“There’s no god but Allah, there’s no language but Urdu and there’s no ‘jaan’ but ‘Ammi Jaan’!”

Published: April 25, 2014

Sometimes I think these aunties forget that they have daughters too and that they themselves were once on the other side of the scrutiny bench.

Sometimes when I hear the aunties around me discussing their daughters-in-law, potential daughters-in-law or girls whom they have shortlisted for their sons, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Listening to them, I sometimes think that these aunties have forgotten that they have daughters too and that they themselves were once on the other side of the scrutiny bench. Or perhaps, this is their retribution. Whatever the case may be, I find some of the character traits of the larke ki ammi (boy’s mother) in Pakistan to be agonisingly funny.

If you’re a boy, please read this blog with an open mind; if you’re a girl, please understand that I wholeheartedly sympathise with you; and if you’re the dreaded (or soon-to-be) saas (mother-in-law), please try to refrain from such behaviour:

Larki gori honi chahiye 

Physical appearances are very important in Pakistan. No, let me rephrase that, the physical appearance of a girl is very important in Pakistan. Mothers of boys want gori (fair complexioned) wives for their sons. The girl should (read ‘must’) have long hair; only bad girls have short hair. You know… girls who do Astaghfirullah things. She should have big doe eyes, a nice, small nose and dainty feet… did you really think that they would miss your feet in that head-to-toe scrutiny?

And God forbid, if the girl is not gora (fair-complexioned), she should be laden with makeup since she will be rejected in spite of all other positive attributes if she is not ‘snow white’.

Chai connoisseur

She should know how to make good chai. And by good, I mean that perfectly brewed, aromatic, piping hot cup of tea that you see in tea ads. I don’t know if those ads are inspired from the reality of the bahu walking in the room with a tray laden with perfect chai cups or whether it’s those ads that raise the chai expectations of mothers-in-law. But take my advice and practice your tea-making skills if you’re in the rishta race. Believe me, this particular skill can make or break the deal!

Prim and proper

She shouldn’t argue, discuss politics, religion or Veena Malik with her mother-in-law. She should always keep her head down and act obedient; only bad girls argue, you know the badtameez girls. She should call her mother-in-law Ammi Jaan and she must never ever hug her husband in front of Ammi Jaan since only besharam girls do that.

She must always address her husband as ‘Chunnoo ke abba’ or ‘Suniye ji’; only ‘bad’ girls take their husbands’ names.

She should carry her dupatta decently. I don’t know what ‘decently’ means but trust me, you don’t want to ask your potential mother-in-law that question. And if you think this is bad, let me tell you about the ‘permissible colours’.

Yes… some mothers-in-law even have a restriction on the colours that their husband’s wives can and cannot wear. Once I heard an aunty say,

“Why is she wearing black? Is she sad? Is she in mourning?”

And if you think they have a problem with dark, gloomy (as they like to think of them) colours only, you are wrong. I once met a mother-in-law who didn’t like orange and wouldn’t let her daughter-in-law wear any orange clothes!

To this day, I wonder what the poor colour did to that lady.

Baby producing machine

The girl must produce a baby within nine months of getting married and it should be a boy. Who cares that it is her mother-in-law’s son who has the necessary chromosomes to determine the gender of the baby?

After all, she gave birth to a boy (her son) didn’t she? So if she could do it, what excuse does this girl have? She must not argue when Ammi Jaan prays for her to be blessed with a boy and she must never ever wish for or pray for a daughter.

And the wish-list doesn’t end there. The baby must be cute, fat and gora. A less than ‘pink and white’ baby is a big ‘No, No’, and be warned, if she produces a dark-skinned boy he will be deprived of Dadi Jaan’s love. Dadi Jaans are conditioned to love only gora kids; it doesn’t matter that her own son is dark, fat and short. Her grandson must look like he’s been washed in milk.

Who knows, maybe it’s her own deficiency in producing a cute, fair child that has led to this mind set. Poor woman!

