groom would get the wedding of their dreams and often they do. But perfect weddings do not always translate into perfect marriages.

It is important to see the ‘perfect wedding’ from a different perspective.

Imagine someone who has just found out that they will not be able to get admission in a university abroad – not because their grades were unacceptable but because it is financially impossible for their family to afford the tuition and lodging.

If such individuals are made to attend numerous wedding functions in this frame of mind, their only thought as they gaze at the lavishness of it all might be,

“I could have gone for my studies abroad, spent three or four years there in happiness and been able to obtain an internationally-recognised degree. My future would be secure in less than a quarter of the amount being spent at each of these weddings. Three whole years, compared to a mere 20 days of stress-filled functions related to the preparations, the in-laws, the wants and needs of the bride and groom or the making of the dresses. So much expenditure just for uniting two people!”

The sacrifices and compromises

This entire matter becomes heart-breaking when one finds out that the bride never had the opportunity or the encouragement to study any further than O-Levels or A-Levels. Even if the girl is studying somewhere abroad, her parents usually call her back to Pakistan when a ‘rishta’ comes along because ‘good rishtas should not be ignored’.

So this young girl with hopes, dreams and ambitions flies back, gets ‘approved’ by the in-laws and an engagement ceremony takes place. After the ceremony she is told that she will not be going back to complete her studies because ‘what need is there now?’

So, all her time, money, energy and hard work come down to nothing.

What is worse is that she probably did not even fight or argue with her parents because she had accepted that this is how things are done in Pakistan.

Coming back to the perspective of the distressed students with no means of financing their education, it would probably baffle them as to why and how the friends and peers of these girls would allow this to happen.

More importantly, they do not understand why the parents are not concerned about their daughters’ education. Why are these parents more than ready to spend such exorbitant amounts on their daughters’ weddings but not let them complete their education?

The reasons for the extravagance

All of this is pretty baffling for me. However, what we need to understand is why parents act in such an absurd manner. Well, simply because everyone in Pakistan is doing the exact same thing.

It is all about the money. The status. The ego. And the competition. That is what weddings are all about in a nutshell.

I have had endless discussions on this disturbing social behaviour with my best friend and my mother and like all rational people they agree with me. My question is, if they realise and recognise the absurdity of it, why doesn’t the general populace understand it?

And I know that many people are aware of this problem in our society and that there are enough dinner table debates on it. But if everyone is aware of this issue, why is nothing being done about it?

Sadly, in most of our cities, where every single person aims to outdo the other – be it friend or foe; where money is the only concern for most of us. Money, money, money – that is the entire game.

What I do not understand is that it is just a piece of paper so why make it matter so much?

Why choose money over your brother or sister, your mother or father, your wife or husband, your friend or relative?

If you probe deeper, it all comes down to one trait prevalent in our society – judging.

The entire foundation of our society is built upon one person judging the other. And sadly, we form our opinions and judgements based on outwardly appearances and attitudes, rather than concrete characteristics such as intelligence, morality, humanity and humility.

Marriage is more than the dream wedding

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against marriage and I do think that it is important. And I know that parents get worried about their daughters remaining single for the rest of their lives if they focus on their education and career for too long.

However, I feel sad that as a society we have failed to strike a balance between education and marriage. Most brides are treated like a princess during the entire month of the wedding and once married, they are expected to spend the rest of their life sitting at home, going shopping and socialising because they never completed their education and hence, cannot pursue a career or do something to realise their true potential.

Eventually these girls get fed up with the direction that their life has taken only because their parents made them dependent, instead of allowing them to have the opportunity to become self-reliant.

I am disturbed by these ideals and values which are held important across Pakistan – the ideals of money over education, beauty over brains, clothes over principles. It is just perplexing and baseless.

And this is why weddings have become such dramatic, extravagant affairs. We are more concerned with what people will think of us if we do not spend enough on the venues, food, dresses, choreographers and give-aways, than what they will think if we lack the basic values of courtesy, etiquette and good manners.

A wedding is about bringing two people together; it is about uniting two families. So why can it not be just that? Why have we made it into something which a family can use to display their immense wealth? Not only does this cause unnecessary stress to those involved, it takes away the essence of what a wedding should be.

Of course, weddings should be fun and enjoyable but that enjoyment should not come at the risk of stress, debt and anxiety. It should exist automatically, spontaneously, as an extension to the happiness of the event itself.

Myra Mitha

Myra Mitha

An apt case study of diaspora blues, the author is overwhelmed by the qualms and woes of being Pakistani. She currently resides in Malaysia, humanising chatbots. A writer by nature and nurture, she blogs at mithamatics.wordpress.com. She tweets at @MyraM93 (twitter.com/MyraM93)

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