The girl should produce another baby (read ‘son’) next year, otherwise she will not be considered fertile enough.

In-law pleaser

Once the girl reaches marriageable age, she must begin her training as an ‘in-law pleaser’ or rather a ‘mum-in-law pleaser’ because let’s face it, the father-in-law is quite insignificant and can be easily ignored. He doesn’t need to be fed; he can survive on left-overs. He is fine with thandi chai and daal chawal.

On the other hand, the girl must praise Ammi Jaan all the time and she should be very nice to her sister-in-law and her family. The sister-in-law’s approval is a must for everything and she can only buy new fry pans and electronics with her consent and approval, so she must always be in her sister-in-law’s good books.

She must get up early in the morning and serve Ammi Jaan chai and paratha. Whenever she shops, she should first buy clothes for her Ammi Jaan. Ideally, she should buy inexpensive lawn clothes for herself and the branded variety for Ammi Jaan and her sisters-in-law.

Did you just say,

“What about her own family?”

Well, what about them?

She might as well forget them since her heart and home is her in-laws’ now. She must never invite her parents, relatives, cousins or friends over… ever.

She should never ever expect a gift from her husband when Ammi Jaan is around or at least not one unless he has showered his mother with expensive presents first. Once he’s done so, she might get a measly lawn suit from him.


Ammi Jaan loves surprises so her birthdays should be a grand affair and everyone should be invited, even if it’s her 78th birthday.

Money matters

She shouldn’t ask her husband for money since Ammi Jaan is the chief financial officer (CFO) in the house. Her husband is only the bread earner; it is the mother-in-law who manages the finances. And any money she does take from Ammi Jaan is only a loan which needs to be returned. Also, all her jewellery should be deposited with Ammi Jaan on the wedding night which she can borrow later; only badtameez girls keep their jewellery with themselves; ‘good girls’ hand it all over to Ammi Jaan.

Social life

Friends? What friends?

She must never talk to her friends on the phone since her old mother-in-law deserves her undivided attention and time. Socialising will distract her from her responsibilities to Ammi Jaan and she must ensure that her mother-in-law is fed properly thrice a day, no excuses allowed. She must always ask Ammi Jaan before she disappears from her sight even if it’s just to go to the restroom!

When serving food, she should always give the chicken leg piece to Ammi Jaan. She must ensure that there are sufficient leg pieces since Ammi Jaan shouldn’t be given any other piece of meat… that’s just disrespectful!

When going out (which will always be with the mother-in-law), she must always sit in the back seat of the car because Ammi Jaan will always sit in front with her beloved son. If eating out, she must fend for herself because her husband will be too busy feeding bun kebabs and patties to Ammi Jaan.

Marital bliss and lies

If she wants her marriage to survive, the girl must learn the art of lying… and lying well. She must confess her love for his family at least twice a day. She cannot tell her husband how big a miser his mother is. She can’t complain that his dear Ammi Jaan makes her work like a donkey (what else did she expect when she was getting married). She must not poke her nose when he and Ammi Jaan are sitting together; in any case she will either be slogging in the kitchen or putting the children to bed, so she won’t have time.

And the golden of golden rules – when her mother-in-law eyes her brand new bedspread, she should happily hand it over and replace it with Ammi Jaan’s old one.

So, when a girl is about to get married, her mantra should be,

Ammi Jaan is my everything. She is my friend, my mother, my father.”

And possibly even her husband since she’ll interact with Ammi Jaan a lot more than her husband.

Always remember, you will only stay happy if you keep Ammi Jaan happy!

Now repeat after me,

“There’s no god but Allah, there’s no language but Urdu and there’s no ‘jaan’ but ‘Ammi Jaan’!”

And voilà! Now you will live happily ever after, congratulations.


Syed Zain Raza

A financial analyst by profession, who is passionate about his coffee and loves traveling and reading, Zain is a self proclaimed globe trotter who is posted by his company in China these days.

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